Friday, January 02, 2009

University of Glasgow, Oxford University and Sharp Laboratories Europe Cooperate on Image Sensor Improvements

BBC News reports that UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council granted £489,234 to the team led by University of Glasgow for work on image sensor improvement. The article is mostly based on University of Glasgow news published just over a month ago.

It's hard to understand what exactly is going to be developed. The project will take advantage of a phenomenon called plasmon resonance in their efforts to create an imager that will produce sharper, more colourful images. Plasmon resonance refers to an interaction produced when light waves fall on a metal surface, or in this case, the thin metal film used on CMOS image sensors.

When light shines on the metal film, electrons on the surface absorb the energy of the light waves and begin oscillating, or shaking, in groups. The resultant combined waves are called plasmons and they modify the light distribution around the metal. The metal nanostructure is claimed to increase the sensitivity of the CMOS image sensor and result in higher-quality images.

The structures will enable the plasmon resonators to be ‘tuned’ into the same frequency as various colours of light, thereby improving color discrimination in images. This could offer a cheaper way of filtering different colors of light, reducing the current number of processes currently used to distinguish between different colors.

To me this work sounds like a search for a substitute for color filter and, may be, microlens.

Update: The Herald also runs an article clearly stating that the technology is intended to substitute or improve color filters.


  1. They also have the potential to act as a sort of concentrator or condenser for light and can possibly be used to replace CFA and microlens together, esp. in sub micron pixels. They can also reduce optical stack height. I think the technology is still far from prime time however. Still it is a great University type of research effort and falls under the "nanotechnology" grant category.

  2. I don't really understand how this works, but it would be great if this plasmon thing can improve the traditional microlens, which is on its last legs in the small pixels.


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