Nature inspires color-sensitive, CMOS-compatible photodetector
Researchers at Rice University’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) have developed a new image sensor that mimics the way we see color by integrating light amplifiers and color filters directly onto the pixels. The new design enables smaller, less complex, and more organic designs for CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) sensors and other photodetectors used in cameras.
Conventional image sensors work by first converting light into electrical signals, then combining that information with the red, green, and blue color data determined by separate filters (or, especially in low-end cameras, a single filter array that uses a mosaic pattern to interpret colors). But this approach adds bulk to the sensor, and the filters gradually degrade under exposure to sunlight.
The Rice researchers stumbled upon the new technique while studying the hypothesis that cephalopods, such as octopus and squid – which are colorblind – detect color through their skin, as part of an Office of Naval Research program that aims to mimic cephalopod skin using metamaterials (synthetic materials with non-natural properties).
LANP graduate student Bob Zheng set out to create a photonic system that could detect colored light, but in what lab director Naomi Halas calls a “great example of the serendipity that can occur in the lab,” he wound up with a device with far broader applications.
For more detail: Nature inspires color-sensitive, CMOS-compatible photodetector