Time of flight (ToF) is the measurement of the time taken by an object, particle or wave (be it acoustic, electromagnetic, etc.) to travel a distance through a medium. This information can then be used to measure velocity or path length, or as a way to learn about the particle or medium's properties (such as composition or flow rate). The traveling object may be detected directly (direct time of flight, dToF, e.g., via an ion detector in mass spectrometry) or indirectly (indirect time of flight, iToF, e.g., by light scattered from an object in laser doppler velocimetry). Time of flight technology has found valuable applications in the monitoring and characterization of material and biomaterials, hydrogels included.
In electronics, one of the earliest devices using the principle are ultrasonic distance-measuring devices, which emit an ultrasonic pulse and are able to measure the distance to a solid object based on the time taken for the wave to bounce back to the emitter. The ToF method is also used to estimate the electron mobility. Originally, it was designed for measurement of low-conductive thin films, later adjusted for common semiconductors. This experimental technique is used for metal-dielectric-metal structuresas well as organic field-effect transistors. The excess charges are generated by application of the laser or voltage pulse.
For Magnetic Resonance Angiography (MRA), ToF is a major underlying method. In this method, blood entering the imaged area is not yet saturated, giving it a much higher signal when using short echo time and flow compensation. It can be used in the detection of aneurysm, stenosis or dissection.
In time-of-flight mass spectrometry, ions are accelerated by an electrical field to the same kinetic energy with the velocity of the ion depending on the mass-to-charge ratio. Thus the time-of-flight is used to measure velocity, from which the mass-to-charge ratio can be determined.The time-of-flight of electrons is used to measure their kinetic energy.
In near-infrared spectroscopy, the ToF method is used to measure the media-dependent optical pathlength over a range of optical wavelengths, from which composition and properties of the media can be analyzed.
In ultrasonic flow meter measurement, ToF is used to measure speed of signal propagation upstream and downstream of flow of a media, in order to estimate total flow velocity. This measurement is made in a collinear direction with the flow.
In planar Doppler velocimetry (optical flow meter measurement), ToF measurements are made perpendicular to the flow by timing when individual particles cross two or more locations along the flow (collinear measurements would require generally high flow velocities and extremely narrow-band optical filters).
In optical interferometry, the pathlength difference between sample and reference arms can be measured by ToF methods, such as frequency modulation followed by phase shift measurement or cross correlation of signals. Such methods are used in laser radar and laser tracker systems for medium-long range distance measurement.
In neutron time-of-flight scattering, a pulsed monochromatic neutron beam is scattered by a sample. The energy spectrum of the scattered neutrons is measured via time of flight.
In kinematics, ToF is the duration in which a projectile is traveling through the air. Given the initial velocity of a particle launched from the ground, the downward (i.e. gravitational) acceleration , and the projectile's angle of projection θ (measured relative to the horizontal), then a simple rearrangement of the SUVAT equation
results in this equation
for the time of flight of a projectile.
The time-of-flight principle can be applied for mass spectrometry. Ions are accelerated by an electric field of known strength. This acceleration results in an ion having the same kinetic energy as any other ion that has the same charge. The velocity of the ion depends on the mass-to-charge ratio. The time that it subsequently takes for the particle to reach a detector at a known distance is measured. This time will depend on the mass-to-charge ratio of the particle (heavier particles reach lower speeds). From this time and the known experimental parameters one can find the mass-to-charge ratio of the ion. The elapsed time from the instant a particle leaves a source to the instant it reaches a detector.
An ultrasonic flow meter measures the velocity of a liquid or gas through a pipe using acoustic sensors. This has some advantages over other measurement techniques. The results are slightly affected by temperature, density or conductivity. Maintenance is inexpensive because there are no moving parts. Ultrasonic flow meters come in three different types: transmission (contrapropagating transit time) flowmeters, reflection (Doppler) flowmeters, and open-channel flowmeters. Transit time flowmeters work by measuring the time difference between an ultrasonic pulse sent in the flow direction and an ultrasound pulse sent opposite the flow direction. Doppler flowmeters measure the doppler shift resulting in reflecting an ultrasonic beam off either small particles in the fluid, air bubbles in the fluid, or the flowing fluid's turbulence. Open channel flow meters measure upstream levels in front of flumes or weirs.
