Sunday, October 04, 2015

PCO Announces Luminescence Lifetime Imaging Camera

The pco.flim camera system is said to be the first standard product for luminescence lifetime imaging using a two tap CMOS sensor. The camera can internally generate a wide range of frequencies and also accepts external modulation signals.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

University of Edinburgh Spins Off Image Sensor Startup

The Edinburgh Reporter: Photon Force Ltd. formed at the University of Edinburgh has won 2015 Converge Challenge Award – Scotland’s premier company creation competition jointly funded by the Scottish Funding Council and Scotland’s eight research-intensive universities. Photon Force Ltd. was founded by Richard Walker, a Post Doctorate Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering. Richard received £35,000 to start his business plus a further £25,000 in business support from a number of commercial and professional services organisations.

Photon Force Ltd designs, builds and supplies scientific sensors that can very precisely detect and measure single photons. While this technology is in high demand for many applications, such as biomedical imaging, Richard identified that current systems are bulky, slow and restrictive. Photon Force has developed an integrated image sensor solution which will deliver significant competitive advantage with respect to incumbent systems.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Socionext ISP Supports HDR, PDAF

PRNewswire: Socionext, the company created by merging of Fujitsu and Panasonic semiconductor businesses, announces a volume production of MB86S29, a 'camera front engine' specialized for Bayer data processing with new functions supporting the latest image sensors.

The MB86S29 is the newest Milbeaut Image Processor for smartphones. By accommodating new functionalities of the latest image sensors, the MB86S29 lets module makers implement these functions without replacing their application processors.

Recently, it is common to find cameras in smartphones or other mobile devices that are configured with application processors (AP) equipped with built-in ISP functionalities. These APs can directly process output from image sensors, and help reduce the footprint and cost of camera modules. The MB86S29 supports this trend as a "Camera Front Engine" that replaces conventional ISPs. Connected in between an image sensor and an AP, it is specialized for Bayer data processing, so users can configure their APs with the same interface directory connected to image sensors, and to make full use of PDAF and HDR.

The MB86S29 has 4 lanes each of 2.1Gbps MIPI Rx / Tx. It can process 16MP images at 30 fps. It is also applicable for noise reduction, shading correction, and 3A (AE / AF / AWB) detection. It is available in the smallest package of any member of the Milbeaut series, at 4mm x 4mm.

The MB86S29 has been designed to utilize "Hybrid AF", which combines the accuracy of contrast AF and the speed of phase detect AF, enabling maximum 4x faster AF, in comparison with the previous Milbeaut products. Low power consumption is just 310mW when processing phase detect AF.

The MB86S29 also supports Sensor HDR. Conventional HDR imaging, which generates a picture from multiple frames taken with different exposures, has disadvantages, such as image blurs caused by the difference between the frames, and time needed to take those multiple frames. The MB86S29 can process data with different exposure settings within one image so it can process the HDR images with higher visibility in 16MP, at the speed of 30 fps.

MB86S29 Specifications

  • 16MP at 30fps, Bayer Output
  • Compatible with PDAF Sensors
  • Compatible with Sensor HDR
  • Defective Pixel Correction (including pixels for PDAF)
  • Shading Correction
  • Package: 4mm x 4mm
  • MIPI-Rx: 4 lanes (2.1Gbps) + 2 lanes (1.5Gbps)
  • MIPI-Tx: 4 lans (2.1Gbps)
  • Dual ARM processor Core

The new MB86S29 is available for $3.00 each when purchased in volume quantities of 5 Million pieces or more.

Toshiba's 2MP Sensor for Vehicles Mitigates LED Flicker

BusinessWire: Toshiba announces that it has developed a new 2MP CMOS sensor for automotive cameras, CSA02M00PB, equipped with the industry’s first LED flicker mitigation function (first for 2MP sensors). Sample shipments start in March, 2016.

The new 2MP sensor is equipped with Toshiba’s original LED flicker (pulsed LED) mitigation circuit to minimize image flicker caused by LED light sources. When recording LED traffic lights and signs with conventional CMOS sensors, the output images often flickers, preventing an accurate sensing function. Toshiba’s new sensor mitigates the flicker and delivers clear images for faster, more accurate image sensing.

The sensor also adopts Toshiba’s original next-generation HDR system and BSI process. Toshiba’s next-generation HDR system uses the company’s single frame method for clear images free of the degraded resolution and blown-out highlights typical of high contrast-light conditions. Later in the PR, Toshiba talks about different exposure times in a frame: "The maximum frame rate may change per operating conditions specified. Exposure condition 1 assumes 2 different exposure times in a frame; exposure condition 2 assumes 3."

The BSI process is said to be first brought to automotive image sensors by Toshiba. In July 2015, ON Semi too announced its automotive BSI sensor.

The new sensor integrates functions to meet the requirements of ASIL, the Automotive Safety Integrity Level intended to protect life, and supports failure detection, report flagging and control of vehicles. It is also compliant with AEC-Q100 (Grade 2) and is suited both for front end sensing cameras for the ADAS and the latest viewing applications, such as e-Mirror and CMS (Camera Monitor System).

