Nanotech sensor captures images in the dark, without flash

JANUARY 19--Planet82 (Seoul, Korea; www.planet82.co.kr) has launched its new VGA-color single carrier modulation photodetector, a full-color, high-sensitivity imaging chip for taking pictures or video in the dark without a flash.

JANUARY 19--Planet82 (Seoul, Korea; www.planet82.co.kr) has launched its new VGA-color single carrier modulation photodetector (SMPD), a full-color, high-sensitivity imaging chip for taking pictures or video in the dark without a flash. The SMPD is 2000 times more light-sensitive and 50% smaller than traditional CMOS and CCD sensors.

Until the SMPD, communications and security companies and automobile makers had to manufacture devices with a high-power light source such as an LED flash to capture images in low-light situations. The color SMPD takes clearer images than a flash-based device, making it a good replacement for existing CCD, CMOS, and flash technologies.

"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. "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."

By leveraging the power of nanotechnology, the SMPD takes advantage of the latest advances in nanoscience. Technology can be developed at an ultrasmall scale where particles are approximately 10,000 times smaller than a single human hair. The design enables the SMPD to capture pictures in near darkness, the point at which human eyes can barely distinguish images.

Unlike photodiode-based CMOS and CCD technologies, which require millions of photoelectrons per pixel unit to create an image, the SMPD can react to tiny amounts of photons in light levels less than 1 lux, the equivalent of the light from one candle a meter away. The SMPD's pixel structure increases its dynamic range so that it is sensitive up to 3.5 x 104 V/lux, enabling it to capture low-light pictures at rates higher than 30 frames/s. The SMPD's small chip size and traditional CMOS manufacturing process make it cost-effective and easy for device makers to mass produce.

According to the National Science Foundation (Washington, DC, USA), the annual nanotechnology market will reach $1 trillion by 2015, at which time nearly half of all new products will incorporate nanotechnology. Currently, Planet82 is working to develop a partnership for the mass production of the SMPD. Planet82 is conducting tests for a number of SMPD-based applications, including closed-circuit television cameras, mobile phones, digital still cameras, and night-vision and rear-view sensing automobiles.

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