Sunday, June 30, 2013

Recent Image Sensor Theses

There is a number of recently published image sensor theses:

University of Trento: "3D Camera Based on Gain-Modulated CMOS Avalanche Photodiodes", PhD Thesis by Olga Shcherbakova, April 2013

Delft University: "A Data Acquisition System Design for a 160x128 Single-photon Image Sensor", MSc Thesis by Sachin S. Chadha, April 2013

Delft University: "4T CMOS Active Pixel Sensors under Ionizing Radiation" PhD Thesis by Jiaming Tan, April 2013

Delft University: "The design of a 16*16 pixels CMOS image sensor with 0.5 e- RMS noise" MSc Thesis by Yao Q., embargoed till July 28, 2013

University of Pretoria: "Dynamic Range and Sensitivity Improvement of Infrared Detectors Using BiCMOS Technology" MSc Thesis by Johan Venter, Feb. 2013

York University: "Analysis and Design of a Wide Dynamic Range Pulse-Frequency Modulation CMOS Image Sensor" PhD Thesis by Tsung-Hsun Tsai, Dec. 2012

Ecole Centrale De Lyon: "Modeling and design of 3D Imager IC" PhD Thesis by Vijayaragavan Viswanathan, Feb. 2013 (Talks about different aspects of 3D stacking, not 3D imaging)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rambus Blog Post on Binary Pixels

Rambus' blog post talks about the personal aspects of Binary Pixel team. Few quotes:

"The imaging team set out to solve this problem by applying our knowledge of chip design, signal processing & managed dataflow learned from our 100+ years of combined experience designing sensors and camera systems."

"Binary Pixel technology builds upon the visionary works of imaging and signal processing experts including: The Gigavision Camera by Professor Martin Vetterli at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Professor Edoardo Charbon at Delft University of Technology & EPFL; The Digital Film Sensor by Dr. Eric Fossum, pioneer in the modern CMOS active pixel image sensor."

Rambus: "Our test-chip demonstrates a 14 times improvement
in dynamic range, enabling pixel performance in mobile phone
cameras that exceeds most DSLRs"

Friday, June 28, 2013

NHK Exhibits Stacked Organic Sensor

NHK exhibited an interesting stacked organic sensor at its 2013 Open House event on May 30-June 2:

There are more photos at Japanese-language web site Imager Mania (nice site, BTW, I've added it to the Imaging Links in the left column), and apparently, a talk with NHK representative.

Eric Fossum's Latest Papers on QIS, DIS and ToF

Eric Fossum made available his latest papers on QIS, DIS, ToF on-line, including the best poster award win at IISW 2013 (first link):

S. Chen, A. Ceballos, and E.R. Fossum, Digital Integration Sensor, IISW 2013

E.R. Fossum, Application of Photon Statistics to the Quanta Image Sensor, IISW 2013

S. Masoodian, Y. Song, D. Hondongwa, JJ Ma, K. Odame and E.R. Fossum, Early Research Progress on Quanta Image Sensors, IISW 2013

Y. M. Wang, I. Ovsiannikov, S-J Byun, T-Y Lee, Y. Lee, G. Waligorski, H. Wang, S. Lee, D-K Min, Y.D. Park, T-C Kim, C-Y Choi, G.S. Han, and E.R. Fossum, Compact Ambient Light Cancellation Design and Optimization for 3D Time-of-Flight Image Sensors, IISW 2013

E.R. Fossum, Quanta Image Sensor (QIS): Early Research Progress (invited) in Proc. 2013 OSA Topical Meeting on Imaging Systems, Arlington, VA USA June 24-27, 2013.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Sony Unveils 1-inch BSI CMOS Sensor

PR Newswire: Sony unveils Rx-100 II compact camera featuring 1-inch (13.2 x 8.8 mm) BSI CMOS sensor. The sensor's resolution is 20.2MP and the pixel size is 2.4um. Sony says that it is approximately 40% more sensitive to light compared to the same size FSI sensor in last year's RX100 camera.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Aptina Applies for Selective Column Power Down Patent

Aptina's patent application US20130134295 "Imaging systems with selectable column power control" by Hai Yan and Ashirwad Bahukhandi proposes a circuit to independently power down each column readout circuit, in case the column is not used in one of the partial-scan modes:

"In some situations, however, only a portion of the image pixels a pixel array may used to capture image data at any given time. For example, in some situations a sub-array of image pixels may be used to capture image data when it is desired to capture image frames having a reduced size at an increased frame rate. In a conventional image sensor, power that could otherwise be used to operate other portions of the imaging system or that could otherwise be stored and used for later imaging operations can therefore be used to unnecessarily power column readout circuits that are coupled to unused image pixels. It can be particularly useful to conserve this type of power in portable imaging systems that use batteries to provide power to the device or in power-saving modes in larger electronic devices with imaging systems."

