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Graphene image sensor detects broad light spectrum

04 Jun 2013

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A novel image sensor made from graphene has been developed by research team led by Assistant Professor Qijie Wang from Singapore's Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The sensor is believed to be the first that has the ability to detect a broad spectrum light, from the visible to mid-infrared, with high photo-response or sensitivity. This means it is suitable for use in all types of cameras, including infrared cameras, traffic speed cameras, satellite imaging and more.

Not only is the graphene sensor 1,000 times more sensitive to light than current low-cost imaging sensors found in today's compact cameras, it also uses 10 times less energy as it operates at lower voltages. When mass produced, graphene sensors are estimated to cost at least five times cheaper.

Wang's breakthrough, made by fabricating a graphene sheet into novel nano structures, was published this month in Nature Communications.


 Asst Prof Qijie Wang

Asst Prof Qijie Wang led the team of researchers that developed the graphene-based image sensor.


Wang said, "While designing this sensor, we have kept current manufacturing practices in mind. This means the industry can in principle continue producing camera sensors using the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) process, which is the prevailing technology used by the majority of factories in the electronics industry. Therefore manufacturers can easily replace the current base material of photo sensors with our new nano-structured graphene material."


How the sensor works
Wang came up with an innovative idea to create nanostructures on graphene which will "trap" light-generated electron particles for a much longer time, resulting in a much stronger electric signal. Such electric signals can then be processed into an image, such as a photograph captured by a digital camera.

The "trapped electrons" is the key to achieving high photo-response in graphene, which makes it far more effective than the normal CMOS or CCD (charge-coupled device) image sensors, said Wang. Essentially, the stronger the electric signals generated, the clearer and sharper the photos.

"The performance of our graphene sensor can be further improved, such as the response speed, through nanostructure engineering of graphene, and preliminary results already verified the feasibility of our concept," Wang added.

Asst Prof Wang has filed a patent through NTU's Nanyang Innovation and Enterprise Office for his invention.

The next step is to work with industry collaborators to develop the graphene sensor into a commercial product.




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