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An inside look at digital photography upstart InVisage (pictures)

The Silicon Valley startup hopes to improve the quality of smartphone photos, and eventually those taken with standalone cameras too. Here's a look at the company's technology.

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Stephen Shankland

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​InVisage, based in Silicon Valley, adds a think layer of tiny particles called quantum dots to a circular wafer that will be sliced up into hundreds of rectangular image sensors. Here, staff work in an ultra-clean room to avoid contaminating the process. The quantum dots are sensitive to light -- more so than the silicon layer used in today's conventional digital camera technology.
1 of 6 InVisage

InVisage, based in Menlo Park, California, adds a thin layer of tiny particles called quantum dots to a circular wafer that will be sliced into hundreds of image sensors. Here, staff work in an ultra-clean room to avoid contaminating the process. The quantum dots are sensitive to light, much more so than the silicon layer used in today's conventional digital camera technology.

A plastic pod holds a stack of circular wafers that each will be sliced into hundreds of QuantumFilm image sensors for smartphone cameras.
2 of 6 InVisage

A plastic pod holds a stack of circular wafers that each will be sliced into hundreds of InVisage's QuantumFilm image-sensor chips for smartphone cameras.

​A circular wafer of InVisage image-sensor chips reflects light -- but not as much, since the dots absorb light better than conventional silicon-based microchip sensors.
3 of 6 Stephen Shankland/CNET

A circular wafer of InVisage's image-sensor chips reflects light, but not as much as its silicon-based counterparts.

​InVisage is showing off its QuantumFilm technology with a ​short film called Prix shot with a prototype smartphone. The QuantumFilm technology is designed to offer better dynamic range so it can capture both shadow details and bright spots like the girl's forearm.
4 of 6 Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

InVisage is showing off its QuantumFilm technology with a short video called Prix shot with a prototype smartphone. The QuantumFilm technology is designed to offer better dynamic range so it can capture details in both shadows and bright spots like the girl's forearm.

​Taiwan-based TSMC build about 95 percent of the InVisage image sensors, but then InVisage uses its own tools to apply the quantum dot layer. It uses a combination of spin coating, which spins a circular wafer rapidly so a thin film of material spreads across its surface, and chemical vapor deposition, which is a way of adding material from a gas.
5 of 6 InVisage

Taiwan-based TSMC builds about 95 percent of each InVisage image sensor, but then InVisage uses its own tools to apply the layer of quantum dots. It uses a combination of spin coating, which spins a circular wafer rapidly so a thin film of material spreads across its surface, and chemical vapor deposition, which is a way of adding material from a gas.

InVisage, which has been working for more than six years on its image sensor technology, has been awarded 56 patents so far for its quantum dot approach. Many of them are framed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
6 of 6 Stephen Shankland/CNET

InVisage, which has been working for more than six years on its image-sensor technology, has been awarded 56 patents so far for its quantum dot approach. Many of them are framed at the company's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

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