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May 12, 2020

Sony to Release SWIR Image Sensors for Industrial Equipment
Capable of Capturing Images Across Both the Visible and Invisible Light Spectrums, with the Industry's Smallest*1 5μm Pixel Size

Contributing to the Development of Diverse Industrial Equipment by Delivering Compactness and Imaging over a Broad Range of Wavelengths

    Sony Corporation
    Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation

    Tokyo, Japan — Sony Corporation today announced the upcoming release of two new models of short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) image sensors for industrial equipment. The new sensors are capable of capturing images in the visible and invisible light spectrum in the short-wavelength infrared range and boast a compact size made possible by the industry's smallest*1 5μm pixel size.

    The new products employ Sony's original SenSWIR*2 technology, in which photodiodes are formed on an indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) compound semiconductor layer and are connected via Cu-Cu connection*3 with the silicon (Si) layer which forms the readout circuit — a design which enables high-sensitivity over a broad range of wavelengths. This breakthrough yields a SWIR image sensor that is compact yet capable of delivering seamless image capture over a broad range of wavelengths covering from the visible to invisible light spectrum in the short-wavelength infrared range (wavelength: 0.4μm to 1.7μm).

    Employing these products enables sensing even in wavelengths not visible to the human eye, making possible the development of cameras and testing equipment for various applications and contributing to the development of diversifying industrial equipment.

    IMX990 SWIR image sensor
    Left: Ceramic LGA package Right: Ceramic PGA package with built-in thermoelectric
    • *1:Among SWIR image sensors using InGaAs. According to Sony research (as of announcement on May 12, 2020).
    • *2:The InGaAs layer, which forms the light-receiving photodiodes, and the Si layer, which forms the readout circuit, are connected via Cu-Cu connection. This allows the indium phosphide (InP) layer to be thinner, thereby permitting the penetration of visible light.
    • *3:Technology that provides electrical continuity via connected Cu (copper) pads when stacking the back-illuminated CMOS image sensor section (top chip) and logic circuits (bottom chip). Compared with through-silicon via (TSV) wiring, where the connection is achieved by penetrating electrodes around the circumference of the pixel area, this method gives more freedom in design, improves productivity, allows for a more compact size, and increases performance.
    Model name Sample shipment date
    (planned)
    Sample price
    (excluding tax)
    IMX990 1/2-type (8.2 mm diagonal) approx. 1.34 effective megapixel SWIR image sensor Ceramic PGA package with built-in thermoelectric cooling device July 2020 900,000 JPY
    Ceramic LGA package June 2020 800,000 JPY
    IMX991 1/4-type (4.1 mm diagonal) approx. 0.34 effective megapixel SWIR image sensor Ceramic PGA package with built-in thermoelectric cooling device July 2020 500,000 JPY
    Ceramic LGA package June 2020 400,000 JPY

    The recent demand to reduce manpower and ensure standardization in the industrial equipment field is driving a growing need for image sensors capable of capturing images in the invisible light spectrum of the short-wavelength infrared range. However, traditional SWIR image sensors face manufacturing challenges in miniaturizing pixels and increasing pixel count, as well as various other issues including low sensitivity in the visible light spectrum and analog output that makes multifunctionality difficult. These factors have inhibited the penetration and increased applications of industrial cameras using conventional technology.

    Sony's new sensors employ the stacking technology using Cu-Cu connection that Sony has developed for years along with Sony's original SWIR image sensor technology, delivering high image quality and a more compact sensor size thanks to miniaturization, as well as high sensitivity imaging in a broad range of wavelengths covering both the visible and invisible spectrum. The new products also support digital output, matching the performance of current CMOS image sensors for industrial equipment.

    Going forward, Sony will propose these products for use in a wide range of industrial applications such as material selection, contaminant inspection, and semiconductor inspection, aiming to contribute to improved productivity.

