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Published December 4, 2014 | Accepted Version + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Single-shot compressed ultrafast photography at one hundred billion frames per second


The capture of transient scenes at high imaging speed has been long sought by photographers, with early examples being the well known recording in 1878 of a horse in motion and the 1887 photograph of a supersonic bullet. However, not until the late twentieth century were breakthroughs achieved in demonstrating ultrahigh-speed imaging (more than 10^5 frames per second). In particular, the introduction of electronic imaging sensors based on the charge-coupled device (CCD) or complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) technology revolutionized high-speed photography, enabling acquisition rates of up to 10^7 frames per second. Despite these sensors' widespread impact, further increasing frame rates using CCD or CMOS technology is fundamentally limited by their on-chip storage and electronic readout speed. Here we demonstrate a two-dimensional dynamic imaging technique, compressed ultrafast photography (CUP), which can capture non-repetitive time-evolving events at up to 10^(11) frames per second. Compared with existing ultrafast imaging techniques, CUP has the prominent advantage of measuring an x–y–t (x, y, spatial coordinates; t, time) scene with a single camera snapshot, thereby allowing observation of transient events with temporal resolution as tens of picoseconds. Furthermore, akin to traditional photography, CUP is receive-only, and so does not need the specialized active illumination required by other single-shot ultrafast imagers. As a result, CUP can image a variety of luminescent—such as fluorescent or bioluminescent—objects. Using CUP, we visualize four fundamental physical phenomena with single laser shots only: laser pulse reflection and refraction, photon racing in two media, and faster-than-light propagation of non-information (that is, motion that appears faster than the speed of light but cannot convey information). Given CUP's capability, we expect it to find widespread applications in both fundamental and applied sciences, including biomedical research.

Additional Information

© 2014 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 23 June 2014; Accepted 17 October 2014; Published online 03 December 2014. We thank N. Hagen for discussions and J. Ballard for a close reading of the manuscript. We also acknowledge Texas Instruments for providing the DLP device. This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health grants DP1 EB016986 (NIH Director's Pioneer Award) and R01 CA186567 (NIH Director's Transformative Research Award). These authors contributed equally to this work. Liang Gao & Jinyang Liang Author Contributions: L.G. built the system, performed the experiments, analysed the data and prepared the manuscript. J.L. performed some of the experiments, analysed the data and prepared the manuscript. C.L. prepared the sample and performed some of the experiments. L.V.W. contributed to the conceptual system, experimental design and manuscript preparation. Competing financial interests: L.V.W. has a financial interest in Microphotoacoustics, Inc. and Endra, Inc., which, however, did not support this work.

Attached Files

Accepted Version - nihms636729.pdf

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sf1.jpg

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sf2.jpg

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sf3.jpg

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sv1.mov

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sv2.mov

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sv3.mov

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sv4.mov

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sv5.mov

Supplemental Material - nature14005-sv6.mov


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