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Sensors: More than being a megapixel mascot

Posted: 29 Apr 2014     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sony  image sensor  CMOS  megapixel  automotive 

"The applications of image sensors are only limited by your imagination," Edwin Ringoot, strategic marketing manager for the image sensor business unit at ON Semiconductor, told EE Times.

The following slideshow depicts the ubiquity of image sensors, all of which have cleared the high technical hurdles imposed by specific applications.

Image sensors in driver safety apps

(Source: Sony)

Image sensors in driver safety apps

(Source: Sony)

Intelligent traffic systems (ITS) deploy a number of cameras. Some are there to monitor and control speed, traffic flow and toll collection remotely. Others automatically recognise license plates.

Because they're installed outdoors, these systems need to see in through rain, in the dark, or in bright daylight. Reflections of images on a rainy street can confuse cameras. That's when high optical dynamic range is required for image sensors.

Cameras used in ITS, by nature, need to capture images of moving cars, making a CMOS sensor with a global shutter absolutely critical.

Rolling shutters (used predominantly on CMOS sensors) capture an image by scanning across the frame gradually. Though the whole frame is displayed at the same time during playback, not all parts of the image are recorded at exactly the same time. The effect of a rolling shutter on an image might be negligible, but not if the camera or object moves during the exposure. That's why regular CMOS image sensors with a rolling shutter don't work for ITS applications.

A global shutter, in which the entire frame is exposed in the same time window, prevents uncorrectable motion blur. In a CMOS image sensor with a global shutter used in ITS applications, the expected pixel noise levels are below 10 electrons. The expected shutter efficiency is 99.9 per cent or better.

Image sensors in food inspection

Rice, apple, potatoes, almonds, you name it, food-sorting machines use various light sources to select and separate items before they're packed and shipped.

Consider apples. A food-sorting machine, using a near-infrared light source, can detect bruises that not caught by human eyes.

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