Ultrasensitive infrared sensor uses carbon nanotubes  

Ultrasensitive infrared sensor uses carbon nanotubes  

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

NEC is commercialising a high-sensitivity uncooled infrared image sensor using high-purity semiconducting carbon nanotubes (CNTs) in the infrared detection area.

The company says it is working toward the practical application of this image sensor in 2025, providing more sensitivity without the need for power-hungry cooling systems. The new sensor achieves more than three times higher sensitivity than mainstream uncooled infrared image sensors using vanadium oxide or amorphous ‘black’ silicon.

NEC is a leader in research and development related to CNT nanotechnology and in 2018, NEC developed a proprietary technology to extract only semiconducting-type CNTs at high purity from single-walled CNTs that have a mixture of metallic and semiconducting types. NEC then discovered that thin films of semiconducting-type CNTs extracted with this technology have a large temperature coefficient of resistance (TCR) near room temperature.

Researchers used the semiconductor-type CNTs with a high TCR, which is an important index for high sensitivity.  A thermal separation structure uses a Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) device technology combined with the CNT printing and manufacturing technology cultivated over many years for printed transistors, etc. As a result, NEC has succeeded in operating a high-definition uncooled infrared image sensor of 640 x 480 pixels by arraying the components of the structure.

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