Into the Shadows with Interline Transfer EMCCD Image Sensors

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How do you see what can’t be seen? While the question might sound a little silly, it’s actually a problem faced every day when trying to address the most challenging imaging situations. How do you “see” deep into a dark shadow and still be able to extract valuable information about what might be hiding there? Or how do you “see” wavelengths of light that our eyes can’t even detect?

For many industrial applications, ON Semiconductor’s family of Interline Transfer EMCCD image sensors provides an important solution to this imaging problem. This technology combines the global shutter and highly uniform image capture available from Interline Transfer CCDs with the very low-light sensitivity available from Electron Multiplication to create a new class of image sensors – one that can operate from very low light (far less than one lux, or the light coming from a full moon at night) continuously through to bright light conditions, so that a single camera can capture images from sunlight to starlight.

Today, we are announcing two new products to use this exciting technology: the new KAE-04471 and KAE-02152 image sensors. These products join the existing KAE-02150 and KAE-08151 devices, but bring more than just additional resolutions to this family.

The KAE‑04471 image sensor uses 7.4 µm pixels that are almost twice as big as the 5.5 µm pixels used in the existing products in this family. These bigger pixels capture more light from the scene, resulting in an image sensor that is even more sensitive under very low light, as shown in the pictures below that were taken under the same lighting and exposure conditions. And since the KAE-04471 is package and pin-out compatible with the existing KAE-08051, camera manufacturers can leverage one camera to support both devices.

The new KAE-02152 image sensor improves sensitivity in a different way, by enhancing the sensor’s ability to detect near-infrared light – doubling its quantum efficiency for wavelengths such as 850 nm. The pictures below show this improvement, where a NIR-reflective license plate has been illuminated with 850 nm light. This is the same pixel enhancement we recently introduced in our standard Interline CCD portfolio, and now are bringing this technology to our Interline Transfer EMCCD portfolio as well. And since the KAE-02150 and KAE-02152 are fully plug-in compatible with each other, camera manufacturers again have a simplified path to bringing cameras with this new technology to market.

With these latest additions there are now almost 30 different configurations in our Interline Transfer EMCCD portfolio, with options available for different resolutions and frame rates, pixel size, NIR sensitivity, integrated cooling, color and monochrome sensitivities, and more. All of these devices allow cameras to look deep into the shadows without sacrificing the ability to capture bright portions of a scene at the same time – helping to capture the things that otherwise couldn’t be seen.

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