One of the possible implementations of the power down latch circuit is below:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Omnivision Announces Improved Version of 8MP/30fps 1.4um BSI-2 Pixel Sensor

Business Wire: OmniVision announces the OV8865, a low-power, high-performance 1/3.2-inch 8MP sensor targeting mobile devices, including advanced smartphones and tablets. Featuring an improved 1.4um OmniBSI-2 pixel, the OV8865 is said to deliver better pixel performance in a smaller package and uses less power when compared to the previous-generation OV8835.

"Reports are predicting that more than 1.8 billion smartphones and 250 million tablets will be produced annually by 2015[1], with the majority of this growth expected to come from developing markets like China and India. We are bringing to market the OV8865 at a time when manufacturers in these booming markets are looking for a cost-competitive camera solution for their slim and feature-rich devices with extended battery life," said Harish Iyer, product marketing manager at OmniVision. "The 8-megapixel OV8865 has been re-engineered from top to bottom. With an enhanced 1.4-micron OmniBSI-2 pixel, the OV8865 has improved camera performance and image quality when compared to our last generation 8-megapixel sensor, and offers smaller package-size and lower power consumption."

The OV8865 provides a number of performance improvements over the previous generation OV8835 CameraChip sensor: dark current has been reduced by 50% and DR is improved by 5% (should be 15% or 1.5dB: was 68.7dB, now 70.23dB). Additionally, the OV8865 consumes less power when compared to the OV8835, achieving the sub-200 mW benchmark currently favored by many high-end mobile device manufacturers. Both new and old sensors have 30fps speed at full resolution. The sensor also delivers 1080p30 or 720p60 video with EIS. The OV8865's 2 x 2 binning functionality with post-binning resampling filter minimizes spatial artifacts.

The OV8865 comes in a smaller footprint when compared to the OV8835, fitting into 8.5 x 8.5 x 5 mm module. It is currently available for sampling and is expected to enter volume production in the Q4 2013.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Panasonic 1.12um Pixel SmartFSI Product Flyer

It appears that Panasonic 13MP 1/3.06-inch SmartFSI MN34130 sensor is production now. Its product flyer has been published a couple of days ago and has quite detailed product information, although not related to the pixel performance:

Sunday, June 23, 2013

ITE and IISS Joint Transaction Section on Advanced Image Sensor Technology

International Image Sensor Society joins ITE (Japan Institute of Image Information and Television Engineers) Transactions on Media Technology and Applications in announcing a forthcoming Special Section on "Advanced Image Sensor Technology" to be published in April 2014. The publication has a number of unique features:

  • If the manuscript is submitted until March 2014, the publication fee is free.
  • No limitation on number of pages
  • Open access
  • Reviewers will be assigned in world wide.
  • Authors of IISW 2013 papers are welcome to submit their original papers on the significant part of their work presented at IISW 2013 to the Special Issues of MTA.
  • Video contents is encouraged in order to accelerate the manuscript understanding by readers.

The paper submission deadline is August 31, 2013, so hurry up! Information for authors can be found in

Update: Video content should be included as URL link.

Friday, June 21, 2013

IISW 2013, Day 4 Review

Albert Theuwissen concludes his excellent series of reports from IISW 2013. The fourth day was the day of global shutters and oversampling in various domains.

Pelican Imaging Video Wins Telly Award

Pelican Imaging announces at its LinkedIn Company Page that it has received a Telly Award for "smart camera" video. The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 and is honoring outstanding commercials (including on-line commercials), programs, video and film productions. The winning video appears to have been produced by The Distillery creative agency, in case anybody wants to promote his/her image sensors too.

Here is the winning Youtube video, already appeared in an earlier post here:

Toshiba HDR Demo

Toshiba publishes HDR demo video. Toshiba says that HDR is one of their main technologies in CIS. The demo does not promise wonders, but rather, shows a realistic estimate of what can be achieved with the company's approach:

Update: Toshiba has published this video on Youtube, one can watch it in 1080p quality.

