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CCD sensor ups performance of imaging apps

Posted: 12 Nov 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:CCD image sensor? Interline Transfer CCD?

Eastman Kodak Co. has introduced a new advancement in charge coupled device (CCD) image sensor technology that is said to significantly improve performance for applied imaging applications. The new Interline Transfer CCD technology platform will be the basis for a portfolio of image sensors targeted at industrial and scientific imaging markets.

Bold offering
This eighth generation of Interline Transfer CCD technology developed by Kodak delivers several major improvements. The new sensor platform reduces pixel size by almost 50 percent; doubles the maximum frame rate available from the image sensor, and provides a significant increase in image quality compared to the previous technology generation. It also simplifies camera designs with a common package and pinout.

Applied imaging markets including industrial and scientific imaging have different needs from consumer and photography markets, said Michael DeLuca, market segment manager for Kodak's Image Sensor Solutions. "High resolution is important but it is defined differently for these markets. Here one or two million pixels may be high resolution."

"What they really need is image quality," said DeLuca. "The quality of raw data coming from the sensor needs to be very high because throughput is very important."

The Kodak KAI-01050 image sensor, the first product to be commercialized using Kodak's new Interline Transfer CCD technology, delivers this and more. Aimed at machine vision and scientific imaging applications, the KAI-01050 is a 0.5-inch optical format, 1,024 x 1,024pixel progressive scan interline transfer CCD image sensor. The sensor uses a new 5.5?m pixel that is 45 percent smaller than the previous technology generation, but still retains the dynamic range, quantum efficiency and responsivity of the larger pixel, said DeLuca.

"Making the pixel smaller is straightforward but if you only make it smaller than a lot of the imaging parameters will degrade," said DeLuca.

Enhanced features
The new pixel design and architecture enabled Kodak to retain, and improve in some cases, a lot of key imaging parameters including dynamic range, responsivity and quantum efficiency while using the smaller pixel. This also allows the design of the camera to shrink by making the sensor smaller, added DeLuca.

The second key change made with this platform was a new output architecture with four separate outputs, said DeLuca. The new quad-output architecture enables readout speeds of up to 120fps, enabling improved throughput in applications such as industrial inspection. "It can be used with single, dual or quad outputs. Using all four doubles the frame rate from the previous generation. For a 1Mpixel sensor, the frame rate is 120fps, which is huge improvement."

The new pixel design also reduces image smear to -100dB to capture more accurate images. The sensor design also incorporates a new high sensitivity output amplifier for low noise operation, which translates into enhanced performance in low-light applications. It also offers a dynamic range of 64dB.

Another key upgrade to the platform is the use of a common package and pinout that will enable camera manufacturers to develop a single design that can support multiple sensors. One of the pins is reserved to identify the specific model of the sensor being used in the camera design, which is accomplished by changing the resistor value.

"Because the package size and pinouts are the same, camera designers now have the opportunity to develop a camera platform that all of these sensors will plug into, and by reading the reserved pin the camera will know what specific sensor is in the camera and will load the appropriate timing sequences from its firmware," explained DeLuca.

Engineering grade devices of the KAI-01050 are currently available, with volume production planned for early 2008.

- Gina Roos

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