The graphene broadband infrared imager for camera systems (GBIRCAM) Spearhead Project, announced by the Graphene Flagship as part of the newly launched commercialisation projects, is developing a camera that detects visible light (VIS), near-infrared (NIR), short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) and long-wavelength infrared (LWIR) in one single superpixel device, which will reduce the costs of broad spectrum imaging.
The lower costs make imaging technology more accessible to businesses, not only for sensor integration in products, but also from an end-user perspective. The broad-spectrum capabilities enable users to detect beyond the human eye, for quick analysis of organic products, such as food and chemical composition. It means vastly improved safety for food, pharmaceutical and security sectors among others.
Led by industrial partner Emberion, the main goal of the GBIRCAM project is to produce a broadband and high resolution single focal plane array infrared imager that covers all wavebands from 400nm to 14 micrometres. The final product will be capable of simultaneously detecting light in all atmospheric transmission bands, enabling many commercial applications.
"Detectors for the wavebands of interest, from VIS to LWIR, currently rely on very different material solutions," explained Tapani Ryhanen, leader for the GBIRCAM Spearhead Project and CEO of Emberion. "There is an inherent difficulty in combining these on the single substrate needed for a compact imager. As such, broadband focal plane arrays do not yet exist on the market.
"Suitably functionalised graphene offers the opportunity to combine the needed different waveband sensitivities onto a single substrate, enabling a broadband-sensitive single focal plane array."
The final broadband camera product, using a single detector array, is set to perform in an operational environment at a pre-commercial scale by the end of the three-year project. By this point, the single focal plane array of multielement graphene superpixels will be implemented on a bespoke read-out integrated circuit (ROIC), integrated with the necessary lens system, mechanical housing and software.
Beyond the Spearhead Project, customer validation will continue as production volume is ramped up to 10-25k units per year. The resultant broadband infrared imager will be a core product for Emberion, to complement its other devices such as the more-established VGA SWIR image sensor and camera core.