Canon announced on august 31 that they’ve developed the worlds largest CMOS sensor measuring a whopping 202 x 205 mm. Thats the beast up there to the left of a full-frame CMOS chip. Apparently this thing is so light sensitive, it is able to capture great images at just 100th of the light required by my EOS 5D Mark II full frame camera. Knowing how good a performer my camera is in this regard, its just mindblowing to think of the capabilities of a sensor this large. For instance, this sensor is able to do video at 60 frames per second at light equivalent to just 0.3 lux. That is one third the light off a single candle. At 60 FPS.
Black silicon is a silicon processing method that was serendipitously discovered by Dr. Eric Mazur at Harvard University in the late 1990s. Basically, by blasting a silicon surface engulfed in sulphur gas, with a powerful laser at short intervals, the surface of the silicon turns black and becomes a tiny forest of evenly spaced micro-spikes. The spikes reflects light between them, preserving about 96-98% of it, instead of reflecting it away into space – thus the black surface.
These properties, and this light efficiency, has a lot of promise in the silicon industry. For instance, it could lead to more efficient solar cells. For digital imaging, the implications are obvious. The scientists claim that their black silicon absorbs between 100-500 times the light of a standard silicon chip. – Though only about a 100% increase in the visible light spectrum.
Based on this promise, the team of scientists at Harvard has announced a new company, SiOnyx, with the aim of commercializing this potential. It seems their first market is night vision systems.
Obviously, there is a lot of room for improvement still in the digital camera / silicon chip industry. But there are also many hurdles to overcome for such new technology before it is viable as a fine imaging chip. The future remains elusive.
From New York Times