Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Organic sensors increase light sensitivity of cameras: Image sensors out of a spray can

23.01.2013
Researchers from Technische Universität München (TUM) have developed a new generation of image sensors that are more sensitive to light than the conventional silicon versions, with the added bonus of being simple and cheap to produce.

They consist of electrically conductive plastics, which are sprayed on to the sensor surface in an ultra-thin layer. The chemical composition of the polymer spray coating can be altered so that even the invisible range of the light spectrum can be captured. This opens up interesting new development possibilities for low-cost infrared sensors aimed at compact cameras and smartphones (Nature Communications).


Ultra-thin: Organic sensors can be applied to CMOS chips over large and small surfaces, as well as to glass or flexible plastic films. Photo: U. Benz / TUM

Image sensors are at the core of every digital camera. Before a snapshot appears on the display, the sensors first convert the light from the lens to electrical signals. The image processor then uses these to create the final photo.

Many compact and cellphone cameras contain silicon-based image sensors produced using CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) technology. Prof. Paolo Lugli and Dr. Daniela Baierl from TUM have developed a cost-effective process to improve the performance of these CMOS sensors. Their approach revolves around an ultra-thin film made of organic compounds, in other words plastics.

The challenge lay in applying the plastic solution to the surface of the image sensors. The researchers tested spin- and spray-coating methods to apply the plastic in its liquid, solution form as precisely and cost-effectively as possible. They were looking for a smooth plastic film that is no more than a few hundred nanometers thick. Spray-coating was found to be the best method, using either a simple spray gun or a spray robot.

Thin coating with high sensitivity to light

Organic sensors have already proven their worth in tests: They are up to three times more sensitive to light than conventional CMOS sensors, whose electronic components conceal some of the pixels, and therefore the photoactive silicon surface.

Organic sensors can be manufactured without the expensive post-processing step typically required for CMOS sensors, which involves for example applying micro-lenses to increase the amount of captured light. Every part of every single pixel, including the electronics, is sprayed with the liquid polymer solution, giving a surface that is 100 percent light-sensitive. The low noise and high frame rate properties of the organic sensors also make them a good fit for cameras.

Potential for developing low-cost infrared sensors

Another advantage of the plastic sensors is that different chemical compounds can be used to capture different parts of the light spectrum. For example, the PCBM and P3HT polymers are ideal for the detection of visible light. Other organic compounds, like squaraine dyes, are sensitive to light in the near-infrared region.

“By choosing the right organic compounds, we are able to develop new applications that were too costly up until now,” explains Prof. Paolo Lugli, who holds the Chair of Nanoelectronics at TUM. “The future uses of organic infrared sensors include driver assistance systems for night vision and regular compact and cellphone cameras. Yet, the lack of suitable polymers is the main hurdle.”

Publication:
Daniela Baierl, Lucio Pancheri, Morten Schmidt, David Stoppa, Gian-Franco Dalla Betta, Giuseppe Scarpa, Paolo Lugli, 2012: A hybrid CMOS-imager with a solution-processable polymer as photoactive layer, Nature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms2180

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v3/n10/full/ncomms2180.html

Contact:
Technische Universität München
Institute for Nanoelectronics
Prof. Paolo Lugli
T: +49 (0) 89 289 25333
E: lugli@tum.de

Undine Ziller | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tum.de
http://www.nano.ei.tum.de

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht A big nano boost for solar cells
18.01.2017 | Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies

nachricht Multiregional brain on a chip
16.01.2017 | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>