A team of researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore created a new sensor, which is 1,000 times more sensitive to both visible and infrared light than the imaging sensors of most of today’s cameras, which means it could be used in everything from the point & shoot to surveillance and satellite cameras.
The miracle behind this is a substance that is harder than diamond, yet incredibly flexible, and the world’s best conductor of electricity.
It gets this high photo response from its innovative structure. It’s made of graphene, which has already earned a reputation as the building material of the future. Graphene is a super strong carbon compound that is as flexible as rubber, more conductive than silicon and better heat resistant than a diamond.
The inventor, Wang Qijie, an assistant professor at NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, mentioned that this is the first time camera sensor has been made using pure graphene.
“We have shown that it is now possible to create cheap, sensitive and flexile sensors from graphene alone,” said Wang. “We expect our innovation will have great impact not only on the consumer imaging industry, but also in satellite imaging and communication industries, as well as the mid-infrared applications.”
Wang said the key to his new sensor is the use of “light-trapping” nano structures that use graphene as a base. The nano structures hold onto light-generated electron particles for much longer than conventional sensors, which results in a stronger than usual electric signal, which can be processed into an image, like a photograph captured by a digital camera.
Most of today’s camera sensors use a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor as a base. But Wang said that his graphene base is far more effective, producing clearer, sharper photos. And, according to Wang, it works on the same designing principle. In principle, which means the camera industry will be able to keep using the same process to make its sensors, but simply switch out the base materials for graphene.
If the industry chooses to adopt his design, Wang said it could lead to cheaper, lighter cameras with longer battery lives for all.