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Super-Snappy Snapshots

By Kathy A SvitilFebruary 1, 2001 6:00 AM


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The blink of an eye seems a lifetime to mechanical engineer Arun Shukla. In one tenth of a second— about the duration of an eyelid flutter— his new camera can snap 20 million frames.


Photo by Arun Shukla

The two-foot-long, one-foot-wide device, built by Hadland Photonics in England, consists of eight digital cameras linked to a computer. As each camera takes a picture, it transfers the image to the computer and immediately snaps another. There is no mechanical shutter, and the cameras can capture images using exposure times of just five billionths of a second. With such rapid-fire shots, Shukla can produce freeze-frame images of chemical explosions or bullets hitting body armor (left). Such pictures should help engineers improve the efficiency of controlled blasts and design better armor. "People have never understood what happens in the first microsecond of these events," Shukla says. "In the past, we had to generate computer models and make assumptions. But with this camera, we can actually see."

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