Sony has unveiled a new type of stacked CMOS sensor that uses a “pixel bi-layer transistor” to double the light-gathering ability. Typical image sensors contain photosensitive photodiodes and pixel transistors that control and amplify the signal on the same layer. However, the new design places photodiodes on top and pixel transistors below, “nearly twice the levels of the saturation signal,” Sony said.
Sony has created stacked sensors that place fast memory and other electronics directly under the sensor, allowing for faster readout speeds and therefore fast continuous shooting and reduced rolling shutter (the jello effect) on cameras and smartphones. This latter sensor uses a similar idea, but packs the pixel transistors onto a separate substrate beneath the photodiode layer.
This means that each layer can be optimized, allowing Sony to double the sensor’s light saturation (a good depth), or the amount of charge each pixel can handle. This in turn allows about twice the ability to capture light.
Sony notes that because the transistor pixels are on a separate layer, it was able to increase the size of the amplifier transistors. This allows for greater signal gain, reducing noise when shooting at night or other photos in dark places. The increased dynamic range will allow for “higher-quality, low-noise images even in low light,” according to Sony.
Sony specifically stated that the technology will allow smartphone imaging at a higher quality. With poor light-gathering ability, it will allow for improved light sensitivity even in relatively small, high-resolution sensors. Sony has not yet determined when this technology will reach the smartphone or cameras, but it plans to further improve the design for both large and small sensors.
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