Image Sensors

CMOS image sensors – always at the center of every smart design

You’re here because you want expertise, you want quality, and you want rock-solid, groundbreaking imagers. We’re confident in our ability to give you what you’ve been looking for. In fact, we believe we’re the masters of pixel technology.

We’re solely focused on developing better sensors and improving our craft. When you partner with Aptina, you’ll have our world-class pixel architecture and manufacturing expertise. We’ve combined world-leading pixel technology with analog readout and digitization expertise to ensure you receive the highest-quality sensors. We make it easy to simplify your camera designs, reduce the device footprint, and help maneuver faster times to market.

Read on to learn more about the CMOS sensor market and how CMOS imagers compare with competing technologies.

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Growing sensor market

CMOS image sensor applications are growing at a phenomenal rate by the year. According to a 2007 IDC study, the fastest-growing areas are in DSCs, DVCs, PC cameras, and camera phones. Consumers are demanding more functionality, including advanced and robust video capabilities on DSCs and camera phones. As far as future growth projections go, IDC has also forecasted that camera phone shipments will reach 1 billion by 2010 and every one of them will have a CMOS sensor (or two) in them.

Aptina image sensor expertise

The quality of a CMOS sensor equals the level of quality you get in an imaging solution and our sensor expertise means you have all the advantages. We have been studying and developing CMOS sensors for over a decade now, beginning when NASA’s Dr. Eric Fossum researched what advantages CMOS image sensors had. And they did have advantages, including less power requirements, more portability, and miniaturized imaging systems.

In 1995, Dr. Fossum co-founded Photobit Corporation to commercialize CMOS image sensors, and they became an industry leader in scientific, military, and industrial applications. In 2001, Micron Technology, a semiconductor company, acquired Photobit. They merged Photobit’s cutting-edge imagers with their own extensive memory-based manufacturing process to make world-leading CMOS sensors.

How CMOS image sensors work

Both CCD and CMOS technologies are based on arrays of light-sensitive pixels (or photosites), which gather photons of light and convert them to a visible image.

CMOS sensors use multiple transistors to amplify and move the charge provided by incoming photons of light, enabling the pixels to be read individually. The CMOS manufacturing process uses standard semiconductor technology, which increases memory photosites, lowers the production cost significantly, and can make integration simpler.

CMOS image sensor advantages

CMOS image sensors have improved by leaps over the last few years. Resolutions are now high enough and run at fast enough frame rates to enable advanced-camera features like electronic pan, tilt, and zoom or image stabilization. CMOS architecture allows for random pixel access and window-of-interest readout for applications requiring image compression, motion detection, or target tracking.

CMOS imagers are now designed in to generations of DSCs, IP security cameras, and even intelligent vehicle systems. Their portability and low power consumption have driven these sensors to dominance in markets like mobile handset camera systems; digital SLRs; and high-speed, machine-vision cameras.

Advantages

Low power that extends battery life
CMOS sensors consume up to 100X less power than CCDs. Because CCDs are essentially capacitive devices, they need external control signals and large clock swings to achieve acceptable charge transfer efficiencies. Their off-chip support circuitry dissipates significant power. CCD systems require numerous power supplies and voltage regulators for operation, whereas CMOS sensors use a single low-voltage supply. Think about this: a CMOS digital camera system operating from a NiCd camcorder battery could operate for a week, while a CCD arrangement could drain the battery in a few hours.
Random access to pixel regions of interest adds flexibility
In CMOS sensors, both the photodetector and the readout amplifier are part of each pixel. This enables the integrated charge to be converted into a voltage inside the pixel, which can then be read out over X-Y wires (instead of using a charge domain shift register, as in CCDs). This capability can be used for on-chip electronic pan, tilt, and zoom. Windowing provides added flexibility in applications that need image compression, motion detection, or target tracking.
No artifacts, smear, or blooming means higher-quality images
CMOS architectures use intra-pixel amplification in conjunction with both temporal and fixed-pattern noise suppression circuitry (correlated double sampling), which produces exceptional imagery in terms of dynamic range (a wide ~120dB) and noise. CMOS sensors also have built-in anti-blooming protection in each pixel.

Image Sensors

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