Graphene sensor holds the key to better low-light photos

Graphene is the key to a new image sensor developed at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, that is 1000 times more sensitive to light than traditional models.

Graphene is the key to a new image sensor developed at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, that is 1000 times more sensitive to light than traditional models.

(Credit: Nanyang Technological University)

Researchers at NTU have announced a sensor made from graphene that can detect broad spectrum light. Compared to traditional CMOS or CCD sensors, the graphene model "traps" light-generated electron particles and can hold on to them for a lot longer, as reported by Science Daily.

By being able to hold on to the electric signals for a longer period of time than regular sensors, the graphene unit can produce clearer photos — particularly in low light situations. The research was led by Assistant Professor Wang Qijie who made the sensor from a pure sheet of graphene, known for its high electrical conductivity.

Graphene is a material that is already set to be used in consumer tech applications such as flexible OLED screens and has long been touted as the replacement for indium tin oxide (ITO). Earlier this year, Fujifilm announced that it was working on touchscreens based on silver halide , which is far more flexible than the brittle ITO currently used in many screens.

Initial applications for the sensor are thought to be for devices like surveillance cameras and satellites rather than the humble point-and-shoot, at least initially. However, the researchers at NTU said that once the sensor reaches mass production, it will be up to five times cheaper than CMOS or CCD sensors.

"While designing this sensor, we have kept current manufacturing practices in mind," said Assistant Professor Wang. "This means the industry can in principle continue producing camera sensors using the CMOS 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."

Another sensor pioneered earlier this year by researchers at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria, broke new ground by being a flexible module that is cheap and disposable.

 

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