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Nano imaging sensor discards flash in digicams

Posted: 15 Jan 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:sensor? image sensor? CMOS? Planet82? nanotechnology?

Planet82 Inc. has unveiled its VGA-color single carrier modulation photo detector (SMPD) for taking digital pictures or video in the dark without a flash. The company says the sensor's use of nanotechnology eliminates the need for energy-intensive flash in digital cameras, mobile phones and vehicles.

The color SMPD combines the image quality, high sensitivity and wide dynamic range of existing imaging technology with nanotechnology, making it 2,000 times more light-sensitive and 50 percent smaller than traditional CMOS and CCD sensors, according to the company. With SMPD sensors, manufacturers can design a new generation of digital cameras, mobile phones, surveillance cameras as well as night-vision and rear-view sensing vehicles that take clearer images in low-light environments.

For next-gen electronics
"Whether its capturing memories, auto-parking a car or taking surveillance video, today's business and consumer markets are demanding more capabilities from digital devices than a flash can handle," said Hoon Kim, chief technology officer for Planet82 and director of the Nano Scale Quantum Devices Research Center at the Korea Electronics Institute (KETI), in a statement. "By replacing flash with the SMPD's slim design, manufacturers can produce next-generation electronics that offer higher image quality, energy efficiency and cost-savings regardless of light conditions and without the distortion or battery drain of a flash."

Unlike photodiode-based CMOS and CCD technologies, which require millions of photoelectrons per pixel unit to create an image, the SMPD is able to react to tiny amounts of photons in light levels less than 1lux, said the company, and the SMPD's high sensitivity to light enables it to outperform CCD- and CMOS-based devices, enabling it to sense light wavelengths into the infrared band.

Unique pixel structure
In addition, the SMPD's unique pixel structure increases its dynamic range so that it is highly sensitive, up to 3.5 x 104V/lux-s, enabling it to capture low-light pictures at higher frame rates of 30fps. Power consumption is 82mW at 30fps. The maximum dynamic range is 120dB.

The SMPD's small chip size (48-pin CLCC) and traditional CMOS manufacturing process make it cost-effective and easy for device makers to mass produce, said the company. Planet82 is working to develop a partnership for the mass production of the SMPD, and is conducting tests for a number CCTV camera, mobile phone, digital still camera and night-vision and rear-view sensing vehicles.

- Gina Roos

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