Team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) creature a A single photon camera with a resolution of 0.4 mega pixels – 400 times larger than the previous camera of this type. It may seem like a small thing, but it is the biggest breakthrough in this technology in twenty years.
This type of camera, as the name suggests, can detect light by precisely identifying a single photon. A type of sensitivity made possible by a system based on superconducting nanowires, but they have so far been interesting only as objects of study and research, in the laboratory.
On the other hand, a single photon camera with a resolution of 0.4 megapixels can find practical applications in many fields, from astrophysics to medicine. For example, according to Stephen Karp (Harvard Medical School), a new era of brain imaging technologies can be opened, as it will allow incredibly accurate visual mapping, precisely because one can Capturing almost all photons Available in a specific region.
Karp and Roark Horstmeyer, assistant professor of biomedical imaging at Duke University, are developing brain imaging techniques that involve sending light into the brain and detecting tiny amounts of light that scatter outward. “The big vision is to make a portable MRI,” says Horstmeyer.
How does a single photon camera work?
Simply put, each pixel is a nanowire in which a small current flows. When a photon reaches the wire it ceases to be a superconductor, and it is possible to record the event. The detection speed, as you can imagine, is maximum.
The problem was to create a “photosensor”, that is, an array of these nanowires brought to extremely low temperatures to obtain superconductivity. It is, as one might guess, nothing like the cameras in a smartphone.
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