Graphene camera sensor 1000 times more sensitive to light

By Kristen Butler,  |  June 3, 2013 at 8:34 AM
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Scientists in Singapore have developed a camera sensor made of graphene that is 1,000 times more sensitive to light than than traditional CMOS or CCD sensors, all while using ten times less energy.

Researchers at at Nanyang Technological University say the graphene sensor is the first to detect broad spectrum light, from visible to infrared, with high sensitivity. This makes the sensor suitable for satellite imaging, infrared cameras, surveillance cameras, and traffic light cameras.

Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon arranged in a crystalline lattice, and it's the strongest material in the world. Sensor inventor Assistant Professor Wang Qijie, from NTU's School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, fabricated a sheet of graphene into novel nano-structures.

The graphene nano-structures "trap" electrons and hold onto them longer than other sensors, capturing light better and producing clearer images. The sharp images and lower energy use will eventually lead to cheaper cameras with longer battery life -- the graphene sensors will be "at least five times cheaper" to manufacture.

"We have kept current manufacturing practices in mind ... 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," Wang said. "Manufacturers can easily replace the current base material of photo sensors with our new nano-structured graphene material."

Wang's breakthrough was published in the journal Nature Communications this month, and the inventor has filed a patent for the sensor. The next step is partnering with industry developers to create a commercial product.

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