From AR/VR to autonomous driving and face recognition: tomorrow’s consumer applications need affordable imaging technologies that transcend the visible spectrum. That’s why imec’s Pixel Technology Explore activity is looking into innovative routes towards low-cost, high-resolution infrared sensors and 3D imaging.
CMOS technology has made visible imaging compact, low-power and affordable. Just about every smartphone now harbors a digital camera that’s capable of professional photography.
But the needs of the market are changing. Applications such as augmented reality and face recognition, autonomous driving and food scanning require a shift from imaging to sensing – from taking a picture to acquiring information.
The challenge is to bring these new imaging applications within reach of the consumer technology market, by lowering their cost without compromising their resolution. This is the goal of imec’s Pixel Technology Explore research activities, which break new ground in NIR/SWIR sensing and 3D imaging.
Imec intends to develop technologies for companies with a roadmap in innovative image sensors, cameras and smart imaging applications.
The sensitivity range of silicon-based sensors is fundamentally limited to below 1100 nm. That’s why infrared imaging has been dominated by III-V detectors that are flip-chip-bonded to silicon readout circuits. This both drives up the costs and limits the pixel pitch and resolution.
The Pixel Technology Explore activity is looking at two methods for cost-effective uncooled IR detection:
In 2023, imec was able to integrate thin-film pinned photodiode into superior short-wave-infrared imaging sensors. Read the press release
Watch this demonstration of SWIR imaging. The imec QDPD camera captures the image through the silicon wafer:
Making use of the third dimension is another way of extending picture content beyond visible photography. For 3D sensing, imec is exploring these research avenues:
As our partner in the Pixel Technology Explore activity, you’re provided with:
We can also assist you with the development of prototypes. Here, you can take advantage of imec’s unique combination of expertise regarding imaging R&D – from material research all the way up to camera integration.