First footage emerges from Uni­ver­sity of Malta’s ME­MENTO cam­era

The Malta Business Weekly - - NEWS -

Af­ter two and a half years of hard work and steep learn­ing, the en­gi­neer­ing team be­hind the Uni­ver­sity of Malta’s ME­MENTO pro­ject has re­leased footage taken with the home-grown high frame rate cam­era.

The video clip shows the sparks emerg­ing from a py­rophoric fer­ro­cerium al­loy rod af­ter be­ing briskly struck with a steel blade. “This type of footage is typ­i­cal of those sce­nar­ios where the cam­era must make ef­fi­cient use of the light gen­er­ated by the sub­ject since no amount of ad­di­tional ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing will help with cap­tur­ing such an event,” says An­dre Mi­callef, who has spent count­less days and nights de­sign­ing and test­ing the many com­plex cir­cuit boards in the cam­era.

This par­tic­u­lar clip was cap­tured us­ing the mono­chrome ver­sion of the cam­era at 800 frames per sec­ond and a res­o­lu­tion of 976x544 pix­els, and each frame in­te­grates light over just 2 mi­cro sec­onds. The cam­era can eas­ily quadru­ple that res­o­lu­tion at sev­eral thou­sands more frames per sec­ond but the cur­rent pro­to­type has some mem­ory lim­i­ta­tions, which will be over­come soon, as the team fi­nalises the in­te­gra­tion of a bank of high per­for­mance PC mem­ory mod­ules.

Firmware de­signer and grad­u­ate en­gi­neer­ing stu­dent, Karl Galea ex­pe­ri­enced first-hand the dif­fi­culty of cap­tur­ing fleet­ing events on cam­era. “Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing. You could be mak­ing sparks all day and never get the per­fect shot, un­less you have some mech­a­nism of trig­ger­ing the video cap­ture at the right mo­ment.” For this clip, Karl used some of the in­ge­nu­ity he has been trained for. Re­al­is­ing that both the py­rophoric rod and striker are made of metal, he quickly fash­ioned the pair into an elec­tri­cal switch to send a sig­nal to the cam­era to be­gin record­ing on the first metal-to- metal con­tact, and re­sult speaks for it­self.

“In the near fu­ture, we plan on in­te­grat­ing a pre-trig­ger func­tion that uses a cir­cu­lar buf­fer to al­low the cam­era to record con­tin­u­ously un­til it is stopped by the op­er­a­tor or some other trig­ger­ing event. This will en­able us to make al­lowances for the hu­man op­er­a­tor’s lim­ited re­ac­tion time and hence im­prove on us­abil­ity,” says Dr Ing. Marc An­thony Az­zopardi.

The team now plans to grad­u­ally en­able and test the many fea­tures of the cam­era while ruggedi­z­ing the setup for field test­ing in prepa­ra­tion for a com­mer­cial launch of the prod­uct.

ME­MENTO se­cured close to €200,000 of fund­ing cov­er­ing a three year pe­riod of in­tense de­vel­op­ment, from the Malta Coun­cil for Sci­ence & Tech­nol­ogy through FU­SION: The R&I Tech­nol­ogy De­vel­op­ment Pro­gramme.

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