CMOS image sensors have long been the main solution for digital photography. They are more economical than other existing sensors, and they are excellent in energy consumption and handling. Therefore, mobile phone and digital camera manufacturers apply CMOS chips to their own products almost without exception. This not only reduces the demand for batteries for digital products, but also makes it possible to produce more and smaller cameras.
However, these optical semiconductor chips have reached their limits. When the size of consumer electronic products is getting smaller and smaller, the size of the pixel is also reduced to about 1 micron. However, specific applications require larger pixels beyond 10 microns, especially in areas where there is very limited light such as X-ray photography or astronomy studies, while larger pixels compensate for light loss. A pin photodiode (PPD) can be used to convert optical signals into electrical pulses. This optoelectronic component is critical for image processing and can also be used as part of a CMOS chip. â€œHowever, when the pixels exceed a certain size, PPD will cause speed problems. Low brightness applications require higher image rates, but the read speed using PPD is significantly lower.â€ Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronics Werner Brokhard, head of the IMS Systems Department, explained.
Researchers are now presenting a solution to this problem. They have developed a new type of optoelectronic component called the Lateral Drift Field Photodetector (LDPD). In this module, the incident light at high speed can generate charge carriers at the readout point, and the PPD can spread the electrons to the exit. This process is relatively slow, but it is sufficient for a variety of applications.
In order to produce new components, the researchers improved the manufacturing process of currently used CMOS chips based on the 0.35-micron standard. Bullockhead said that additional LDPD components will not harm the characteristics of other components, using simulation calculations, experts will manage them to meet these needs. At present, the prototype of a new high-speed CMOS image sensor has been formed, and it is expected to be approved for mass production next year.
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