Samsung New CMOS Sensor Integrates RGB and Range Imaging

March 1, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Sammy has come out with a new CMOS sensor that might possibly add a more interesting functionality to smart phones, game consoles and tablets in the future.

The newly developed CMOS sensor can take both trivial RGB images and range images at the same time.

Range image is a 2D image showing the distance to points in a scene, in a way that brighter values may mean shorter distance, and darker values showing longer distance.  Often used by gaming devices and gesture-based gadgets, range imaging has never been possible with a sensor that can take RGB images. Sammy seems to break that shortcoming.

To make this possible, Samsung has fiddled with the size of the Z pixel which is used for getting the range image and made its effective size three times larger than its actual size.

So, in effect it, has become four times larger than a red, green or blue pixel as far as far as the area is concerned.

In the new sensor, the Z pixel is located below the RGB pixels and a potential barrier was also put in the layer below the RGB pixels so that it comes between the RGB and Z pixels.

Since the sensor uses a Time-of-Flight mechanism with the near-Infra Red (IR) light, for range imaging, the barrier will check the photoelectrons produced by the IR light from reaching the RGB pixels.

The new sensor made use of the 0.13μm CMOS image sensor technology with Front Side Illuminated process. As per experts from Samsung, making use of the Back Side Illuminated (BSI) technology could have improved the quantum efficiency of the sensor by two times since BSI can prevent the IR reaching the RGB pixels more effectively.

One great thing with the new sensor from Samsung is that it has made Range imaging and RGB imaging possible with a single sensor. Gadgets like Microsoft Kinect already have the functionality, but it makes use of two sets of optics to get RGB and Range images.

The Sammy sensor will integrate the RGB and Range image together so that it gives exact info on composition of the image and the distance from objects.

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