    Main Features

    Compact, multi-pixel design made possible by the industry's smallest 5μm pixels

    When bonding the InGaAs layer, which forms the light receiving photodiodes, and the Si layer, which forms the readout circuit, using conventional bump connections, it is necessary to secure a certain bump pitch, which makes it difficult to achieve a smaller pixel size compared to current industrial CMOS sensors. This had made miniaturization a serious challenge. The Sony's new products, however, feature a smaller pixel pitch made possible by the Cu-Cu connection, resulting in the industry's smallest 5μm pixel size. This, in turn, makes it possible to reduce camera size while maintaining SXGA (IMX990)/VGA (IMX991) resolution, contributing to improved testing precision.

    Left: Bump connection; Right: Cu-Cu connection

    Imaging over a broad range of wavelengths covering both the visible and invisible light spectrums

    Sony's original SWIR image sensor technology is used to make the top InP layer,*4 which absorbs visible light, thinner, making it possible to transmit light to the InGaAs layer underneath, delivering high quantum efficiency even in the visible range. This design enables imaging in a broad range of wavelengths from 0.4μm to 1.7μm, enabling the use of a single camera instead of the conventional multiple that were required to capture visible light and SWIR. This results in lower system costs and faster speeds thanks to the reduced image processing load, allowing for a dramatic expansion in testing range.

    • *4:Substrate that serves as a base for the InGaAs layer.
    Wavelength (horizontal axis) and quantum efficiency (vertical axis) of the products

    Imaging sample 1

    Switching light sources makes it possible to obtain the surface information and subsurface information of the apples simultaneously
    (left: visible light; right: short-wavelength infrared)
    Switching light sources makes it possible to obtain the surface information and subsurface information of the apples simultaneously
    (top: visible light; bottom: short-wavelength infrared)

    Imaging sample 2

    Left: Salt Center: Suger Right: Potato Starch
    Left: Salt Center: Suger Right: Potato Starch

    Material sorting utilizing differences in short-wavelength infrared light absorption rates
    (left: visible light; right: short-wavelength infrared)
    Material sorting utilizing differences in short-wavelength infrared light absorption rates
    (top: visible light; bottom: short-wavelength infrared)

    Enhanced capabilities via digital output

    Although conventional SWIR image sensors generally have an analog output, the new products support digital output to deliver the same performance as current industrial CMOS image sensors. Although analog output sensors require a digital conversion circuit or other functionality for industrial equipment on the camera, these products already include this functionality, reducing the number of steps in camera development and making multifunction camera development easier.

    Key Specifications

    Model name IMX990 IMX991
    Number of effective pixels 1296 (H) × 1032 (V)
    Approx. 1.34 megapixels
    656 (H) × 520 (V)
    Approx. 0.34 megapixels
    Image size Diagonal 8.2mm (1/2-type) Diagonal 4.1mm (1/4-type)
    Unit cell size 5μm (H) × 5μm (V) 5μm (H) × 5μm (V)
    Frame rate Full pixel 8 bit: 130 fps
    10 bit: 120 fps
    12 bit: 70 fps
    8 bit: 250 fps
    10 bit: 240 fps
    12 bit: 130 fps
    Power supply Pixel 2.2 V, 1.2 V 2.2 V, 1.2 V
    Analog 3.3 V, 2.2 V 3.3 V, 2.2 V
    Digital 1.2 V 1.2 V
    Interface 1.8 V 1.8 V
    Main functions Global shutter,
    digital thermometer,
    ROI
    Global shutter,
    digital thermometer,
    ROI
    Output SLVS (2/4ch switching) SLVS (2/4ch switching)
    Package Ceramic PGA with built-in thermoelectric cooling
    30.0mm (H) × 30.0mm (V)
    Ceramic LGA
    20.0mm (H) × 16.8mm (V)
    Ceramic PGA with built-in thermoelectric cooling
    30.0mm (H) × 30.0mm (V)
    Ceramic LGA
    20.0mm (H) × 16.8mm (V)
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