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A new image sensor that is said to be able to “see in the dark” has been unveiled by Canon. Major applications will be in security cameras and sensors for autonomous vehicles.
Thanks to greatly increased light sensitivity, the sensor chip should deliver usable images even in almost complete darkness. A “Single-Photon Avalanche Diode” (SPAD) technology is expected to ensure that the new sensor “sees” significantly more than normal CMOS-based camera sensors.
The system “amplifies” a single photon reaching the sensor into a large number of electrons so that objects can still be made visible even in an almost completely dark environment.
In the case of CMOS-based cameras, on the other hand, the signals are generated based on the photons that strike in a certain period of time.
The new sensor has a resolution of 3.2 sensor pixels and thus offers three times the resolution that Canon’s image sensors usually used in security cameras.
The sensor can determine the time between the emission and the return of the light emitted by the camera in the range of less than a nanosecond so that the object detection should be more precise.
With the previously used infrared-based night vision cameras, mostly only black and white images are generated, while normal, highly sensitive cameras are now able to deliver useful images in moonlight thanks to software support and large sensors. At the same time, however, the image noise increases sharply with decreasing brightness.
The new sensor is able to capture the space between the emission and the return of the light in three-dimensional form and is to be used in LIDAR sensors, among other things, according to researchsnipers.com.