Toshiba foresees three-fold growth in the automotive CMOS image sensor market in the period to 2020. Toshiba will continue to develop its automotive CMOS sensor business to fully meet expanding market requirements.

Edoardo Charbon is Promoted at EPFL

Edoardo Charbon is promoted to a Full Professor of Microtechnology in the School of Engineering (STI) at EPFL:

"Edoardo Charbon is an internationally recognised leader in the field of photosensors, especially single-photon avalanche diodes. By combining applied physics with electrical engineering he has achieved groundbreaking successes in the production of photon counters for large-format sensors. His findings have resulted in important advances in areas such as medical imaging, particularly positron emission tomography. In addition to his academic excellence, Edoardo Charbon will contribute his experience in teaching and technology transfer to EPFL."

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Orbbec Presents 3D Cameras

Orbbec presents Astra Pro, a 3D camera with 720p high-definition color, and Persee, said to be the world’s first 3D camera with a fully functioning computer. The devices are first available to supporters of the Orbbec Indiegogo campaign. The Indiegogo campaign will raise funds to mass produce and ship Astra Pro by the end of the year and Persee in early 2016. The cameras have been pre-announced in May 2015.

We believe that the future of computing is 3D and all consumer devices will include 3D cameras in the near future,” said Yuanhao (Howard) Huang, founder and CEO of Orbbec. “Achieving this vision requires superb 3D cameras that are affordably priced and universally available. It also requires a world-class hardware and development platform, which we are delivering with Orbbec Persee.

Orbbec camera features:
  • Highest Resolution – With smoother gradients, precise contours, and the ability to filter out low-quality depth pixels in a way other cameras cannot, Orbbec 3D cameras are suitable for 3D scanning and point cloud development.
  • Longest Range – With a range of 0.4m - 8m, Orbbec 3D cameras are intended for a wide range of scenarios, including gesture control, robotics, 3D scanning, and many new areas.
  • Exceptional Accuracy – Orbbec 3D cameras offer depth measurement accurate to within 0.5 centimeters at a distance of 2 meters.
  • Lowest Latency –Astra Pro is said to be the most responsive 3D camera on the market today.
So far, Orbbec published two patent applications on its 3D camera design: WO2014135127 and WO2014135128. The English abstract of the later application "DYNAMIC PHASE ACQUIRING DEVICE" by HUANG Yuanhao says:

"Provided is a dynamic phase acquiring device, comprising: a light-acquisition port (1), a semi-reflective semi-transmitting lens (2), a phase shifter (3), a polarizer (4), a planar mirror (5), a photo-sensitive element (6), and a phase processor (7); the acquired light passes through the light-acquisition port and reaches the semi-reflective semi-transmitting lens, and then follows two paths: one path sequentially passes through the phase shifter, the polarizer, and the photo-sensitive element, forming a first image; the other path is reflected by the planar mirror and then directly passes through the polarizer and reaches the photo-sensitive element, forming a second image; the pixels of the first image are in one-to-one correspondence with the pixels of the second image; the photo-sensitive element is connected to the phase processor; the photo-sensitive element transmits the first and second images to the phase processor, and the phase processor generates phase data; the phase shifter provides phase lead or phase lag ranging from 1 degree to 20 degrees. By using the phase shifter to provide a lead or a lag by a small angle, such as from 1 to 20 degrees, or even from 5 to 10 degrees, phase data can be obtained via two-path image detection, thus eliminating the need for optical elements for at least one path detection, and thereby simplifying the structure and reducing costs."

Cambridge Mechatronics Technology to Benefit from Mass OIS Adoption

SeekingAlpha predicts that Cambridge Mechatronics smart alloy OIS actuators (SMA) is set to benefit from mass adoption of OIS in smartphones. The main sign is that its manufacturing Cambridge Mechatronics with Hutchinson Technology have partnered with New Shicoh, China's largest producer of auto-focus camera actuators.

"This is significant because SMA technology is much cheaper to manufacture than its counterpart, VCM technology, and more importantly, it's much thinner. The best point of reference is the iPhone 6, which uses a VCM OIS actuator in the camera and has a large bump on the back of the phone. As SMA technology goes mainstream, the camera bump goes away, and HTCH is the sole manufacturer of that product.

There's no question about the demand for the product. In addition to the issue of thickness on the back camera, there's the issue of the front camera. Currently, there are no smartphones on the market with an OIS camera on the front because of the thickness. The selfie craze has consumers demanding better cameras on the front of the phone, and with SMA technology, that is finally possible.

SPI Keeps Posting Color Night Vision Demos

SPI Corp publishes two more color night vision videos:

The second Youtube video is here.

ON Semi Demos Fish Eye Lens Dewarping

ON Semi publishes a Youtube video showing different approaches to fish eye lens de-warping implemented in its AP0102 automotive image processor:

Another Youtube video overviews the company's automotive image processors offerings.

