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Quantum dots to replace CMOS image sensors?

Invisage launches first electronic image sensor to use quantum dot film instead of silicon

Toronto University spin-out InVisage Technologies, the developer of QuantumFilm camera sensors, has launched its first product at an event in Beijing. 

Based on a quantum dot semiconductor film made from a metal-chalcogenide material, the Quantum13 camera sensor is believed to be the world's first electronic image sensor that uses quantum dot film instead of silicon to capture light. QuantumFilm is said to have a natural light response curve matching the human eye.

As part of the recent product launch in China, InVisage exhibited Quantum13-enabled smartphones running on both Qualcomm and Mediatek platforms. Shipments to smartphone vendors will start this quarter. 

Conventional sensors rely on a photosensitive layer made of silicon that also incorporates circuitry for reading the electric output from the detected photons, as well as barriers isolating each pixel in order to prevent crosstalk. Invisage's image sensor uses a dedicated QuantumFilm layer to maximise light sensing capability. 

Light passes through a colour filter array to be detected by the quantum dots in the QuantumFilm layer. According to the company, the higher positioning of the photosensitive layer allows the QuantumFilm pixel to detect more photons, store more electrons, and reproduce colors more accurately than a silicon device - all with a thinner camera module.

"The launch of Quantum13 marks a new era for the smartphone camera industry," said Jess Lee, CEO of InVisage. "For the first time, smartphones will capture images on an entirely new medium. Not silicon. Not film. QuantumFilm. We are thrilled to showcase the capabilities of Quantum13 to the richest and most vibrant ecosystem for smartphones. And we are delighted to share that several smartphone vendors have already adopted Quantum13 for upcoming release."

Quantum13 is a 13-megapixel, 1.1 micron pixel camera sensor that fits in an 8.5 x 8.5mm module. With light absorption said to be eight times faster than silicon, QuantumFilm creates an ultra-thin light capture medium that accommodates much higher incident angles of light, resulting in a 4mm camera module height. 

"InVisage is targeting the mainstream 13-megapixel smartphone camera market," added Tetsuo Omori, senior analyst at TSR. "According to our research, the worldwide volume of the 13-megapixel camera sensor market is projected to increase from 408 million units in 2015 to 995 million units in 2020."

Founded in 2006, InVisage Technologies is based in Menlo Park, Caliornia and is venture funded by GGV Capital, Nokia Growth Partners, RockPort Capital, InterWest Partners, Intel Capital, Oceanwide, and OnPoint Technologies.

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