Fujitsu Journal ISP Issue

Fujitsu Scientific and Technical Journal, Vol 49, No. 1 is entirely devoted to the company's image processing LSIs, including its Milbeaut ISPs for DSCs and mobile phones. The scope of the articles spans from the ISPs descriptions to H.264 compressor features, to packaging trends, to system verification and more.

Billion Pixels from Mars

NASA assembled a Giga-pixel panorama from few hundreds of pixels pictures sent by Curiosity rover. Impressive achievement!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Agilent Device Analyzer Targets RTN Measurements

While not a fresh news, Agilent newly enhanced B1500A Semiconductor Device Analyzer features WGFMU measurement module with RTN noise measuring capability. It appears that RTN characterization market becomes large enough to warrant a dedicated setup development:

Rambus Publishes its IISW 2013 Presentation

Rambus published its IISW 2013 presentation dated by June 16. Among other things, the presentation introduces the conditional reset concept:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

IISW 2013, Day 3 Report

Albert Theuwissen continues his review of IISW 2013 news. Day 3 part covers CCD and CMOS presentations and invited talk by Mike Tompsett.

TowerJazz Enters IR Imaging Space

Business Wire: TowerJazz-US announces that it will be the wafer manufacturer for IR sensing and camera devices. In addition to traditional IR defense and space applications, TowerJazz will facilitate expansion into other consumer markets such as gaming, personal security, and application driven platforms, market segments which are already well served by the company.

"Our leading edge CMOS for custom imaging products and our expertise in bringing specialty processing and MEMS to volume manufacturing fits extremely well with the proven capabilities of our customer," said David Howard, Executive Director and Fellow, TowerJazz.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

2013 IISW: Awards, Organizational Announcements

These announcements came from Eric Fossum:

-The IISS Walter Kosonocky Award is presented bi-annually for THE BEST PAPER presented in any venue during the prior two years representing significant advancement in solid-state image sensors. The award commemorates the many important contributions made by the late Dr. Walter Kosonocky to the field of solid-state image sensors. The 2013 IISS Walter Kosonocky Award was presented for the paper “A 33-Megapixel 120-Frames-Per-Second 2.5-Watt CMOS Image Sensor With Column-Parallel Two-Stage Cyclic Analog-to-Digital Converters,” by Kazuya Kitamura, Toshihisa Watabe, Takehide Sawamoto, Tomohiko Kosugi, Tomoyuki Akahori,Tetsuya Iida, Keigo Isobe, Takashi Watanabe, Hiroshi Shimamoto, Hiroshi Ohtake, Satoshi Aoyama, Shoji Kawahito, and Norifumi Egami. The author team is from NHK, Brookman Technology and Shizuoka University.

-The IISS Exceptional Service Award is presented for exceptional service to the image sensor specialist community. The 2013 award was made to Albert J.P. Theuwissen for exceptional contributions to the education of image sensor specialists through his books, university teaching, organization of various educational activities in conjunction with IEEE and IISS meetings, and continuing professional education with Harvest Imaging.

-The IISS Exceptional Lifetime Achievement Award is made to a member of the image sensor community who has made substantial sustained and exceptional contributions to the field of solid-state image sensors over the course of their career. The 2013 Award was presented to Gene P. Weckler for significant contributions to the advancement of solid-state image sensors.

-Among the many excellent presentations made at this year’s IISW, the IISW was honored to have Dr. Michael Tompsett, who invented and developed the CCD image sensor (US Patent No. 4,085,456), deliver a keynote speech. Dr. Tompsett touched on many aspects of the invention and subsequent development of the CCD image sensor as well as his other activities in solid-state electronics. Dr. Tompsett received a standing ovation from the audience at the conclusion of his talk.

-The IISS announced the 2015 IISW will be held in Europe and Co-Chaired by Johannes Solhusvik and Albert Theuwissen, with Pierre Magnan serving as Technical Program Chair. The exact location is TBD.

-The IISS also announced changes in its organization. As part of a planned leadership rotation, Nobukazu Teranishi will assume primary responsibility of the IISS as President for the coming six years commencing at the conclusion of the 2013 IISW, taking the reins from Eric Fossum, who has served as President for the first six years of the IISS. The IISS has added Boyd Fowler to the Board of Directors, joining Teranishi and Fossum, as well as Solhusvik, Theuwissen and Junichi Nakamura, yielding two Directors from each of the three continental regions served by the IISS and the IISW.

