January 2, 2009

Improving Nanotechnology In Digital Cameras

Scottish researchers are trying to improve digital camera images with over half a million in grant money.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow were given over $700,000 to develop small nanostructures that would be used on light detecting image sensors. The hi-tech chips will eventually be used in camera equipment to produce sharper and more colorful images.

The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council is funding the project that uses a phenomenon called surface plasmon resonance, which is an effect exhibited by certain metals when light waves fall onto their surfaces.

The same metal film is used on microchip image sensors in digital cameras, known as a CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor), that detect light waves and convert them into digital signals.

Electrons on the surface absorb the energy of the light waves and begin oscillating, or shaking, in groups whenever light shines on the metal film. The resultant combined waves are called plasmons, and they modify the way light is distributed around the metal. The CMOS then measures the light and assigns it a digital value that is then used to build up the bigger image.

The researchers goal is to find a way of creating patterns or small nanostructures in the metal film on the CMOS. This should increase the sensitivity of the sensor, creating higher quality images.

Professor David Cumming of Glasgow University who is leading the research team, said they would be using nanotechnology to manipulate particles, so as to take advantage of the properties of electrons to create a new optical effect.

"Digital imaging has come a long way in recent years and this project aims to further improve the ability of digital devices to produce high-quality pictures," he told BBC.

They also hope to tune resonating plasmons into the same frequency as light, which could improve color discrimination.

The research should be completed some time in 2012.


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