Light-Speed Imager: World’s Fastest UV Camera Works at 500 Billion Frames per Second

Artistic impression of single-shot UV-CUP which made the front cover of the 10th issue of the journal Laser & Photonics Reviews. Credit: Jinyang Liang: Single-Shot Ultraviolet Compressed Ultrafast Photography. Laser & Photonics Reviews, 2020, volume 14, Cover of Issue 10.
Copyright Wiley-VCH GmbH. Reproduced with permission.

Researchers Design the World’s Fastest UV Camera – Records Photons in the Ultraviolet Range in Real Time

The team of Professor Jinyang Liang, a specialist in ultrafast imaging at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), in collaboration with an international team of researchers, has developed the fastest camera in the world capable of recording photons in the ultraviolet (UV) range in real time. This original research is featured on the front cover of the 10th issue of the journal Laser & Photonics Reviews.

Compressed ultrafast photography (CUP) captures the entire process in real time and unparalleled resolution with just one click. The spatial and temporal information is first compressed into an image and then, using a reconstruction algorithm, it is converted into a video.

Developing a Compact Instrument for UV

Until now, this technique was limited to visible and near-infrared wavelengths, and thus to a specific category of physical events. “Many phenomena that occur on very short time scales also take place on a very small spatial scale. To see them, you need to sense shorter wavelengths. Doing this in the UV or even X-ray ranges is a remarkable step toward this goal,” says Jinyang Liang, who led the study.

To record in this new range of wavelengths and to develop the technique into a user-friendly product, researchers designed a compact UV-CUP system with Christian-Yves Côté of Axis Photonique Inc. via an academia-industry collaboration. The new system features a patterned photocathode, which is used to simultaneously detect and encode “black light”. “Like a standard camera, our technology is passive. It does not produce light; it receives it. Therefore, our photocathode had to be sensitive to the photons emitted as UV light. This design makes our technique a stand-alone system that can be easily integrated into various experimental platforms,” says Jinyang Liang, who has been contributing to the development of CUP since his postdoctorate.

Liang worked with François Légaré, also an INRS professor, to generate and take images of UV pulses at the Advanced Laser Light Source (ALLS) laboratory. “The outstanding research environment at the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre of INRS is very helpful. It is so much more efficient when all necessary design, manufacturing, and characterization capabilities are available in the same building.”

Dividing up the Reconstruction Problem

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