Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their colleagues have built a superconducting camera containing 400,000 pixels—400 times more than any other device of its type.

Superconducting cameras allow scientists to capture very weak light signals, whether from distant objects in space or parts of the human brain. Having more pixels could open up many new applications in science and biomedical research. The researchers reported their work in the Oct. 26 edition of Nature.

The NIST is made up of grids of ultrathin electrical wires, cooled to near absolute zero, in which current moves with no resistance until a is struck by a photon. In these superconducting-nanowire cameras, the energy imparted by even a single photon can be detected because it shuts down the superconductivity at a particular location (pixel) on the grid. Combining all the locations and intensities of all the photons makes up an image.

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