In a major breakthrough, scientists in Nanyang Technical University (NTU) in Singapore have claimed to develop a camera sensor which has 1000 times higher sensitivity than the CMOS and CCD sensors that we use in our cameras. They have claimed that these sensors made out of grapheme need much lesser voltage and hence needs about 10 times less power.
The graphene based sensors are developed to use the same manufacturing process as the existing CMOS sensors so that the manufacturers need not make any new investments for manufacturing this sensor. “While designing this sensor, we have kept current manufacturing practices in mind," says Asst. Prof Wang Qijie from NTU’s School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering. He further stated that "this means the industry can in principle continue producing camera sensors using the CMOS process, which is the prevailing technology used by the majority of factories in the electronics industry. Therefore manufacturers can easily replace the current base material of photo sensors with our new nanostructured graphene material.”
The grapheme sensors have been designed to make a unique use of nano structures which hold on to the light generated electrons for a longer period of time resulting in strong signals which require less amplification. They also estimate that when mass produced this sensor will be 5 times cheaper than the current CMOS sensors.
The cameras using this sensor will have extremely high ISO ability and can shoot images and or video from daylight to complete darkness. So these cameras have the potential to replace the current IR cameras which is used by security agencies, wildlife filmmakers etc.
Other competing developments:
In March 2013, Canon had showcased the capability of its new sensor which was capable of recording faint stars and filming in a dark room with the light emanating from burning incense sticks. http://www.indiawilds.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12143
The NTU research team is yet to create a device which can showcase the capability beyond the specs. However, this should evince the interest of camera manufacturers who may love to license or buy the rights.
The last word on the lowlight ability of sensors is not heard yet. We expect many more to research on similar lines.