Not all camera-equipped mobile phones have flash in it. While it can be frustrating to take photos in low-light situations without that little light, such flash-less phone may no longer need to have these bulbs installed yet still capture clear, sharp photos in dim lighting.
A team of researchers at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has developed a new kind of camera sensor that is ultra-sensitive to visible and infrared light and is intended to be used for a wide range of cameras from point-and-shoots to surveillance and satellite imagers.
The sensor is actually 1,000 times more sensitive to light compared to imaging sensors currently installed in today’s cameras. The secret behind its high photoresponse is in its structure.
The component is made of graphene, a super-durable carbon compound whose structure is similar to a honeycomb. Graphene is as flexible as rubber, more conductive compared to silicon, and resists heat more efficiently than a diamond. The compound, which has been hailed as the building material of the future, is from the mineral graphite and is merely one-atom thick.
Wang Qijie, an assistant professor at NTU’s School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, is credited for inventing the new camera sensor. In a report, he said it is the first time that a sensor with high photosensitivity and broad spectrum has been made using pure graphene.
“We have shown that it is now possible to create cheap, sensitive and flexile sensors from graphene alone,” Wang said. “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.”
Majority of today’s camera sensors work using a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor as its base. Wang’s camera sensor, meanwhile, makes use of “light-trapping” nanostructures that with graphene as its base. These nanostructures hold onto light-generated electron particles far longer than traditional sensors, resulting in producing clearer and sharper images.
Wang added that the camera industry would be able to produceand lighter cameras with longer battery lives just by replacing its sensors with his graphene-based invention.