-The International Image Sensor Society (IISS), a California Non-Profit, Public Benefit Corporation for scientific education, plans to have no membership requirements or dues for the coming year, and will continue to offer free and unlimited access to its on-line library of Workshop papers dating to 1986 and before. The papers from the 2013 IISW will be posted in mid-September 2013.

The workshop site has 2 group photos taken with Nokia 808 Pureview camera phone and Canon EOS5D cropped to 13MP - one can compare a quality.

Imec and Panasonic Present 2k4k/60fps Sensor

Imec presents a CMOS sensor capturing 12b 4000 x 2000 pixel progressive images at 60fps. Based on a stagger-laced dual exposure, the image sensor developed with Panasonic, was processed using imec’s 130nm CMOS process on 200mm silicon wafers to deliver high-speed and high-quality imaging, at reduced output bit rate.

The sensor is based on 4T shared pixel with a pitch of 2.5um and a conversion gain of 70 μV/e-, which allows for both a classical rolling shutter or stagger-laced scanning mode. The sensor has 12-bit column-based delta-sigma ADCs. The stagger-laced scanning method improves imaging sensitivity and realizes a 50% reduction in output data rate by alternating the readout of two sets of horizontal pixel pairs arranged in two complementary checkerboard patterns. The overall power consumption of the imager is less than 2W.

This is an important milestone for imec to demonstrate our capability to co-design, prototype and manufacture high performance CMOS image sensors in our 200 mm CMOS fab,” commented Rudi Cartuyvels, SVP of Smart Systems & Energy Technologies at imec.

Imec-Panasonic 2k4k Sensor

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pelican Imaging Demos its Camera Capabilities

PR Newswire: Pelican Imaging releases a Youtube video showing capabilities of its mobile array camera, including all-in-focus image capture, linear measurement, and 3D video capture:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Microsoft Complains about Image Sensor Power

While this topic has been covered in one of the recent posts, this time it appears again in MIT Technology Review:

"Victor Bahl, research manager of the mobility networking group at Microsoft Research... said at the MIT Technology Review Mobile Summit in San Francisco on Tuesday that while much work has been done to reduce the size and improve the resolution of image sensors, there hasn’t been much attention paid to their power circuitry." Microsoft proposes to reduce the sensor power by powering down the sensor between the active capture slots, described in their paper at Mobisys conference to be held later this month in Taiwan.

Image Sensor Fundamentals for Beginners

AIA, the machine vision trade association, published 2-part video course on image sensor basics (part 1, part 2):

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Albert Theuwissen Reports from IISW 2013, Day 2

The day 2 report by Albert Theuwissen covers SPAD imagers and poster sessions at International Image Sensor Workshop at Snowbird, UT.

All About CMOS Sensors in 75 Slides

Taiwan National Chiao Tung University published a nice CMOS image sensor course materials covering pretty much all important things in just 75 slides, written by Chia-Ming Tsai. There is also 58-slide long CCD course on the same page.

Update: As written in comments, most of the material in the CMOS and CCD slides is not original and, actually, copied from Albert Theuwissen's and Stanford University courses.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Albert Theuwissen Reports from IISW 2013

Albert Theuwissen published a review of the first day presentations at International Image Sensor Workshop being held these days in Snowbird, UT. As there are too many presentations to write, Albert just mentioned a few spanning from reverse engineering revelations to the sensor noise analysis.

Scallop Uploads its 2-Color Filter Video to Vimeo

Scallop Imaging, a division of Tenebraex, published Vimeo video demonstrating its Gemini 2-channel color filter performance in low light. The video is made using "a leading 1.2MP monochrome sensor with 3.75 µm pixel" equipped with the Gemini color filter array. It's compared to the color version of the same image sensor. One can also see a few snapshots and discussion i comments to my earlier post on this 2-color filter technology.

Rambus to Present Binary Pixel Test Chip Results

Business Wire: Thomas Vogelsang, Rambus, is to present present results from an binary pixel sensor test-chip that demonstrates DR extension by a factor of 14 compared to a conventional sensor in the same technology. During this presentation at IISW 2013 being held these days in Snowbird, UT, Thomas Vogelsang will discuss the system design of the Rambus Binary Pixel technology and how the HDR image sensor oversamples the incident light by using the ADC output at each sampling and resetting the pixel only if a threshold has been exceeded.

