Nanotech-Based Sensor Takes Pictures in the Dark, Without a Flash

(MARKET WIRE) - The Korean company Planet82 Inc. has made the first U.S. demonstration of an image sensor that uses nanotechnology to enable high-resolution photos or video in the dark without a flash.

Planet82 says its Single Carrier Modulation Photo Detector (SMPD) is 2000 times more sensitive to light than other image sensors. Current image sensors generally need hundreds of thousands of photons to perceive light. Planet82's SMPD image sensor is designed to perceive light using only a handful of photons. To make this possible, Planet82 applied the principles of quantum mechanics to produce thousands of electrons out of one photon. It also minimized the aperture ratio and increased the number of pixels per unit density on the chip -- boasting low unit production cost and power consumption.

Until now, taking a picture in the dark without a flash or taking a picture of a candle-lit birthday cake without any other light in the room would yield a dark photograph. Planet82 makes it possible to take clear images even when the light level is less than 1 lux (or up to 0.1 lux). One lux is equivalent to the brightness from one candle one meter away in a dark room. Human eyes can barely distinguish images at less than 1 lux.

"Planet82's SMPD image sensor will change how professional and amateur photographers and videographers capture images and video," said Dr. Hoon Kim, Ph.D., and chief technology officer for Planet82 and director of the Nano Scale Quantum Devices Research Center at the Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI). "We're thrilled to bring our technology to the United States, and show how effective it truly is at taking pictures and video without any light."

Planet82's SMPD image sensor can be mass-produced using standard CMOS process without additional investment for facilities. It is half the size of the current CCD image sensor used in digital cameras and closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs), and CMOS image sensors used in camera phones. Additionally, digital cameras and camera phones have low sensitivity to dim light, therefore making it difficult to take a picture in the dark without a flash. As the market for these devices continues to grow exponentially, so too will the market for image sensors. iSuppli estimates that the global image sensor market will reach $9.4 billion by 2008.

Planet82 expects SMPD image sensor will firstly be available in CCTVs, camera phones and vehicle rear-view sensors in Q1/Q2 2006. The SMPD technology also makes it ideally suited for applications in healthcare, the military, environmental industries and more, as well as electrical appliances such as digital cameras or camcorders.

Headquartered in Seoul, Korea, Planet82 is a global provider of nanotechnology. In 2003, Planet82 acquired the patent and intellectual property rights to mass produce nano photodiode and nano biotechnology services from the Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI).