The VISIR technology will create a new class of solid-state imagers by monolithically integrating an innovative double diode structure, based on a GaAs/Ge heterostructure, with a CMOS readout/imaging circuit. This combination will be capable of imaging over the spectral range from 400 to 1600 nm, covering the visible (VIS) and most of the short wavelengths infrared (SWIR). The diode achieves a near-100% internal quantum efficiency. The two diodes are sensitive to the visible and near infra-red part of the spectrum respectively and can be separately biased, so that different portions of the electromagnetic spectrum can be independently accessed with a simple electrical control.
Being low cost, our technology will bring the advantages of mass-produced visible light CMOS imagers into the near infra-red range. The two layers are thin and made of materials which are faster than silicon so that the VISIR technology will open new possibilities for high speed imaging, in the range of billions of frames per second, as well as for time-of-flight TOF. Infrared is the preferred wavelength for TOF as it cannot be seen by human beings and can penetrate fog and smoke. TOF is becoming increasingly important to provide depth information in images, i.e. 3D imaging.
Our technology has the potential to become the platform of choice for a new generation of uncooled imagers, enabling sensor fusion at an unprecedented level: VIS combined with SWIR detection; 2D combined with 3D imaging. Such a technology would have a tremendous impact on a number of applications where it is important to assess the position in space of an object:
– In robotics, where it will be the key sensor for providing accurate spatial information.
– In gaming or virtual/augmented/mixed reality (VR/AR/MR), where it will detect the position of the player in space and integrate it with the rest of the information.
– In automotive, for which the future car will be autonomously driving, with no control from its passengers and it will thus need fast and precise information of the 3D environment.
The VISIR technology will be ubiquitous and well placed to generate important benefits to science as well to our society over the next decade, thus helping us facing current and future challenges in healthcare, food security, smart transport, climate action and security.
The research consortium is constituted by: a Spanish SME, IMASENIC S.L., whose founder and leader of this project has pioneered several high end CMOS imagers; and two Italian university groups from the Politecnico of Milano, which has a strong expertise in the growth and micro-fabrication of group IV and group III-V materials, and on the integration of III-V materials on Ge and on Si; and from the Università degli Studi Roma Tre, which is developing advanced solid-state optoelectronic devices for NIR detection, including Ge/CMOS digital cameras.