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NPL to study bubbles with ultrafast camera

21 Oct 2013

Specialised Imaging provides billion frames-per-second SIM-D camera to leading UK metrology lab.

The UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), one of the world’s leading metrology laboratories, has taken delivery of a state-of-the-art camera capable of capturing images at a billion frames per second.

Provided by UK firm Specialised Imaging, the 16-channel SIM-D camera uses intensified CCD sensors and features a hybrid beamsplitter component designed to improve image resolution and combat the effect of parallax.

Offering a gating time down to just 3 nanoseconds, the camera is suited to studying high-speed phenomena in fields like fusion research, ballistics, combustion, crack propagation and nanotechnology.

At NPL, the camera will be used by senior scientist Gianluca Memoli for cavitation research – the study of phenomena such as the implosion of bubbles in a liquid that is subject to ultrasonic frequencies.

Bubble dynamics
Ultrasonic cleaning is widely used in healthcare to clean and disinfect surgical instruments, where the force of each imploding bubble removes contamination from surrounding materials.

But because so many bubbles are generated, all imploding at very high speeds, studying the precise way in which that happens is extremely difficult. Armed with a better understanding of the process, it ought to be possible to design more effective and efficient cleaning systems.

The new camera should help with that, and in a statement issued by Specialised Imaging, Memoli said: “I particularly like the possibility of adjusting the timing of each single frame without paying with pixel resolution, as both factors are extremely valuable for complex phenomena like bubble dynamics.”

The SIM-D camera is one of the latest versions of a family of high-speed cameras that was originally introduced by Specialised Imaging back in 2006.

Wai Chan, the company’s managing director, said: “We are delighted to have received this noteworthy order from such a prestigious research institute as NPL."

“I feel our continuous investment in technical innovation is recognised by many researchers as providing them with reliable ultra-high speed imaging tools capable of helping them undertake leading-edge research by making measurements not previously possible and opening up new applications."

The firm explains that it is the unique optical design of the SIM-D that sets it apart from traditional high-speed framing cameras. That enables the choice of up to 16 separate optical channels without, it says, any impact on performance or image quality.

Focusing functions can be controlled locally at the camera, while full remote operation over standard Ethernet cabling is available. Optional fiber-optic links can be used for environments with high levels of electrical noise.

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