Light moving in vacuum is the fastest thing in the universe. Scientists have tried many times before to catch it on the move with some success. This time a new equipment built by Caltech scientists pulls down a mind-blowing 10 trillion frames per second, meaning it can capture light as it travels along, and also they are working to make it a hundred times faster.
Understanding how light moves through a medium is fundamental to many fields. Keeping that in mind Jinyang Liang and his colleagues are making efforts to make this new contraption or camera as fast as possible. Also, there are potential applications in physics, engineering, and medicine that depend heavily on the behavior of light at scales so small, and so short, that they are at the very limit of what we can measure.
If a pulse of light can be replicated perfectly, then we could sent one pulse every millisecond and when offsetting the camera’s capture time by an even smaller fraction, like a handful of femtoseconds, then it is possible to capture a single pulse when it is in transition, the next one when it will be a little further, the next one when it will be even further, and so on. The end result is like a movie that’s the same if we captured the transition of first pulse at high speed.
This is highly efficient but not always reliable to count on being able to produce a pulse of light a million times the exact same way. When it is needed to see what happens when light passes through a lens, the camera has to capture the light pulse in real time, which means recording images not just with femtosecond precision, but only femtoseconds apart.