Making a strong bid to revolutionize scientific high speed picture taking, F. Behn Riggs, Jr., a Freshman, has developed a process of photographing at a speed more than twice as fast as hitherto possible.
Speeds ranging from 1-1,000 to 1-1,500,000 of a second are attained by the new method. Although the general principles of the process have been known for many decades, not until Riggs' refinements has so high a speed been obtainable.
Faster Than M. I. T. Machine
For purposes of comparison the widely known photographic apparatus developed at M. I. T., which snaps a drop of water, for instance, in various stages of splashing, attains only 1-600,000 of a second speed.
Some examples of pictures which Riggs has taken with his machine are: a golf ball compressed by a golf club; and a bullet stopped in flight as it shatters a bulb. Despite the terrific speeds of the objects, the pictures show remarkably little distortion, Riggs said.
Riggs, enthusiastic over the scientific aspects of his machine, described how the process works. When a revolver inounted on a table is fired, it severs a wire carrying a current, thus tripping a high-power 7500 volt condenser. As the bullet passes the open shutter of an ordinary Kodak, the tremendous electrical discharge causes a spark of approximately 900,000 candlepower to flash for 1-1,000,000 to 1-1,500,00 of a second. It is the inconceivable brevity of the flash and the enormous voltage released suddenly by the condenser that make possible such a high-speed picture. The entire process is done in a dark room.
Practical Applications Important
In its practical applications, the apparatus will open new fields of investigation in ballistics formerly unknown. By detecting defects in high speed machinery, by "freezing" practically any action, the new apparatus will show both how and why a machine breaks. Its applications in the automobile industry alone promise wide-renown for Riggs.
Now that Riggs has nearly perfected the process, after 26 months of work on the problem at his home laboratory in Lakeville, Conn., he will next endeavor to make the discharge of the spark an action independent of the firing of the bullet which breaks the circuit.