Quantum Dots Will Provide a Leap in Digital Camera Sensors and Later Displays and Solar Power

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Ushering in a new era of high-performance image sensors, InVisage Technologies, Inc. – a venture-backed start-up that is revolutionizing the way light is captured – today announced QuantumFilm. Harnessing the power of custom-designed semiconductor materials, QuantumFilm image sensors are the world’s first commercial quantum dot-based image sensors, replacing silicon. InVisage delivers 4x higher performance, 2x higher dynamic range and professional camera features not yet found in mobile image sensors. The first QuantumFilm-enabled product, due out later this year, solves the crucial challenge of capturing stunning images using mobile handset cameras. QuantumFilm covers 100 percent of each pixel.

InVisage, which has attracted more than $30 million in funding since it was founded in 2006, has partnered with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company to integrate the quantum dots into the silicon chip-making process. The company expects to sample their camera sensors in 10 months, and the first quantum dot cameras could be on the market by the end of 2011.

Quantum film can be applied to all camera technologies and will also be applied to displays and solar power.

QuantumFilm was developed by InVisage after years of research under the guidance of notable scientist and InVisage CTO Ted Sargent. Ted Sargent has been a leading innovator in nanotechnology science and applications.

Silicon-based image sensors – the technology used today for all digital cameras including handheld, professional, mobile phone, security and automotive cameras – capture on average a mere 25 percent of light. QuantumFilm captures between 90-95 percent, enabling better pictures in even the most challenging lighting conditions. This increase in efficiency will deliver improvements across the entire imaging market, allowing QuantumFilm to be the de-facto next generation camera platform. The first target market for QuantumFilm is mobile handsets, where there is the greatest demand for small, high performance image sensors.

MIT Technology Review – Quantum dot Camera Phones

Quantum bits: This camera sensor chip contains a layer of quantum dots that absorbs light before it reaches the silicon.
Credit: InVisage

At the DEMO conference in Palm Springs, CA, today, the company’s executives announced a new technology called QuantumFilm that lets small camera sensors, like those in cell phones, capture more light than ever before. QuantumFilm is simply a layer of quantum dots–tiny crystals that efficiently absorb light and emit either photons or electrons–in a top layer of the sensor. The electrons emitted by QuantumFilm are collected and sorted the chip’s circuitry.

The result is a sensor that collects twice the light of the standard chip, converts it to electricity twice as efficiently, and is just as cheap to make, says Ted Sargent, chief technology officer of InVisage and professor of electrical and computer engineering and the University of Toronto, where the early research for QuantumFilm began. “Silicon image sensors have a really severe problem in that they just throw away photons left right and center,” says Sargent. Quantum dots, he says, provide a “fundamental solution to the problem.”

QD Vision, Another Startup, Is Also working with Quantum Dots to Improve LCD Displays and LED lighting

QD Vision, a startup based in Cambridge, MA, has developed a technology that it claims will improve the efficiency of LCDs by 40 percent. In addition, the company says it will provide purer colors, allowing the displays to produce high-dynamic range, which features better contrast between the darkest blacks and the whitest whites.

The technology, called a quantum light optic, will be sold to three of the five major LCD manufacturers and integrated into commercial displays by 2011, says Seth Coe Sullivan, founder and chief technology officer of QD Vision.

QD Vision, which was spun out of research at MIT, is already using quantum light optic technology to improve the efficiency of light-emitting diodes. The first lighting products based on the technology will be available by February 2010 (about now)


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