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Mark Peters : April 19th 2006 - 08:45 CET

Fujifilm CMOS Organic Image Sensor

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FujifilmFujifilm CMOS Organic Image Sensor : FujiFilm Japan has developed a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) sensor using an organic photoelectric conversion film, and successfully captured a monochrome image with it. A previous laboratory-level success in photographing with an organic photoelectric conversion film was made in combination with an imaging tube, by the Science & Technical Research Laboratories of Japan Broadcasting Corp. Instead of a CMOS circuit, however, that example used a 10cm-long imaging tube. Fuji Photo Film has encapsulated the organic photoelectric conversion film with a signal read circuit into a semiconductor package, making it much easier than an imaging tube to use in a compact consumer camera.
Fujifilm CMOS Organic Image SensorFujifilm Organic Image Sensor
Fuji Photo Film announced the research results at the IS&T / SPIE Electronic Imaging Science and Technology conference held in the USA. This marks the first disclosure of concrete research work by the firm. In addition to being a leading developer of charge-coupled devices (CCD) and digital cameras, the company also has extensive experience in the development of silver nitrate film and the organic dyes used in organic photoelectric conversion films. Research and development in the field is likely to accelerate now that Fuji Photo Film has started work on an organic CMOS sensor, claimed by some to be the ideal imaging device.

Greater effect on image brightness information
The company did not discuss when the organic CMOS sensor might be commercialized. The development does represent a major step forward, however, in that an actual image was output using a standard signal read circuit and a green organic photoelectric conversion film. Compared to blue or red, green has a greater effect on image brightness information. Future development efforts seem likely to concentrate on process technology, finding ways to make the organic photoelectric conversion films flat and free of foreign matter.

Organic CMOS sensor - Saving Light
The reason the organic CMOS sensor has been referred to as the ideal imaging sensor is its structure. Existing imaging devices extract only specific wavelengths, using color filters, and convert them to charges. In the green image, for example, blue and red light is discarded. The organic CMOS sensor, however, uses all visible light thanks to a vertical stack of organic photoelectric conversion film. The per-pixel optical utilization is tripled, making it possible that sensitivity would be significantly higher than that of existing imagers.

Fuji film Photo Green organic CMOS sensor
CMOS sensors with photoelectric converters for each color aligned vertically have already been commercialized by Foveon Inc of the US. The wavelength sensitivity of each converter is fairly low, however, making it necessary to use special image processing before accurate colors can be obtained. The green organic CMOS sensor from Fuji Photo Film, on the other hand, offers wavelength selectivity close to that of silver nitrate film. A source at the firm explained, "We applied the organic colorant technology gained through our work in silver nitrate film and other products." Evaluation results for the red and blue organic photoelectric conversion films were not presented.

High aperture ratios
Organic CMOS sensors are likely to also offer advantages in terms of aperture ratio (the portion of each pixel actually used for photoelectric conversion) and cost reduction. The aperture ratio of Fuji Photo Film's prototype is said to be close to 100%, which means no microlenses would be needed and costs could be reduced. Organic CMOS sensors have high aperture ratios because the photoelectric conversion film is the first thing the incoming light encounters, with the signal read circuit behind it. In existing CMOS sensors, the photoelectric converter is partially obscured by the signal read circuit.

Organic photoelectric conversion film
The organic photoelectric conversion film developed by Fuji Photo Film also appears to be on a par with existing imaging devices when it comes to quantization efficiency. The quantization efficiency of the organic photoelectric conversion film that made the image in Fig 1a was only about 10%, but a 30% efficiency has been achieved in the lab. Existing imaging devices generally run at about 40%.

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