Dielectric breakdown is an example of a natural phenomenon that occurs on very short time scales, making it incredibly difficult to capture optical images of the process. Event initiation jitter is one of the primary challenges, as even a microsecond of jitter time can cause the imaging attempt to fail. Initial attempts to capture images of dielectric breakdown using a gigahertz frame rate camera and an exploding bridge wire initiation were stymied by high initiation jitter. Subsequently, a novel optical delay line apparatus was developed in order to effectively circumvent the jitter and reliably image dielectric breakdown. The design and performance of the optical delay line apparatus are presented. The optical delay line increased the image capture success rate from 25% to 94% while also permitting enhanced temporal resolution and has application in imaging other high-jitter, extremely fast phenomena.

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