As tiny particles flying at the speed of light, capturing the action of photons requires an advanced machine, and an international research team has just created a machine that is well equipped for the job. Dubbed the world’s fastest UV camera, the device is capable of capturing ultra-fast events lasting only a few seconds, fast enough to see UV photons fly through the air in real time.
The device was developed by scientists at the National Academy of Sciences in Canada under the name UV-CUP. Compression Ultra-Fast Photography (CUP) is an emerging imaging technology that has been used to capture ultra-high-speed events at speeds of trillions of frames per second, but has so far been limited to visible and near-infrared wavelengths.
“Many of the phenomena that occur on very short time scales also occur on very small spatial scales, ” said Liang Jinyang, who led the study. “To see them, you need to perceive shorter wavelengths. Doing this in the ultraviolet or even X-ray range is a significant step towards this goal. “
To achieve this, the team first developed a special light cathode and integrated it into a so-called striped camera, a device developed specifically to measure ultra-fast optical phenomena. The team also needs to develop a new algorithm to get the data and make it into images, Liang told New Atlas.
“We need two steps to operate the camera, ” he explains. “First, in data acquisition, information from transient events is squeezed into a snapshot. So, this captured snapshot is completely different from the one taken by a normal camera… Second, the snapshot is entered into the reconstruction algorithm to retrieve the movie. “
Below you can see this movie that lasts from pisconds to nanoseconds.
Mobile photon video made by UV-CUP camera.
And here’s another view that shows two fly-second ultraviolet pulses reaching the camera at different times.
The visual effects of these ultraviolet pulses, which show photons moving in real time, were taken using a compact device with an imaging speed of 0.5 trillion frames per second.
The team hopes to further improve its UV-CUP camera by studying alternative materials for its light cathode, which is currently limited in efficiency. Improving the speed of algorithms and image construction with the help of artificial intelligence is another goal.
A diagram of the UV-CUP system.
The UV-Cup is now being sent to a research laboratory in France, where it will be used to capture different physical phenomena. This may include the production of laser plasma and ultraviolet fluorescence, which may help improve medical imaging techniques for diagnosing diseases.
A paper describing the study was published in the journal Laser and Photon Review.