The Quanta Image Sensor: Every Photon Counts

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I ran across an interesting paper yesterday:

This is still in research, but sounds like it will someday make it into real  
use, given the rapid progress in semiconductor technology.

Phil Hobbs will appreciate the obsessive attention to counting of electrons  
and photons.

Abstract: The Quanta Image Sensor (QIS) was conceived when contemplating  
shrinking pixel sizes and storage capacities, and the steady increase in  
digital processing power. In the single-bit QIS, the output of each field is  
a binary bit plane, where each bit represents the presence or absence of at  
least one photoelectron in a photodetector. A series of bit planes is  
generated through high-speed readout, and a kernel or ?cubicle? of bits  
(x, y, t) is used to create a single output image pixel. The size of the  
cubicle can be adjusted post-acquisition to optimize image quality. The  
specialized sub-diffraction-limit photodetectors in the QIS are referred to  
as ?jots? and a QIS may have a gigajot or more, read out at 1000 fps, for  
a data rate exceeding 1 Tb/s. Basically, we are trying to count photons as  
they arrive at the sensor. This paper reviews the QIS concept and its imaging  
characteristics. Recent progress towards realizing the QIS for commercial and  
scientific purposes is discussed. This includes implementation of a pump-gate  
jot device in a 65 nm CIS BSI process yielding read noise as low as 0.22  
[electrons] r.m.s. and conversion gain as high as 420 ?V/[electron], power  
efficient readout electronics, currently as low as 0.4 pJ/b in the same  
process, creating high dynamic range images from jot data, and understanding  
the imaging characteristics of single-bit and multi-bit QIS devices. The QIS  
represents a possible major paradigm shift in image capture.

"The Quanta Image Sensor: Every Photon Counts?, Eric R. Fossum et al,  
Sensors 2016, 16, 1260; doi:10.3390/s16081260. This article is open access:  
<http://www.mdpi.com/1424-8220/16/8/1260 .

Joe Gwinn


Re: The Quanta Image Sensor: Every Photon Counts
Joseph Gwinn wrote:
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   They need to talk to cats; eye quantum efficiency approaches 2 which  
is TWICE as much as what anything else could do..

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