Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ultrasensitive photon hunter

When it comes to imaging, every single photon counts if there is barely any available light. This is the point where the latest technologies often reach their limits. Researchers have now developed a diode that can read photons faster than ever before.

Fast and ultrasensitive optical systems are gaining increasing significance and are being used in a diverse range of applications, for example, in imaging procedures in the fields of medicine and biology, in astronomy and in safety engineering for the automotive industry.

It is now possible to process digital image signals directly on the microchip. © Fraunhofer IMS

Frequently the challenge lies in being able to record high-quality images under extremely low light conditions. Modern photo detectors for image capture typically reach their limits here. They frequently work with light-sensitive electronic components that are based on CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) or CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) image sensors.

The problem is that neither the latest CMOS nor CCD systems can simultaneously guarantee a swift and highly-sensitive high quality image recording if there is a paucity of photons to read.

In cooperation with the partners of the MiSPiA project consortium the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisburg has now advanced the development of CMOS technology and introduced an ultrasensitive image sensor with this technology, based on Single Photon Avalanche Photodiodes (SPAD).

Its pixel structure can count individual photons within a few picoseconds, and is therefore a thousand times faster than comparable models. Since each individual photon is taken into consideration camera images are also possible with extremely weak light sources.

Camera installed directly on chip

To achieve this the new image sensor uses the “internal avalanche breakdown effect”– a photoelectric amplification effect. The number of “avalanche breakdowns” corresponds to the number of photons that the pixels hit. In order to count these events, each of the sensor’s pixels comes with very precise digital counters. At the same time, the scientists have applied microlenses to each sensor chip, which focus the incoming beam in each pixel onto the photoactive surface. Another advantage is that processing the digital image signals is already possible directly on the microchip; therefore, additional analogue signal processing is no longer needed.

“The image sensor is a major step toward digital image generation and image processing. It allows us to have the capability to use even very weak light sources for photography. The new technology installs the camera directly on the semiconductor, and is capable of turning the information from the light into images at a significantly faster pace,” states Dr. Daniel Durini, group manager for optical components at the Fraunhofer Institute IMS.

IMS engineered the sensor under the European research project MiSPiA (Microelectronic Single-Photon 3D Imaging Arrays for low-light high-speed Safety and Security Applications). Altogether, seven partners throughout Europe from the fields of research and business are involved in the project. In the next stage, the scientists from Duisburg are working on a process to produce sensors that are back-lighted, and in this regard, even more powerful. At the same time, the new technology is already being utilized in tests for traffic. Chip-based mini-cameras protect vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians from collisions and chip-based accidents, or assist in the reliable functioning of safety belts and airbags.

The Fraunhofer Institute IMS will exhibit the new image sensor at “Vision” – the world’s leading trade show for image processing – from November 6 to 8, 2012 in Stuttgart at stand H74 in Hall 1.

Dr.-Ing. Daniel Durini | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht 'Super yeast' has the power to improve economics of biofuels
18.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

nachricht Engineers reveal fabrication process for revolutionary transparent sensors
14.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>