When scientists at Caltech wanted to be able to capture femtosecond pulses of laser light, they couldn’t; grab an off the shelf camera and just snap away. The researchers had to create a new type of camera that can capture incredibly fast pulses of light in slow motion. What they came up with is called T-CUP.
T-CUP is the world’s fastest camera and can capture images at 10 trillion frames per second. That is fast enough to capture in slow motion the femtosecond laser pulses. The new camera will also help the scientists capture data from samples, such as laser-engraved glass, that can only tolerate a single laser pulse before degrading.
Compressed ultrafast photography or CUP was the starting point for the team, which is capable of 100 billion frames per second. That method alone lacked the speed the team needed to capture the phenomena they were studying. The new T-CUP system is based on a femtosecond streak camera and sets a new world record in real-time imaging speed.
The first use of the new camera system broke new ground by capturing the temporal focusing of a single femtosecond laser pulse in real-time. The process was recorded in 25 frames taken at an interval of 400 femtoseconds. The resulting images detailed the intensity, shape, and angle of inclination for the laser pulse.
T-CUP is hailed as an achievement in its own right and can capture 10 trillion frames per second right now; yet the team sees more in its future. They believe the possibility for increasing the speed to a quadrillion frames per second. That would be 1015 frames per second.