It's one of the most basic rules of photography: to get a picture, you need light. But a new MIT project has built a camera that flies in the face of that logic. The project's new stealth camera can assemble 3D images from one photon at a time, working in near-total darkness. In the images above, each pixel corresponds to a single photon emitted by the camera and assembled after the fact.

The process works using existing photon-detector technology, but applies a new algorithm to extract the maximum possible information from each reading and assemble that info into a 3D model of the surroundings. Because each photon is confined to a single frequency, the resulting image has to be in black and white. But in exchange, scientists are able to take the pictures with imperceptibly small quantities of light. One likely application for the new technology is capturing images of fragile biological materials that would be destroyed by traditional levels of photographic light, like the inside of a human eye.