Image Sensors at IEDM 2015

IEDM 2015 published its technical program. Section 30 "Advanced Imagers and Photodetectors" has 7 papers:

30.1 Multi-storied Photodiode CMOS Image Sensor for Multiband Imaging with 3D Technology,
Y. Takemoto, K. Kobayashi, M. Tsukimura, N. Takazawa, H. Kato, S. Suzuki, J. Aoki, T. Kondo, H. Saito, Y. Gomi, S. Matsuda, and Y. Tadaki
Olympus Corporation

We demonstrated multiband imaging with a multi- storied photodiode CMOS image sensor comprising two semiconductor layers that function individually for optimized performance. The sensor captures a wide variety of multiband images, including visible RGB images taken with a Bayer filter and invisible infrared images, at the same time without color degradation.

30.2 First Demonstration of 0.9 μm Pixel Global Shutter Operation by Novel Charge Control in Organic Photoconductive Film,
M. Takase, Y. Miyake, T. Yamada, T. Tamaki, M. Murakami and Y. Inoue
Panasonic Corporation

This paper introduces new charge generation and extraction operation in organic photoconductive film sensor. By spatial and temporal control of electric field in organic photoconductive film, high speed global shutter operation in sub-micron pixel, electrical iris control without ND filter, phase difference detective autofocusing are demonstrated.

30.3 Color Image Sensor with Organic Photoconductive Films (Invited),
T. Sakai, H. Seo, T. Takagi, M. Kubota, H. Ohtake, and M. Furuta*
NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories, *Kochi University of Technology

A color image sensor with three-stacked organic photoconductive films (OPFs) and transparent readout circuits for high-resolution, high-sensitive, compact color video cameras is described. The sensor separates and simultaneously detects the three primary colors. We fabricated test image sensors and confirmed the feasibility of a color video camera with three-stacked OPFs.

30.4 Optical Performance Study of BSI Image Sensor with Stacked Grid Structure
Y.-W. Cheng, T.-H. Tsai, C.-H. Chou, K.-C. Lee, H.-C. Chen, and Y.-L. Hsu
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company

Stacked grid structure is implemented into BSI image sensors and device performance for various grid dimension and height has been investigated. Simulated angular response shows less QE degradation in large incident angle and SNR-10 has a ~10% improvement for devices with stacked grid structure.

30.5 Avalanche Photodiode Featuring Germanium-Tin Multiple Quantum Wells on Silicon: Extending Photodetection to Wavelengths of 2 μm and Beyond,
Y. Dong, W. Wang, S.Y. Lee*, D. Lei, X. Gong, W. Khai Loke*, S.-F. Yoon*, G. Liang, Y.-C. Yeo
National University of Singapore, *Nanyang Technological University

We report the world’s first demonstration of a Ge0.9Sn0.1 multiple quantum wells on Si avalanche photodiode (Ge0.9Sn0.1 MQW/Si APD), achieving a cutoff wavelength λ above 2 μm. A high optical responsivity of 0.33 A/W is achieved at λ = 2003 nm due to the internal avalanche multiplication.

30.6 High Dose Efficiency, Ultra-high Resolution Amorphous Selenium/CMOS Hybrid Digital X-ray Imager,
C.C. Scott, A. Parsafar, A. El-Falou, P.M. Levine, K.S. Karim
University of Waterloo

We demonstrate high dose efficiency from a high- resolution 5.6 µm×6.25 µm pixel pitch amorphous selenium/CMOS hybrid X-ray imager that could radically accelerate bioengineering research by enabling lab-based in vivo pre-clinical imaging. Compared to existing scintillator-based imagers, our approach enables 100× gains in dose efficiency at spatial frequencies of 20-60 cycles/mm.

30.7 Stacked Image Sensor Using Chlorine-doped Crystalline Selenium Photoconversion Layer Composed of Size-controlled Polycrystalline Particles,
S. Imura, K. Kikuchi, K. Miyakawa, H. Ohtake1, M. Kubota, T. Okino*, Y. Hirose*, Y. Kato*, and N. Teranishi**,
NHK Science and Technology Research Laboratories, *Panasonic Corporation, **University of Hyogo

We demonstrate a stacked CMOS image sensor overlaid with a chlorine (Cl)-doped crystalline selenium (c-Se) photoconversion layer. The size of the polycrystalline particles of c-Se, which is strongly related to the fixed pattern noise, is perfectly controlled by Cl doping to c-Se; hence, the resulting device provides clearer images.

Session 19 has 1 paper on flexible image sensors:

19.5 Large Area Sensing Surfaces: Flexible Organic Printed Interfacing Circuits and Sensors (Invited),
S. Jacob, M. Benwadih, J. Bablet, M. Charbonneau, A. Aliane, A. Plihon, and A.Revaux,

Organic Large Area Electronics has been identified as a key enabling technology for smart sensing. This paper presents the last major results on different printed organic interfacing circuits and sensors which have been integrated together to achieve an image sensor on a flexible plastic substrate, demonstrating the potential of our technology for large area sensing surfaces.