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Image Sensors

SONY CMOS Image Sensors Overview - VIS + SWIR
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Sony

*SenSWIR is a trademark of Sony Corporation.

As manufacturers in various industries continue to seek higher productivity, there is growing interest in sensing both in the visible spectrum and beyond it, at SWIR wavelengths.

In IMX990 and IMX991, SenSWIR technology has enabled Sony to overcome challenges in pixel miniaturization to offer sensors that are compact, high-resolution, and capable of imaging from the visible spectrum to SWIR wavelengths. IMX990 and IMX991 are global shutter sensors with a digital output allowing for many features and functionality in industrial camera applications such as ROI and Trigger Mode

The advances in performance and functionality introduced by the IMX990 and IMX991 pave the way for the development of SWIR industrial cameras and inspection equipment for a diverse range of applications such as inspection, identification, and measurement.

Device Structure
Imaging Characteristics

*Measurement conditions: Tj=15°C, all-pixel readout mode
*1:Operability: percentage of pixels free of defects

Basic Drive Mode
Features

Higher resolution and smaller systems from the industry's smallest pixels, at 5 μm

Advantages of the sensors promise to expand SWIR sensing applications. The sensors' higher resolution offers higher inspection precision, and smaller cameras afford greater freedom in installation.

Broad imaging (0.4–1.7 μm) from a single sensor that extends to the visible spectrum

Inspection that once required multiple cameras to cover visible and SWIR wavelengths can now be performed with a single unit. Such broad coverage expands both the type of objects that can be inspected and the type of inspection available. System costs can be reduced, and faster image processing can increase throughput.

Enhanced capabilities from digital output

Unlike the analog output that most SWIR sensors are limited to, the sensors also feature digital output, for performance on the level of current industrial CMOS sensors. Analog sensors require developers to implement an ADC or other functionality for industrial equipment on the camera. In contrast, the new sensors already include this functionality, which saves time and effort in camera development and makes it easier to develop versatile cameras.

Examples of SWIR Imaging Applications

Produce sorting

Light in the SWIR band includes wavelengths that reveal water absorption. Imaging in these wavelengths enables detection of moisture content, which is difficult to determine under visible light. This is used in applications such as sorting fruits and vegetables.
(Photos: Detecting bruises on apples)

Foreign material inspection

Properties of light absorption and reflection in SWIR imaging are applied to distinguish substances that would be difficult to differentiate under visible light alone.
This is used in applications such as inspecting products for foreign material.

Semiconductor inspection

Light in the SWIR band passes through material made of silicon. This aspect of SWIR imaging is applied in semiconductor production and inspection.
(Photo: A silicon wafer in front of a chart)

Temperature estimation

Around hot objects, light in the SWIR band shines quite brightly. Temperature can be estimated from differences in brightness among several wavelengths. This is used to estimate the temperature of welds or other hot areas.
(Photo: Detecting the hot portion of a solder tip)

Remote observation

Light in the SWIR band has longer wavelengths than visible light. This makes the light less susceptible to scattering, which is an aspect of SWIR imaging that is applied in remote observation.

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SONY Technology Guide

Higher pixel count, smaller systems

Creating SWIR sensors with smaller pixels than in current industrial CMOS sensors has been challenging with conventional bump bonding, because a certain bump pitch must be maintained to bond the indium-gallium-arsenide (InGaAs) photodiode layer to the silicon readout circuit layer. With SenSWIR technology, copper-to-copper connection*1 enables a finer pixel pitch and smaller pixels. As a result, smaller high-resolution cameras can be developed, which can support higher inspection precision.

*1:A technique that provides electrical conduction by bonding copper pads, as the pixel chip (top) and logic chip (bottom) are stacked. Advantages over the previous through-silicon via approach (which electrically connects top and bottom chips at the edge of the pixel area) include smaller systems and improved performance, which affords greater freedom in design and promises higher productivity.

Broad imaging that extends to the visible spectrum

The top indium-phosphorus (InP*2) layer inevitably absorbs some visible light, but applying Sony SWIR sensor technology makes this layer thinner, so that more light reaches the underlying InGaAs layer. The sensors have high quantum efficiency even in visible wavelengths. This enables broad imaging of wavelengths from 0.4 μm to 1.7 μm. A single camera equipped with the sensor can now cover both visible light and the SWIR spectrum, which previously required separate cameras. This results in lower system costs. Image processing is also less intensive, which accelerates inspection. These advances promise to expand the scope of inspection significantly.

 

*2:Substrate that forms the base of the InGaAs layer.

A closer look at SWIR

SWIR, Short Wavelength Infra-Red, refers to a type of infrared light. SWIR wavelengths generally lie in the range of 0.9–2.5 μm. Though in the infrared spectrum, they are near wavelengths of visible light. IMX990 and IMX991 sensors cover SWIR wavelengths up to 1.7 μm. Imaging by the sensors also extends to wavelengths of visible light, which has proven difficult for conventional SWIR sensors to capture.

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