Firm promises professional-quality photos - from a cellphone

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A California start-up has developed a new image sensor technology that it says can improve cellphone camera performance by four times.

QuantumFilm, due to hit the market in high-end phones later this year, is based on quantum dots - semiconductors with unique light-capture properties.

Standard silicon-based image sensors capture on average just 25 percent of light, while QuantumFilm captures up to 95 percent, InVisage claims.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to develop next-generation image sensors using silicon; essentially, silicon has hit a wall," says Jess Lee, InVisage president and CEO.

"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."

The company says its sensors integrate with standard CMOS manufacturing processes.

The quantum dot-based material is deposited directly on top of the wafer during manufacturing, and covers 100 percent of each pixel.

The material is added as a final wafer-level process, making for easier integration into standard semiconductor foundries. It's low-cost, says the company.

"It is safe to say that the industry spends an average of $1 billion for each new generation of pixel technology, all to achieve a single-digit percentage improvement in image quality," says Tetsuo Omori, a senior analyst with Techno Systems Research.

"The future of imaging is in new materials like QuantumFilm, which will change the competitive landscape and possibly re-ignite the pixel race."