Image sensor sensitive to 1mLux for true night vision

June 13, 2013 // By Nick Flaherty
SiOnyx has had its 'Black Silicon' image sensors qualified down to 1mLux, operating on moonless nights and opening up tiny surveillance cameras.

The US Army’s agency for night vision technology tested the SiOnyx XQE-1310 sensor in its labs and confirmed imaging at 1 mLux (1x10 -4 Ft-candles).
“We are very excited about these independent validation test results,” said Dr Martin Pralle, VP of Government Programs for SiOnyx, “1 mLux is a critical threshold in the development of digital night vision.”
For the past 60 years, night vision technology was based upon the analog image intensifier tube, a fully integrated system including both sensor and display in a single assembly. Digital night vision offers the ability to separate these two critical components, enabling a highly flexible system architecture where the imager can be a clip-on module that can move from helmet to weapon sight to rail camera, while the independent heads-up display provides the imagery, says Pralle.
SiOnyx’s XQE sensors enable this capability by digitally capturing nighttime imagery using starlight and the natural ambient night sky illumination known as night glow. Once in the digital domain, streaming and sharing the video at the unit level or with central command is readily achievable.
This also opens up the potential for surveillance cameras that are just 1cm 3 in size, he says.
All sensors in the XQE family share the ultra-low read noise for extended low-light imaging and 72dB of native dynamic range and have on-chip high dynamic range (HDR) features that allow up to 120dB dynamic range. XQE sensors are fabricated with a standard CMOS process that offers low power, low dark current, and no sensor cooling requirements. The sensors use structures that are burnt onto the silicon wafers by a laser array at the company's Massachusetts headquarters before further foundry processing to enhance the performance.
SiOnyx XQE image sensors are being provided on a sample basis in Q2 2013 to customers interested in evaluating the use of XQE image sensors in the next generation of imaging platforms.

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