MIT Scientists Create Speed-of-Light Fast Camera

There is now a camera that takes pictures faster than the speed of light.

Scientists at MIT have created an ultrafast imaging system that captures light as it passes through liquids and objects, creating a snapshot in less than two-trillionths of a second, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The new technology could be used in medical imaging, for technical use, and one day, creating studio-lit photos without lights and other expensive equipment.

Ramesh Raskar, lead researcher on the project, said it started as an attempt to literally see around corners.

“When I said I wanted to build a camera that looks around corners, my colleagues said, ‘Pick something that is more safe for your tenure,’ ” Raskar, an associate professor of media arts and sciences at the Media Lab, told the Times. “Now I have tenure, so I can say this is not so crazy.”

Raskar and his team of researchers modified a streak tube, a supersensitive instrument that scans and captures light to create a slow-motion “video” of light as it moved through a bottle filled with liquid.

“The camera is an array of 500 sensors,” Raskar’s colleague, Andreas Velten, explained in a video released by the MIT news office. “The camera makes a fast movie” of light traveling through an object.

In the future, the camera could be used to take better ultrasounds, and in industry, to detect flaws in structures, Raskar said.

“Such a camera may be used in medical imaging, in industrial or scientific use, and in the future, even for consumer photography,” Raskar said in the MIT news video.

“Because we can watch photons seemingly moving through the space, we can analyze the transport, the movement of these photons and create new photographs.”