Six million images a second. Continuously. With a half a billionth of a second shutter speed. That's what Steam—a new camera technology that uses rainbow laser pulses—does. And it's working today at UCLA.
The new photography technique name comes from its initials: Serial Time-Encoded Amplified imaging. It uses only one single element in its sensor as opposed to the tens of millions you get in the best high end cameras in the world today. However, this is not something you will get in your consumer camera soon. The UCLA unit will be dedicated to capture ultra-detailed images of cells, neurons firing messages, and—we can only hope—the yearly Miss Campus beach calendar spread.
It works by pew-pewing an ultrashort laser pulse—one billionth of a second long—continuously, which gets a serial data stream that gets captured by the sensor. The stream of data is similar to the one you can get through a network cable, which then gets transformed into an actual image with a technique called amplified Fourier transform. This method stretches the laser pulses in time and amplifies them, slowing them down until they can be captured by an electronic digitizer.