Start-Up Promises Quantum Leap In Mobile Phone Camera Technology

InVisage Technologies Inc., based in Menlo Park, Calif., has developed what it says are the world's first commercial quantum-dot-based image sensors to replace existing silicon sensors.

Using custom-designed semiconductor materials, the company's QuantumFilm sensors deliver 4x higher performance, 2x higher dynamic range and other professional camera features not previously available in mobile image sensors, according to InVisage.

QuantumFilm was developed under the guidance of CTO Ted Sargent and is based on quantum dots, semiconductors with unique light-capture properties that capture an imprint of a light image and then employ a layer of silicon beneath to read out the QuantumFilm and turn it into a digital signal.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to develop next-generation image sensors using silicon; essentially, silicon has hit a wall," said Jess Lee, InVisage president and CEO in a statement. "The fundamental problem is that silicon cannot capture light efficiently, but until now it has been the only option. The disruptive nature of QuantumFilm builds on silicon's success in electronics, and elevates its function using new materials that are engineered from the ground up for light capture."

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Silicon-based CMOS image sensors widely used in all digital cameras today capture an average of 25 percent of light, while QuantumFilm is capable of capturing 90 percent to 95 percent of light, enabling better pictures in difficult lighting conditions, according to InVisage. The first QuantumFilm image sensors will target high-end mobile handsets and be available for sample in the fourth quarter, according to InVisage. QuantumFilm will be demonstrated for the first time this week at DEMO Spring 2010 in Palm Desert, Calif., and at Image Sensors Europe 2010 in London.