While cameras today still rely on ultrapixels and OIS to take sharp photographs, researchers in Singapore have identified a game changer for the world of photography. Graphene, both incredibly strong and electrically conductive, contains the ability to absorb light over a broad range of wavelengths. In fact, graphene’s response to light makes it an ideal material for camera sensors, according to Extreme Tech.
Researchers based at the Nanyang Technological University have developed an image sensor out of graphene that is “1,000 times more sensitive [to light] than current camera sensors.” It also utilizes about 10 times less energy than current technology. To create the graphene sensor, the research team created a transistor with a graphene monolayer channel, which they covered with layers of titanium. After scratching some of the titanium away, graphene quantum dot-like (GQD) structures remain. The GQD structures act as the photo detector. Researchers posit that the new detector would allow for clearer low-light images.
Graphene is a million times smaller than a human hair, RedOrbit explains, and is made up of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure. Because of its size, it is difficult to work with. The research team mechanically exfoliated the graphene and placed it on the the silicon with tweezers, so automated production is still a distant dream.
Assistant Professor Wang Qijie says that this is the first time a sensor has been created from graphene alone, proving that it is possible to create cheap and effective sensors from graphene without any add-on. Wang predicts that the sensor will not only have applications in the consumer industry, but also in satellite imaging, communications and mid-infrared imaging.
Wang predicts that factories will still be able to manufacture using the CMOS process by simply incorporating the graphene into the process. As it becomes industry standard, the price will drop, leading to cheaper cameras. Graphene is still difficult to work with, as experienced by this research team, and so it is difficult to predict when technology will be available to produce graphene camera sensors for the public.
Extreme Tech predicts that the sensors are likely to be used in optoeleectronics or in enabling faster fiberoptic networks. Engadget predicts that the technology will first be used in surveillance equipment and satellites.
If the graphene sensor is applied commercially in cameras, it could be up to five times cheaper and completely change the consumer camera marketplace.