Monday, July 27, 2020

QURV Startup to Develop SWIR Image Sensors

Barcelona, Spain-based The Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) launches a spin-off company, Qurv Technologies. The new company develops wide-spectrum image sensor technologies and integrated solutions for computer vision applications, addressing the needs of an autonomous and intelligent new world.

Qurv’s graphene/quantum dot image sensors platform technology allow operation from the visible to the SWIR range and can be integrated with current CMOS low-cost, high-manufacturability processes. Qurv’s "plug and play" approach aims to bring advanced machine vision capabilities to markets that are not accessible by the current state of the art SWIR sensors.

Qurv incubated in the KTT Launchpad for more than 6 years and holds a portfolio of more than 10 patent families. The incubation has received support from the Government of Catalonia, the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness of Spain, the European Research Council, the Barcelona City Council and the Castelldefels City Council, the European Regional Development Funds allocated to Generalitat de Catalunya for emerging technology clusters, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program.

Antonios Oikonomou, Qurv’s CEO, comments, "Nature itself hides a vast amount of information beyond what is visible. By harnessing and efficiently processing this information, a new era in health, security and decision-making will emerge. However, no mass-deployable solution exists to provide these capabilities at scale and to everyone. With the immense support of the KTT unit at ICFO, we are now ready to achieve precisely this- to bring a technology once available only in the lab to the world.

Stijn Goossen, the company’s CTO adds, “Our unprecedented expertise of the graphene/quantum dot stack puts us in an optimal position to leverage the benefits of integration with silicon CMOS technology in terms of functionality, performance and addressable markets. World-renowned experts in graphene, Prof. Frank Koppens and quantum dots, Prof. Gerasimos Konstantatos, have been key in the early technology development. We are delighted to announce that they will take up the role of scientific advisors to the company while further maturing the technology.

17 comments:

  1. yet anther 'lowcost' SWIR player... There is much activity in development of SWIR detectors since a few years. Up to now SWIR is a quite small niche market, right? There are some applications in defence, some in robotics like plastic sorting or fruit inspection or semiconductor inspection. But still relatively small niches. What market is driving all these guys? Where is the application that is supposed to bring a large volume for SWIR cameras? I doubt the existing applications promise enough volume. So there must be something different, right? But what is it? Some application in every smartphone? But what could be the benefit that every second smartphone user want to have? Or is it in autonomous cars, e.g. to use spectral bands where little sunlight is present? What is the target application for low cost SWIR imagers?

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    1. Their article says "addressing the needs of an autonomous and intelligent new world." So, yes, it appears to be automotive and smart cities applications.

      The potential benefits are better visibility in fog and smog, as well as passive night vision in night glow.

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    2. Abstract answer to abstract question: It does not matter. This is how capitalist economy is working. If someone can make it less expensive and/or higher quality - he got his portion of market. I would love to have thermal vision glasses integrated in many devices. My security cameras, scopes, binoculars, smartphones, Hololens. Sure people will pay for this as long as price will be aligned with expectations. Of course these markets will not be achievable if cost of SWIR is multiple times of cost regular image sensor and resolution SWIR is much lower. There is no product specs in this article, but if someone will achieve SWIR FullHD resolution with price range ~$50-$100 - then I'm sure huge markets will be open. That's why the more companies like this the better for all of us (but may be not for the companies - since many of them will not survive most likely).

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  2. SWIR = Next generation of low cost depth sensors with higher power sources ?

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    1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_Spectrum.png

      in a spectrtal range where the environment is completely dark also in bright sunlight

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  3. @Vladimir Koifman
    The problem is that all of these potential benefits in using SWIR imagers are actually not there. SWIR in normal fog conditions where visibility is around 1 km will see as much as a standard camera (no big difference, SWIR is good for long-range surveillance >20km - and that would be it). The same goes for visibility during the night - it is just untrue, that it is better than the CMOS. Low light CMOS kills SWIR in all low light conditions and is 10x cheaper.

    SWIR can see through smoke as good as LWIR camera, but cost-wise it's better to have thermal imager rather than SWIR.

    So I also doubt that there is a potential market for mass SWIR application.

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    1. See night glow spectrum, it's about 10x brighter in SWIR than it's in visible band:

      https://www.photonics.com/Articles/The_Night_Glows_Brighter_in_the_Near-IR/a50540

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    2. Yes, we all know the theory. The practice is that this effect in many parts of the world occurs once a month or even rarer. This makes it good as a scientific fact but not as a realistic use case.

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    3. Do you say that people should not drive on these days once a month?

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    4. No Vladimir, I am saying this effect occurs once a month so it's quite a rare phenomenon. I am just speaking from my experience, and I was testing the SWIR camera based on the GaAs sensor for more than 3 months. For surveillance applications, it is mostly useless.

      Of course, night glow can be visible in other parts of the world more frequently (I am from Europe), where cloudless nights are more frequent and the sky actually glows. In northern Europe, I did not experience such conditions.

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  4. Don't listen to all these naysayers here on the forum. Good luck guys!

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  5. Albert Theuwissen - Harvest ImagingJuly 29, 2020 at 5:26 PM

    Take my advice, don't listen to me (Neil Young in "Hippie Dream")

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  6. It's not only about night glow and imaging under poor visibility conditions. SWIR is much safer for human eyes comparing to NIR or visible, hence it can be used for active imaging and ToF. Longer wavelength also means longer penetration depth. A lot of advantages...

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    1. And much more dark current. Yay

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    2. That's physics. There is always a trade-off.

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  7. In response to anonymous (he is everywhere !)

    To my mind, the night glow is only useful to raise money and get institutional fundings ... The state-of-the-art performances are far too low to be able to really use the night glow. Read-out would typically need to be <<10e-. You will have a better image with modern smartphone sensors ...

    This kind of "low cost" SWIR imagers are often even worse in terms of performances. They do not address those applications.
    Nevertheless I disagree with the fog. Depending on the kind of smoke/fog you are looking at, you definitely improve a lot the visibility.

    In addition, I do not believe in huge mass market in the short/medium term (<3 years, >100k units). Nevertheless there are a lot of "big niches" markets (>hundreds of units/year) for which SWIR is very useful. Military is not everything :)

    I really think that if a company produces a 1.3MP camera for less than 5k€, it is easily doable to sell circa 10k units/years in a short term. It is a 50M€ revenue which is not bad a all for a 20 person startup. Maybe I am not greedy enough !

    Largers market would come afterward and you will be ready for Full HD.

    Anyway, it will be very interesting to see how Sony will make the field evolve. We are stuck with the standard 15µm VGA for to long.

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  8. Hi Simon,
    I'm one of the 'anonymous' posters here, one of the reason is that my company asks me not to publically share what topics i am working on.
    I think you are not greedy enough. Take the imx990, sample price is public 800kYen which is 6,5k€. I assume serial price is a bit below? sensor is pregius style so i assume hardware cost overhead can be similar to a pregius camera. I think you can already reach a cost magnitude of 6-7k€ for a camera and there are a lot of companies that can handle a pregius sensor... Many want to multiply factor 4 margin but well... since it is not so difficult to handle a pregius sensor they might not sell a lot.
    I think there is a different mass market for this cqd swir than the classic industrial 1mp camera - i think if they can manage to create a tof module (for smartphones and automobil) in the spectral range where there is no sunlight, e.g. 1400nm and where laser power can be higher since it is absorbed by the water in the eye before reaching retina, this might get much use. but well... I dont know if this is theoretically doable with cqd or even with ingaas

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