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 InVisage's QuantumFilm image-sensor chips for smartphone cameras.
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 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 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.