Global Technology - January 2018

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Now, let’s examine the most important technological and scientific breakthroughs emerging from labs around the world.

Engineers from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering have invented a new imaging technology that may revolutionize medical and life sciences research as well as security, photography, cinematography and other applications that rely on high quality, low-light imaging.

The technology is called a Quanta Image Sensor, or QIS,

According to co-inventor Eric R. Fossum, professor of engineering at Dartmouth, this next generation of light-sensing technology enables highly sensitive, more easily manipulated and higher quality digital imaging than is currently available, even in low light situations.  Fossum also invented the CMOS image sensor found in nearly all smartphones and cameras across the world today.

The new QIS technology was documented recently in the journal Optica.  It is able to reliably capture and count the lowest level of light, single photons, with a resolution as high as one megapixel and at a rate of thousands of frames per second. According to the Optica article, the QIS can accomplish this in very low light, at room temperature and while using mainstream image sensor technology.  Previous technology required large pixels or cooling to low temperatures or both.

What does this mean for specific industries? For cinematographers, the QIS will enable IMAX-quality video in an easily-edited digital format while still providing many of the characteristics of film.  For astrophysicists, the QIS will allow for the detection and capture of better signals from distant objects in space. And for life science researchers, the QIS will provide improved visualization of cells under a microscope, which is critical for determining the effectiveness of therapies.

Building this new imaging capability using a commercially accessible, inexpensive process is important.  So, Fossum and his team made it compatible with the low cost and mass production of today’s CMOS image sensor technology.  They also made it readily scalable for higher resolution, with as many as hundreds of megapixels per chip.  That way, it’s easy for industry to adopt it and mass produce it.

The QIS...

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