Digital Photography To Undergo Quantum Leap

Dennis Faas's picture

A Californian company says it has developed a revolutionary new way of capturing digital images. It could mean cellphone cameras take shots four times more detailed than current models, putting professional quality capabilities in everyone's pocket.

At the moment, digital cameras work by capturing light on a sensor chip, a layer of silicon effectively broken up into millions of points. The information from each of these points is converted into digital format, with each point's information being one pixel in the captured image -- hence the term 'megapixel' which is used to describe how many pixels a camera can store per image.

Nanocrystals to Replace Silicon Layer

InVisage says this system is close to its peak and it's unlikely the results can be improved by more than another 10% or so. This is particularly significant for camera phones, as the space for sensor chips is inherently limited, meaning it will be difficult to improve the quality of images in future phones to match today's professional cameras.

Instead, InVisage is developing a system which replaces the silicon layer with quantum dots. Also known as nanocrystals, these are a type of semiconductor which are as small as 1/100 of a centimeter. Because of their size, the quantum dots can be controlled in much more detail by manufacturers.

Though the company is keeping many details under wraps, it has demonstrated that its system involves taking a liquid containing the dots and placing it in a layer on top of a silicon base. (Source:

Quantum Dots Detail Much Higher

The key benefit of using quantum dots in place of the current sensor system is that while silicon layers can capture about 25-to-50 per cent of the available information about the light that lands on them, quantum dots increase this level of detail to around 95 per cent.

That means the pictures can be much more detailed on the same sized sensor: InVisage gives the example of the Apple iPhone which currently has a 3 megapixel camera and notes the same sized model could one day sport a 12 megapixel camera. The quantum dots method also works much better in poor lighting conditions.

The company claims its technology won't be significantly more expensive than existing sensors. It plans to have samples ready for manufacturers this year and believes phones using the system could be on sale in mid-2011. (Source:

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