Podcast on 17 Curiosity's Cameras

NASA published a nice post talking about 17 cameras installed on board of Mars rover Curiosity. Among other things, it explains why we do not see videos from Curiosity and how the panorama images are being shot:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Imec and Holst to Present Flexible Organic Sensor for X-Ray Scintillators

Imec News, Solid State Technology: At this week’s IISW (Snowbird, US, June 12-16 2013), imec and Holst Centre present a large-area fully-organic photodetector array fabricated on a flexible substrate. The imager is sensitive in the wavelength range between 500 and 600 nm, making it compatible with typical scintillators and therefore suitable for x-ray imaging applications.

Because of their very high absorption coefficient, organic semiconductors allow extremely thin active layers (10 to 50 nm). Also, given their low processing temperature, they can be processed on foils. As a result, organic imagers can be more robust and light-weight compared to their traditional counterparts and may be used for conformal coating of randomly shaped substrates. Moreover, the wide variety of organic molecules available ensures that the properties of the active layer can be tuned to applications requiring specific wavelength ranges.

Fully-organic, flexible imager developed by imec, Holst Centre and Philips Research

EPFL Molybdenite-based Sensor

ScienceDaily, In 2011, an EPFL team led by Andras Kis announced molybdenite (MoS2) and its potential in various technological applications. Now they publish a paper in Nature Nanotechnology presenting a molybdenite sensor prototype.

Ultrasensitive photodetectors based on monolayer MoS2
Oriol Lopez-Sanchez, Dominik Lembke, Metin Kayci, Aleksandra Radenovic & Andras Kis

Molybdenyte is similar to graphene in his properties as a monomolecular layer. However, it has a direct badgap of 1.8eV which is said to simplify its optoelectronic applications. The new paper demonstrates "ultrasensitive" monolayer MoS2 phototransistors with improved device mobility and ON current. The devices show a maximum external photoresponsivity of 880 A/W at a wavelength of 561 nm and a photoresponse in the 400–680 nm range. The large photoresponse is apparently achieved by photoconductive gain. Here is how the phototransistor looks, from the previous publications:

EPFL Sensor Prototype

SiOnyx Passed US Army Performance Test SiOnyx sensor successfully captured images when the system was operated by the US Army, in a test scene at the Army’s premier agency for night vision technology, a company official said.

"This validated the system’s ability to image at 60 frames per second at 1 millilux," replicating moonless night, said Martin Pralle, VP of government programs at SiOnyx.
"That’s the point at which this becomes useful in a lot of military scenarios," he added. "We did it in their labs, on their equipment. They controlled the amount of light. We now have independently validated the camera in the Army’s premier test site." The SiOnyx sensor is said to offer a ten-fold increase in sensitivity at 1064 nm, the wavelength of choice for many laser targeting applications.

In addition to the military products, SiOnyx plans to announce a number of consumer applications requiring the enhanced IR of black silicon, which could see the technology used in computational imaging or biometrics. The SiOnyx imagers are fabricated by TSMC.

0.9 mLux comparison of a "best-in-class" CCD (left) and SiOnyx'
XQE-1310 black silicon sensor. Martin Pralle from says that this is
equivalent to what the US Army saw in their recent laboratory tests.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CMOSIS and TowerJazz Ramp Up 12MP/150fps APS-C GS Sensor Production

Business Wire: CMOSIS and TowerJazz announces the ramp to volume production for CMOSIS’ 12-megapixel CMV12000. The off-the-shelf CMV12000 is manufactured in TowerJazz’s Fab-2 in Migdal Haemek, Israel using its 0.18µm specialty CIS process (TS18IS) and is based on CMOSIS’ collaboration and co-development with TowerJazz’s R&D group. The CMV 12000 product features 5.5 x 5.5 µm pixel 4096 x 3072 array covering 4k resolution in an APS-C optical format. It offers high sensitivity and low noise, global shutter and a frame rate of 150 fps providing best in-class performance serving various markets such as industrial inspection, broadcasting, motion analysis and others.

According to a 2012 Yole Développement CMOS image sensors report: 530,000 machine vision cameras were sold in 2011 and sales of machine vision cameras are expected to grow to 644,000 units in 2015 at a 5% CAGR. The report also noted that while today CCD still represents the large majority of the machine vision market, CMOS cameras are expected to represent half of the sales in 2015 and to take over about 80% of the machine vision market in 2020. Today, CMOS-based cameras represent only 20% of the global market in units, but 80% of the R&D of camera manufacturers’ investments.

