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Kodak, IBM team up to build image sensors

The two companies zoom in on semiconductor technology to help digital cameras and camera phones take better pictures.

IBM and Eastman Kodak on Thursday announced plans to work together to develop and manufacture a new line of image sensors for use in digital cameras and camera phones.

Under the deal, IBM will produce the sensors at its semiconductor facility in Burlington, Vt., using Kodak's proprietary technologies. The use of Big Blue's CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) technology will offer improved power consumption and better image quality than similar CMOS designs, the companies said.

Image sensors in digital cameras and camera phones convert light into electric charges, triggering the process of capturing an image.

Rochester, N.Y.-based Kodak will license its image sensor pixel technology to IBM. The new sensors would result in pixels of the same size as the smallest pixels produced using charged coupled devices (CCDs), but with higher photosensitivity and lower noise, the companies said. Cameras using these sensors will be able to produce multi-megapixel photos and 30-frame-per-second videos under low light conditions, they said.

The effort is part of Kodak's drive to position itself in the digital imaging segment, as it moves on from its heyday as a maker of film-based products. The company recently acquired design resources and intellectual property from National Semiconductor. Earlier this year, it downsized in order to focus on new digital products and markets.

"Worldwide demand for image sensor devices is expanding at an explosive pace," Chris McNiffe, general manager of Kodak's image sensor business, said in a statement. "Our partnership with IBM now allows Kodak to deploy our core competencies in image science and sensor research into high-volume consumer applications."