CMOS image sensor steps up sensitivity for true nightglow imaging

April 30, 2013 // By Nick Flaherty
Image sensor developer SiOnyx has demonstrated its XQE family of CMOS image sensors for the first time with sensitivity enhancements as high as 10x for infrared sensing.

The XQE sensors also deliver true nightglow detection capabilities in extreme, low-light conditions. Infrared (IR) sensitivity is critical in many existing and emerging mass-market applications, including biometrics, eye tracking, natural human interface such as gesture recognition and surveillance. In surveillance, the enhanced IR sensitivity provided by the XQE sensors take advantage of the naturally occurring IR 'nightglow' to enable imaging under conditions that normally require very expensive image-intensified nightvision equipment.
The 'Black Silicon' laser process used by SiOnyx induces structural changes in the CMOS detector materials. This results in increased optoelectronic response in the visible and near infrared (NIR) regions as well as broadening the spectral response of the silicon.
“SiOnyx, in collaboration with our foundry partners, has created an entirely new category of CMOS image sensor,” said , Dr. Homayoon Haddad, Vice President of Engineering and CTO at Massachusetts-based SiOnyx. “Extraordinary sensitivity enhancements combined with low cost, low noise silicon manufacturing delivers stunning results.”
The devices are also aimed at defence applications. “XQE sensors provide unparalleled cost-effective, digital nightvision solutions for the fully networked soldier,” said Dr. Martin Pralle, Vice President of Government Programs for SiOnyx. “Digital nightvision lets the warfighter transmit battlefield imagery to central command in real time, enhancing the US military’s situational awareness.” XQE sensors deliver 1064nm laser detection for laser See Spot designation and targeting applications of smart munitions in a single focal plane solution.
The XQE sensor family all share the benefits of ultra-low read noise for extended low light imaging and 72dB of native dynamic range. Additionally, all XQE sensors have on-chip HDR features that allow up to 120dB dynamic range capability. XQE sensors are fabricated with a standard CMOS process that offers low power, low dark current, and no sensor cooling requirements.
The XQE sensors are sampling in Q2 2013 to customers interested in evaluating the use of XQE image sensors in next generation imaging platforms.