CMOSIS continues to expand its relationship with TowerJazz to collaborate on its next generation of CMOS image sensors. TowerJazz’s process features low dark current, low noise and high dynamic range and its skilled support the customization of pixels per customer requirements and project needs.

"We have enjoyed a very fruitful relationship with TowerJazz for several years. TowerJazz has an expert team that can customize the CIS process to our needs and create, together with us, new pixels that outperform our competitors. Our ability to offer innovative imaging products with highly reliable performance is based on our collaboration with TowerJazz and their mature process technology, extensive R&D investment and excellent customer support. By combining our companies’ expertise, we are able to offer a rich solution for various digital imaging applications," said Lou Hermans, COO, CMOSIS.

Fujifilm and Panasonic Present Organic Image Sensor Papers

Panasonic and Fujifilm present two papers on their latest developments on organic pixel sensors: one at VLSI Symposium and a second one at IISW this month.

The sensor combines Fujifilm's organic photoelectric conversion layer technology with Panasonic's semiconductor technology, including a newly-developed noise-cancelling circuit. The new organic CMOS image sensor is said to offer the industry's highest dynamic range of 88dB, advanced sensitivity 1.2 times higher than conventional sensors (by Panasonic) and broader range of incident angle (up to 60deg) to enable the production of more sensitive and compact lenses with better image quality. The two companies will promote the application of this organic CMOS image sensor technology to a wide range of products including security cameras, in-vehicle cameras, mobile device and digital cameras. The pixel size ranges from 0.9um to 3um.

ISORG Receives JPCA Award

ISORG's distributor in Japan, Techno Alpha, receives JPCA Show Award (Tokyo, Japan) for "a disruptive technology for industrial and consumer electronics applications".

Monday, June 10, 2013

Plastic Logic and ISORG Partner on Flexible Image Sensor

Plastic Logic and ISORG join forces to commercialize flexible image sensors. The collaboration is based on the deposition of organic printed photodetectors (OPD) by ISORG, onto a plastic organic thin-film transistor (OTFT) backplane, developed by Plastic Logic, to create a flexible sensor with a 4x4 cm active area, 375um pitch (175um pixel size with 200um spacing) and 94 x 95 = 8 930 pixel resolution.

The backplane design, production process and materials were optimized for the application by Plastic Logic to meet ISORG's requirements. Combined with ISORG's unique organic photodetector technology, it opens up the possibilities for a range of new applications, based around digital image sensing, including smart packaging and sensors for medical equipmen tand biomedical diagnostics, security and mobile commerce (user identification by fingerprint scanning), environmental, industrial, scanning surfaces and 3D interactive user interfaces forconsumer electronics (printers, smartphones, tablets, etc.).

ISORG's CEO, Jean-Yves Gomez stated: "We are extremely pleased to showcase our disruptive photodiode technology in a concrete application for imaging sensing. The ability to create conformal and large area image sensors, which are also thinner, lighter and more robust and portable than current equipment is of increasing importance, especially in the medical, industrial and security control sectors."

Indro Mukerjee, CEO Plastic Logic said: "I am delighted that Plastic Logic can now demonstrate the far-reaching potential of the underlying technology. Our ability to create flexible, transmissive backplanes has led us not only to co-develop a flexible image sensor,but is also key to flexible OLED displays as well as unbreakable LCDs."

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Concert Lasers Damage Image Sensors

There is a growing number of videos showing how image sensors can be damaged by concert lasers:

One would expect the excessive energy to burn color filter first, while the underneath layers be able to withstand quite a significant heating. But it looks like the a whole column and/or row stops working, pointing to the electrical nature of the damage. The laser is green and should not cause the oxide charge accumulation in MOSFETs and STI. So, what can be the mechanism of such a damage?

My first guess was that a large photocurrent on the transistor diffusions in the array exceeds elecromigration limits blows some metal or via. Most CIS processes offer about 0.5mA per um of metal width for the array metals. Then, assuming the metal width in RED and Canon large sensors is 0.2um, the maximum allowed current should of order of 100uA. To get to this current, the photon flux should be about 2.0e15 ph/s per pixel. Seems way too much for these concert lasers.

And even if we managed to reach the electromigration limit of 100uA, the metal is supposed to last a long time at that current, such as 10,000 hours or more, assuming the sensor is colder than 70-80C. So, my next guess was that these large sensors get much hotter in video mode. If my memory serves me, the electromigration increases 3 times per 15C of temperature rise. Still, this does not sound enough to fit to the electromigration theory.

