Eastman Kodak Company revealed today in a press release that it has created the world’s first 1.4 micron, 5 megapixel device, the KAC-05020 Image Sensor. Using significantly smaller pixels, this sensor enables a higher level of resolution in small optical formats which will be especially useful in devices like cellphones: the sensor allows for full 720p video at 30fps in a quarter-inch camera. Unlike other small-pixel sensors which can produce poor images, especially under low light conditions, the 1.4 micron pixel used in the KAC-05020 is reportedly able to provide image quality that can equal or surpass what is available from current devices using larger, 1.75 micron pixel CMOS designs.
In a standard CMOS pixel, a signal is measured by detecting electrons that are generated when light interacts with the surface of the sensor. As more light strikes the sensor, more electrons are generated, resulting in a higher signal at each pixel. Kodak’s new pixel, however, uses the absence of electrons is used to detect a signal by reversing the polarity of the underlying silicon, allowing for a smaller design. Further gains in sensitivity were achieved by adding panchromatic, or “clear,” pixels to the red, green and blue pixels already on the sensor. Since these pixels are sensitive to all wavelengths of visible light, they collect a significantly higher proportion of the light striking the sensor.
“Camera phones and other small-pixel consumer imaging devices often suffer from poor performance, especially under low light conditions,” said Chris McNiffe, General Manager of Kodak’s Image Sensor Solutions business. “By completely rethinking the design of the CMOS pixel and leveraging our work with high sensitivity color filter patterns and algorithms, Kodak was able to develop this remarkable new sensor that will enable a level of imaging performance previously unavailable from CMOS devices.”