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Indian Scientist at NASA-Caltech develops world's fastest laser sheet imaging technology

Indian scientist Yogeshwar Nath Mishra, who hails from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, has achieved a major milestone in the field of combustion research. As a scientist at NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, Mishra and Florian Bauer have invented the world’s fastest laser sheet imaging technology, which can help in the study of nanoparticles in flames. The new imaging system has achieved 12.5 billion frames per second, making it the fastest camera for planar imaging in the world. The invention has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Light Science & Application.

Picture: Kumaon Jagran
Single shot planar imaging machine

The modern ultra-fast cameras that are used for similar imaging are limited to a few million frames per second. In the latest innovation, the team has combined compressed sensing with streak camera technology. This camera allows researchers to see light in action and how it travels in a material or a medium. Mishra believes that the new imaging system can give significant leverage to studies on combustion, which is a complex process involving fluid mechanics, chemistry, and physics. Mishra's research interests include laser spectroscopy, light-matter interaction, and sustainable technologies.

Combustion leads to the formation of several chemical species from hydrocarbons. Flying an aeroplane or launching a rocket leads to the burning of hydrocarbons, making it imperative to understand the phenomenon. Mishra also highlighted that the burning of fuel leads to soot formation. Soot formed in nanoparticles can contribute to numerous health hazards after they get into the bloodstream. It is also a catalyst to global warming. This soot gets transported to glaciers and other surfaces with ice forming a layer on them. Since they trap sunlight, soot increases the temperature resulting in the melting of glaciers.

The new technology with its ultra-fast imaging will let researchers track how Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) are responsible for the formation of soot particles. Ultra-fast imaging is needed as the formation lasts within nanoseconds and sub-nanoseconds. The invention could prove to be a boon to other areas such as biomedical imaging or tracking any process which is induced by light. The latest system came at a considerably lower cost than existing imaging systems, enabling effortless adoption across labs and research facilities.

Picture: Kumaon Jagran
Yogeshwar Nath Mishra and Florian Bauer

Although beaming with pride over his achievements, Mishra rued the dearth of acknowledgement back home. While India has produced some of the brightest scientists, science as a career seems to be fast losing a foothold among youths. According to Mishra, there is a need for more scholarships for PhD scholars to conduct research abroad the way China and other nations facilitate their academicians. He believes that it has more to do with the mindset. Brilliant students who ace in math and physics are often persuaded by their parents to settle for high-paying IT jobs. However, in science, from masters to PhD, it is a long-winding route with no shortcuts. Most parents in India bear hefty education costs, hence it is only plausible for youths to gravitate towards high-paying jobs.

Mishra's father, a farmer, made a lot of sacrifices to let him achieve his dreams. From selling lands to many other sacrifices, his family supported his vision and ensured that his academic pursuits were smooth. Mishra is greatly inspired by APJ Abdul Kalam, Kalpana Chawla, and CV Raman. For him, getting to study at the University of Texas Arlington, where late astronaut Kalpana Chawla also studied, was a moment of pride. “Walking into the Kalpana Chawla Hall at the University of Texas was an emotional moment for me.”

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