Ultrafast single-pixel camera to unlock applications in non-visible spectrum

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The new camera is easily configurable and could have applications in analysing combustion phenomena, detecting hazardous gases and characterising semiconductor materials (Image: INRS)

Researchers are developing a new ultrahigh-speed single-pixel camera capable of streaming video at 12,000 frames per second.

Described in Nature Communications, the device, dubbed ‘single-pixel imaging accelerated via swept aggregate patterns’ (SPI-ASAP), represents a breakthrough in ultra-high-speed single-pixel imaging, according to the scientists.

Single-pixel imaging (SPI) has emerged as a powerful technique using light modulation and a single-point detector instead of a two-dimensional sensor. However, most SPI systems are limited by the sole use of digital micromirror devices which means that the speed at which the single-pixel camera can record images is only a few tens of hertz.

Other methods use fast-moving physical encoding masks for light modulation. Although fast, these masks also fix the resolution, making such systems inflexible to be adapted to different experimental parameters.

In contrast to these approaches, the new camera, developed by scientists at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) in Quebec, Canada, combines a digital micromirror device with laser scanning for fast and reconfigurable pattern projection. This enables the system to operate at different spatial resolutions, as well as at different imaging speeds and modes. As a result, it is capable of streaming real-time video at 100 frames per second, and up to 12,000 frames per second offline.

“The ability to image in real-time at 100 frames per second surpasses existing technologies and sheds light on many industrial applications where on-site analysis and online feedback are needed,” said Patrick Kilcullen, first author of the paper and a doctoral student at INRS.

Another feature is that the system is very generic and can be easily adapted to many configurations. It could have broad applications, especially in the non-visible spectrum where there is a lack of ultrahigh-speed imaging technology, according to the researchers. Such speeds enable the capture of transient events, such as the analysis of combustion phenomena, the detection of hazardous gases and the characterisation of semiconductor materials. 

The team, consisting of Kilcullen and professors Tsuneyuki Ozaki and Jinyang Liang, has patented the technique and is currently seeking collaborations to commercialise it. 

“This new camera is an innovative prototype with potential benefits for the photonics industry in Quebec and the rest of Canada,” concluded Liang, who specialises in ultrafast imaging and biophotonics and is a corresponding author of the study.