Optical time-of-flight sensors consist of two light beams projected into the fluid whose detection is either interrupted or instigated by the passage of small particles (which are assumed to be following the flow). This is not dissimilar from the optical beams used as safety devices in motorized garage doors or as triggers in alarm systems. The speed of the particles is calculated by knowing the spacing between the two beams. If there is only one detector, then the time difference can be measured via autocorrelation. If there are two detectors, one for each beam, then direction can also be known. Since the location of the beams is relatively easy to determine, the precision of the measurement depends primarily on how small the setup can be made. If the beams are too far apart, the flow could change substantially between them, thus the measurement becomes an average over that space. Moreover, multiple particles could reside between them at any given time, and this would corrupt the signal since the particles are indistinguishable. For such a sensor to provide valid data, it must be small relative to the scale of the flow and the seeding density. MOEMS approaches yield extremely small packages, making such sensors applicable in a variety of situations.
Usually the time-of-flight tube used in mass spectrometry is praised for simplicity, but for precision measurements of charged low energy particles the electric and the magnetic field in the tube has to be controlled within 10 mV and 1 nT respectively.
The work function homogeneity of the tube can be controlled by a Kelvin probe. The magnetic field can be measured by a fluxgate compass. High frequencies are passively shielded and damped by radar absorbent material. To generate arbitrary low frequencies field the screen is parted into plates (overlapping and connected by capacitors) with bias voltage on each plate and a bias current on coil behind plate whose flux is closed by an outer core. In this way the tube can be configured to act as a weak achromatic quadrupole lens with an aperture with a grid and a delay line detector in the diffraction plane to do angle resolved measurements. Changing the field the angle of the field of view can be changed and a deflecting bias can be superimposed to scan through all angles.
When no delay line detector is used focusing the ions onto a detector can be accomplished through the use of two or three einzel lenses placed in the vacuum tube located between the ion source and the detector.
The sample should be immersed into the tube with holes and apertures for and against stray light to do magnetic experiments and to control the electrons from their start.
A time-of-flight camera (ToF camera), also known as time-of-flight sensor (ToF sensor), is a range imaging camera system for measuring distances between the camera and the subject for each point of the image based on time-of-flight, the round trip time of an artificial light signal, as provided by a laser or an LED. Laser-based time-of-flight cameras are part of a broader class of scannerless LIDAR, in which the entire scene is captured with each laser pulse, as opposed to point-by-point with a laser beam such as in scanning LIDAR systems.Time-of-flight camera products for civil applications began to emerge around 2000, as the semiconductor processes allowed the production of components fast enough for such devices. The systems cover ranges of a few centimeters up to several kilometers.
A time-of-flight (TOF) detector is a particle detector which can discriminate between a lighter and a heavier elementary particle of same momentum using their time of flight between two scintillators. The first of the scintillators activates a clock upon being hit while the other stops the clock upon being hit. If the two masses are denoted by and and have velocities and then the time of flight difference is given by
In meteorology, an anemometer is a device that measures wind speed and direction. It is a common instrument used in weather stations. The earliest known description of an anemometer was by Italian architect and author Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) in 1450.
Flow measurement is the quantification of bulk fluid movement. Flow can be measured using devices called flowmeters in various ways. The common types of flowmeters with industrial applications are listed below:
Mass spectrometry (MS) is an analytical technique that is used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions. The results are presented as a mass spectrum, a plot of intensity as a function of the mass-to-charge ratio. Mass spectrometry is used in many different fields and is applied to pure samples as well as complex mixtures.
An ion source is a device that creates atomic and molecular ions. Ion sources are used to form ions for mass spectrometers, optical emission spectrometers, particle accelerators, ion implanters and ion engines.
Plasma diagnostics are a pool of methods, instruments, and experimental techniques used to measure properties of a plasma, such as plasma components' density, distribution function over energy (temperature), their spatial profiles and dynamics, which enable to derive plasma parameters.
Shear stress is the component of stress coplanar with a material cross section. It arises from the shear force, the component of force vector parallel to the material cross section. Normal stress, on the other hand, arises from the force vector component perpendicular to the material cross section on which it acts.
Particle image velocimetry (PIV) is an optical method of flow visualization used in education and research. It is used to obtain instantaneous velocity measurements and related properties in fluids. The fluid is seeded with tracer particles which, for sufficiently small particles, are assumed to faithfully follow the flow dynamics. The fluid with entrained particles is illuminated so that particles are visible. The motion of the seeding particles is used to calculate speed and direction of the flow being studied.
Laser Doppler velocimetry, also known as laser Doppler anemometry, is the technique of using the Doppler shift in a laser beam to measure the velocity in transparent or semi-transparent fluid flows or the linear or vibratory motion of opaque, reflecting surfaces. The measurement with laser Doppler anemometry is absolute and linear with velocity and requires no pre-calibration.
