Sunday, October 03, 2021

ST to Start Quantum Dot Image Sensor Production

SeekingAlpha article "Quantum Dots - All The Colours Of The Rainbow" by Edison Investment Research tells about ST QD sensor plans. The article is also published in a pdf form.

"STMicroelectronics ready to commercialise QD photodetector platform technology

In May 2021, ST presented a paper at the Society for Information Display’s annual symposium. This announced that the company was ready to commercialise its QD photodetector platform technology and intended to have 940nm engineering samples ready for release to early adopters during calendar H221 and SWIR (<1,400nm) samples ready during calendar 2022. The paper noted that the technology held great promise for enabling lower cost (100–1,000 times lower), high-performance, high-resolution, large spectral response image sensors, which would potentially drive large SWIR imaging growth. It identified initial opportunities in mobile devices, miniature spectrometers and hyperspectral imaging, machine vision and advanced driver assistance, noting that the variant currently at R&D scale was likely to surpass the required performance specifications including sensor speed for time-of-flight applications in future.

We have previously inferred elsewhere that ST is deploying QDs from Nanoco for this application. If successful, this programme could lead to production scale-up and eventual volume production in calendar 2023 at Nanoco’s proven production facility in Runcorn. Nanoco is also working with a ‘very significant’ Asian chemical company on the development of QDs or infra-red sensing applications. The Asian customer intends to incorporate Nanoco’s nanomaterials in its own materials, which it will sell globally to companies making electronic devices (i.e., companies at a similar level in the supply chain to ST). Volume production for the Asian customer is likely to commence one year to 18 months after any potential volume ramp-up for ST."

Investing.com article is based on an earlier version of Edison report giving more details about ST-Nanoco cooperation history:

"Nanoco and ST have been working together for around three years. Originally this was as part of a supply chain for a major US customer, with Nanoco manufacturing nanomaterials that ST used to improve the sensitivity of its silicon infrared sensors. In June 2019 the US customer advised Nanoco that the joint programme would not be extended beyond December 2019 when the contract covering a range of stress tests and commissioning services at the Runcorn facility concluded. This decision was for reasons wholly unconnected to the performance of Nanoco’s materials and service delivery. The nanomaterials production facility in Runcorn had been successfully commissioned, with Nanoco delivering the final milestones for the US customer during FY20 and earning the contracted milestone payments in full.

With the US customer having withdrawn from the scene and the exclusivity agreement with it having lapsed, ST is able to offer the enhanced, proven, near infrared (NIR) sensors developed for the US customer across its extensive, global customer base. In May 2020 ST signed a framework agreement with Nanoco covering both development work and commercial supply of nanomaterials for use in multiple infrared sensing applications over a five-year period. The agreement covers the supply of small-scale volumes of nanomaterials for NIR sensors. It also covered a development project, which initially extended from April to December 2020, on a new generation of nanomaterials for potential use in other infrared sensing applications, which we infer from a recent paper given by ST (see below) are in the short-wave infrared (SWIR) range. This development activity was not impaired by the coronavirus pandemic. During H1/21 Nanoco successfully delivered all of the technical and commercial milestones on the first phase of this project, which contributed £0.8m of the total £1.0m revenues for the period. In May 2021 Nanoco announced that it was working on the second phase, which is the optimisation of the new materials. This phase is scheduled to complete in Q1/22. If successful, this phase could lead to production scale-up and eventual volume production in calendar 2023.

The agreement also commits ST to taking a specified minimum volume of nanomaterials from Nanoco if the enhanced sensors gain market traction and commercial volumes are required. These materials would be produced at the existing facility dedicated to sensing applications in Runcorn."

6 comments:

  1. So probably we will see a QD based SPAD for dTOF at 1400nm in 2022 from ST? At eye safe wavelength and in an environment where there is near 0 sunlight?

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    1. Nice idea but for consumer mobile applications the VCSEL at 1400nm has to be produced first. The laser suppliers need to up their game, it looks like the image sensor sensitivity at wavelengths >940nm is not an issue anymore QD, GeSi etc. 2022 is very near term for this technology to be adopted for Apple, provided the VCSEL becomes available you are looking at 2025.

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  2. Didn't apple purchase this company? And then use the sensor in their face unlock sensors?

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    1. ST supplied the face ID sensor, but Apple did not acquire ST.

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    2. Apple bought InVisage, who foolishly (and greedily) were trying to use their quantum film sensors to disrupt the VISIBLE light mobile phone sensor market (instead of playing to their strengths and growing from a NIR niche).

      I have friends who were there and went to Apple. As far as I know, they are working on conventional sensors now.

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  3. How about high temperature >80degC reliability?

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