Video of a fruit illuminated by a femtosecond laser pulse and captured at an effective trillion frames per second. Light moves less than 1 mm per frame.

We have built an imaging solution that allows us to visualize propagation of light at an effective rate of one trillion frames per second. Direct recording of light at such a frame rate with sufficient brightness is nearly impossible. We use an indirect 'stroboscopic' method that combines millions of repeated measurements by careful scanning in time and viewpoints.

The device has been developed by the MIT Media Lab's Camera Culture group in collaboration with Bawendi Lab in the Department of Chemistry at MIT. A laser pulse that lasts less than one trillionth of a second is used as a flash and the light returning from the scene is collected by a camera at a rate equivalent to roughly 1 trillion frames per second. However, due to very short exposure times (roughly one trillionth of a second) and a narrow field of view of the camera, the video is captured over several minutes by repeated and periodic sampling.

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