So, the next guess was that the laser heats the pixel locally, to 200-250C or so and then the electromigration limit gets exceeded. Currently, this seems to be my best guess. If true, the workaround should be to put the current limiters at each column and row, and also to the pixel VDD lines.

Anyone has a better explanation for the damage?

Update: Yet another Canon video of laser show published at Youtube on June 21, 2013, showing a similar column and row damage.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Panasonic Restructuring

Panasonic IR Day presentations reveal the first details of its restructuring program. Panasonic has been split into 4 companies. The semiconductor business belongs to Automotive & Industrial Systems Company. With respect to image sensors, it appears that Panasonic limits its future activity to medical, automotive and security applications only:

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Ambarella Business Flourishes

GlobeNewswire, SeekingAlpha: Ambarella, a developer of HD video compression and image processing chips, announces results for its fiscal Q1 ended April 30, 2013. Revenue for the quarter was $33.9M, up 30.9% from $25.9M in the same period a year ago. GAAP gross margin the quarter was 63.9%, compared with 71.0% a year ago. GAAP net income for the first quarter of fiscal 2014 was $4.7M, compared with GAAP net income of $2.6M for the same period a year ago. Cash at the end of the last quarter was $104.3M.

"We are very pleased with our progress in the first fiscal quarter, with total revenue up 31% over the first quarter of last year and with the successful addition of new customers in key markets," said Fermi Wang, President and CEO of Ambarella. "During the quarter, we made excellent progress in the IP security camera market with new design wins at both professional and consumer IP-camera customers. We also saw especially strong revenue growth in the wearable sports camera category, led by market leader GoPro. In the automotive camera after-market, we continued to grow revenue while successfully expanding our customer base."

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Intel Capital Creates $100M Perceptual Computing Fund

Business Wire: Intel Capital announces a $100M investment fund to accelerate Perceptual Computing (PERC) technologies across the spectrum of Intel architecture platforms. "Devices with human-like senses – the ability to see, hear and feel much like people do – has long been a subject of science fiction but is now within reach given recent innovations in compute power and camera technology," said Arvind Sodhani, president of Intel Capital and Intel executive vice president. "This new fund will invest in start-ups and companies enabling these experiences, helping them with the business development support, global business network and technology expertise needed to scale for worldwide use."

The Intel Capital Experiences and Perceptual Computing Fund will invest over the next 2-3 years. Areas of software and application investment will include broader touch applications, imaging, gesture, voice and emotion sensing and biometrics, among others.

Examples of the ongoing PERC projects include:
  • An interactive gesture camera from Creative, the Senz3D to be available to consumers in the third quarter of this year.
  • Leading the development and enabling the integration of 3-D depth camera technology by working with multiple OEM partners to build the technology into various Intel-based devices with targeted availability for second half of 2014.
  • Facial log-in software from Sensible Vision will ship preloaded from multiple OEMs.
In a related news, Engadget published an article about Softkinetic ToF camera module DS530 that is said could be embedded into the laptop lid. The camera is 12mm 5mm thick:

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Sony Awarded for BSI CMOS Sensor Development

Sony Japan received Prime Minister Invention Award for "development of CMOS image sensor technology for the next generation by the invention of back-illuminated CMOS image sensor" (Microsoft translation, Google translation). Prime Minister Invention Award is a prize for the invention that have greatly contributed to the science and technology and the development of the industrial economy.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

ST Imaging Update

STM has held an 2013 Investors & Analysts Day on May 16, presenting few updates on its image sensor business.

The CIS production seems to take a good chunk of the Crolles 300mm fab's capacity:

ST develops 1.1um and 0.9um pixel process, apparently cooperating with 2 foundries. So far, only cooperation with UMC has been announced:

0.9um pixel is scheduled to appear in 2014:

In recent years ST has introduced a lot of CIS process extensions:

The Imaging Division presentation talks about the achievements and strategies:

The progress in camera phones sensors includes:
  • Ramp-up of BSI process one quarter ahead of schedule for smartphone maker flagship device
  • Including brand new technology concept
  • High Performance Pixel: DTI, Vertical Diode, large pixel, HDR, low dark optimization
  • Investment of color capacity into Crolles 300mm ready in 3Q13 (+100%)
  • 65nm Back Side Illumination process development with UMC under execution as planned