Imaging at the speed of light

The ability to record images with extreme temporal resolution enables a diverse range of applications, such as fluorescence lifetime imaging, timeof-flight depth imaging and characterisation of ultrafast processes. Recently, ultrafast imaging schemes have emerged, which require either long acquisition times or raster scanning and have a requirement for sufficient signal that can only be achieved by reflecting light off an object or diffused by a strongly scattering medium.

Here, a demonstration of the potential of single-photon detector arrays for visualisation and rapid characterisation of events evolving on picosecond time scales is presented. The single-photon sensitivity, temporal resolution and full-field imaging capability enables the observation of light-in-flight in air, as well as the measurement of laser-induced plasma formation and dynamics in its natural environment. The extreme sensitivity and short acquisition times pave the way for real-time imaging of ultrafast processes or visualisation and tracking of objects hidden from view.

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