Monday, October 21, 2019

Imec Presents Thin-Film SWIR Imager with 5um Pixels

Imec presents a thin-film monolithic NIR & SWIR image sensor. The new thin-film process is said to promise an order of magnitude gain in fabrication throughput and cost compared to processing today’s conventional IR imagers, while at the same time enabling multi-megapixel resolution.

Imec's thin-film is based on quantum dots and is deposited directly on top of an electronic readout. They are manufactured in a monolithic process compatible with wafer-based mass production. The pixels embed newly developed high-performance low bandgap quantum dot materials that match or even surpass the performance of inorganic light absorbers. The stacks have been carefully engineered and can be tuned to target a spectrum from visible light all the way up to 2┬Ám wavelength. Test photodiodes on silicon substrate achieve an external quantum efficiency above 60% at 940nm wavelength, exceeding the state-of-the-art, and above 20% at 1450nm, allowing for uncooled operation with dark current comparable to commercial InGaAs photodetectors. The prototype imager has resolution of 758x512 pixels and 5um pixel pitch.

We are excited to present this outstanding thin-film imager, a collaborative result of several teams with expertise ranging from chemistry, device engineering, readout design through integration and fab manufacturing. This result opens up many new applications for thin-film imagers,” commented Pawel Malinowski, imec’s thin-film imagers program manager. “Our imagers could be integrated in next generation world-facing smartphone cameras coupled with eye-safe light sources, enabling compact sensing modules for augmented reality. In inspection, they could be used for food or plastics sorting, and in surveillance for low-light cameras with better contrast. Additionally, by enabling feature distinction in bad weather or smoke conditions, one can envision firefighting applications and, in the future, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Here is the SWIR test chip processed at die level:

Looking further, imec aims to develop a wafer-level NIR and SWIR image sensor technology and develop technologies for companies with a roadmap in innovative image sensors, cameras and smart imaging applications. The current SWIR photodetector is the result of several collaborations, including the Flemish VLAIO-SBO project MIRIS (IWT/150029) with academic partners Ghent University and University of Hasselt, and Flanders based companies active in imaging technology.

Below are Imec SWIR sensors processed at wafer scale:

Imec Magazine gives more details on the thin-film structure:

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