An ultrasonic flow meter is a type of flow meter that measures the velocity of a fluid with ultrasound to calculate volume flow. Using ultrasonic transducers, the flow meter can measure the average velocity along the path of an emitted beam of ultrasound, by averaging the difference in measured transit time between the pulses of ultrasound propagating into and against the direction of the flow or by measuring the frequency shift from the Doppler effect. Ultrasonic flow meters are affected by the acoustic properties of the fluid and can be impacted by temperature, density, viscosity and suspended particulates depending on the exact flow meter. They vary greatly in purchase price but are often inexpensive to use and maintain because they do not use moving parts, unlike mechanical flow meters.
The Ives–Stilwell experiment tested the contribution of relativistic time dilation to the Doppler shift of light. The result was in agreement with the formula for the transverse Doppler effect and was the first direct, quantitative confirmation of the time dilation factor. Since then many Ives–Stilwell type experiments have been performed with increased precision. Together with the Michelson–Morley and Kennedy–Thorndike experiments it forms one of the fundamental tests of special relativity theory. Other tests confirming the relativistic Doppler effect are the Mössbauer rotor experiment and modern Ives–Stilwell experiments.
Planar Doppler Velocimetry (PDV), also referred to as Doppler Global Velocimetry (DGV), determines flow velocity across a plane by measuring the Doppler shift in frequency of light scattered by particles contained in the flow. The Doppler shift, Δfd, is related to the fluid velocity. The relatively small frequency shift is discriminated using an atomic or molecular vapor filter. This approach is conceptually similar to what is now known as Filtered Rayleigh Scattering.
Planar laser-induced fluorescence (PLIF) is an optical diagnostic technique widely used for flow visualization and quantitative measurements. PLIF has been shown to be used for velocity, concentration, temperature and pressure measurements.
A proximity sensor is a sensor able to detect the presence of nearby objects without any physical contact.
Time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOFMS) is a method of mass spectrometry in which an ion's mass-to-charge ratio is determined by a time of flight measurement. Ions are accelerated by an electric field of known strength. This acceleration results in an ion having the same kinetic energy as any other ion that has the same charge. The velocity of the ion depends on the mass-to-charge ratio. The time that it subsequently takes for the ion to reach a detector at a known distance is measured. This time will depend on the velocity of the ion, and therefore is a measure of its mass-to-charge ratio. From this ratio and known experimental parameters, one can identify the ion.
A laser Doppler vibrometer (LDV) is a scientific instrument that is used to make non-contact vibration measurements of a surface. The laser beam from the LDV is directed at the surface of interest, and the vibration amplitude and frequency are extracted from the Doppler shift of the reflected laser beam frequency due to the motion of the surface. The output of an LDV is generally a continuous analog voltage that is directly proportional to the target velocity component along the direction of the laser beam.
The photoacoustic Doppler effect is a type of Doppler effect that occurs when an intensity modulated light wave induces a photoacoustic wave on moving particles with a specific frequency. The observed frequency shift is a good indicator of the velocity of the illuminated moving particles. A potential biomedical application is measuring blood flow.
A laser surface velocimeter (LSV) is a non-contact optical speed sensor measuring velocity and length on moving surfaces. Laser surface velocimeters use the laser Doppler principle to evaluate the laser light scattered back from a moving object. They are widely used for process and quality control in industrial production processes.
Aerosol mass spectrometry is the application of mass spectrometry to the analysis of the composition of aerosol particles. Aerosol particles are defined as solid and liquid particles suspended in a gas (air), with size range of 3 nm to 100 μm in diameter and are produced from natural and anthropogenic sources, through a variety of different processes that include wind-blown suspension and combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. Analysis of these particles is important owing to their major impacts on global climate change, visibility, regional air pollution and human health. Aerosols are very complex in structure, can contain thousands of different chemical compounds within a single particle, and need to be analysed for both size and chemical composition, in real-time or off-line applications.
A density meter (densimeter) is a device which measures the density of an object or material. Density is usually abbreviated as either or . Typically, density either has the units of or . The most basic principle of how density is calculated is by the formula:
The [time-of-flight] camera belongs to a broader group of sensors known as scanner-less LIDAR (i.e. laser radar having no mechanical scanner); an early  example is [Marion W.] Scott and his followers at Sandia.
Z-Cam, the first depth video camera, was released in 2000 and was targeted primarily at broadcasting organizations.