Friday, May 28, 2010

Omnivision Earnings Call

From seeking alpha, a transcript of Ominivision's earnings call. Choice quotes:
In our later session, Bruce will discuss in greater details our leadership role in strengthening transition from a sensing to an imaging company.
As we noted last quarter, our first BSI pixel, the OmniBSI, continues to ramp in mass production with the increase accelerating rapidly as we enter our first quarter of fiscal 2011. In fact, the growth we anticipate in BSI shipments during the coming quarter is so profound that we have challenged our entire supply chain to respond. And they have. We have worked closely with each participate in each stage of production cycle to meet the quickly emerging demand for our BSI devices as we expand from simple volumes to multi-million unit shipments.
We now anticipate that we will ramp OmniBSI during the first fiscal quarter and beyond in volumes exceeding even our own expectations. In the fiscal 2010 fourth quarter, we shipped approximately 125 million units at an average selling price of $1.26. This compares with approximately 130 million units shipped in the third quarter at an average selling price of $1.18. The sequential increase in ASP during the fourth quarter reflects a favorable shift to a higher-resolution product mix.
Betsy Van Hees - Wedbush Securities Inc.
Given that you guys have done such a fantastic job in terms of your technology, as you're looking at the competitive landscape, how far is your competitive lead now above your competitors? And can you kind of give us an idea of, in terms of ranking, when they're going to be catching up to you, if at all?
Bruce Weyer
Yes, so a big portion of our technology we discussed is our pixel technology underneath the sensors. And in February, we announced our second-generation BSI pixel technology and we have been in development at BSI for almost four years now with our key technology partner, TSMC. And so first-generation BSI is ramping very significantly for us. We see significant advancements coming in our second-generation BSI-2. And just now, you're starting to see our competitors discuss BSI products for the open market in mobile phones and those areas. So we think we have a pretty substantial lead in that development.
Betsy Van Hees - Wedbush Securities Inc.
So when you look into competition though, how far does that lead stay ahead? Is anyone catching you? Or are you just going to continue to dominate the field in this area?
Bruce Weyer
So we hear of competitors starting to potentially sample products, but sampling products and meeting the performance goals of our customers could very well be different things. It does take a while to perfect these types of technologies. So I'm not in a position to fully state where they're at in their development process, but based on our sampling window to strong leadership position, we think we're in a pretty good shape.
Ray Cisneros
And just another comment about that. It's going from sampling to mass production in tens of millions of units per quarter, that's the big learning curve that everybody's got to go through. And as Bruce mentioned, it's difficult to understand where our competition is in that curve. But suffice it to say from our side, it's a learning curve that's not easy and it's not overnight.
Yair Reiner - Oppenheimer & Co. Inc.
And then, if you could give us an update in terms of 300-millimeter transition in the future?
Bruce Weyer
300-millimeter is our base technology for our second-generation BSI-2 architectures. So we are in 300-millimeter, as we speak, and we're sampling products out of that. Typically, design cycles for our end customers take six to 12 months. So that technology will be more targeted for a 2011-type ramp in realistic volumes. And also, it's a 300-millimeter platter, so the available supply is broad upfront. So we don't see any challenges in whatsoever in ramping our 300-millimeter technology to our end customers.

Directory of computer vision research groups

Computer Vision Central maintains a list of computer vision research groups around the world.

Matlab on your phone

It starts with Apple products only, though.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Industry Keynotes by Mentor Graphics

Thanks to image sensors world I've discovered this resource in Mentor Graphics with several keynote presentations delivered by Mentor's CEO.

Noise, Dynamic Range and Bit Depth in Digital SLRs

Professor Emil Martinec at the University of Chicago has a nice overview of noise in image sensors at his website. A nice addition to Albert Theuwissen's ongoing series at his own blog, which started here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


First: a new (for me) way of driving micro-mirror arrays using a photodiode array, at this paper from Applied Physics Letters (sorry, behind paywall): "An all optically driven integrated deformable mirror device". The abstract reads:
We demonstrate a technique for actuating micromirrors vertically cascaded on wafer fused GaAs-GaP photodiodes. Unlike traditional actuation schemes, the electrostatic drive of the individual capacitive actuators is addressed optically in this device. Vertical mirror displacements of up to 500 nm were observed using interferometry while addressing the photodetectors with a 5 mW optical signal. Microlenses were used to address a 900 pixel device with patterned conductive pillars and thin film load resistors for each actuator-detector element. This approach can enable realization of faster and denser adaptive optics wave front corrector arrays.
Second: from Coventer's design blog, a look at the design of a resonant 2D scanning micromirror MEMS device.

"High end" imaging applications, pt. II

I forgot to add a link to this open access paper from SPIE: "Fluidic lens laparoscopic zoom camera for minimally invasive surgery". The abstract reads:
This work reports a miniaturized laparoscopic zoom camera that can significantly improve vision for minimally invasive surgery (MIS), also known as laparoscopic surgery. The laparoscopic zoom camera contains bioinspired fluidic lenses that can change curvature and focal length in a manner similar to the crystalline lenses in human eyes. The traditional laparoscope is long, rigid, and made of fixed glass lenses with a fixed field of view. The constricted vision of a laparoscope is often an inconvenience and plays a role in many surgical injuries. To further advance MIS technology, we developed a new type of laparoscopic camera that has a total length of less than 17 mm, greater than 4× optical zoom, and 100 times higher sensitivity than today's laparoscope allowing it to work under illumination as low as 300 lux. All these unique features are enabled by the technology of bioinspired fluidic lenses having a dynamic range over 100 diopters and being convertible between a convex and concave shape.

Overview of image sensor performance improvements

At Small Times, a short article by Yole on recent image sensor developments.

"High end" imaging applications

The last months are seeing a lot of movement on lower volume imaging/optical applications which nevertheless have very interesting applications. I mentioned last week the OCT from LightLab.
This week brings the announcement of the stereo microscope camera from Vision Engineering, the announcement from NSF of $3.7m funding for the NanoSIMS imaging mass spectrometer, and the optical diagnostic biosensor from Biomagnetics Diagnostic Corporation.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Seven atom transistor

Via nanowerk: "Nanotechnology researchers build transistor with just seven atoms".
"The Australian team has been able to fabricate an electronic device entirely out of crystalline silicon where we have replaced just seven individual silicon atoms with phosphorus atoms. That is amazing exactness.
"This is a huge technological achievement and it is a critical step to demonstrating that it is possible to build the ultimate computer - a quantum computer in silicon."
The technology for placing individual atoms on a surface, the scanning tunnelling microscope, has existed for two decades. But until now nobody has been able to use it to make atomic-precision devices capable of processing electronic inputs from the macroscopic world.

Using visible light for communication

EETimes reports on new ideas for using LEDs using for conventional illumination applications also for data communication.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

OCT for coronary intravascular imaging

Medgadget links to a news item on LightLab Imaging's new Optical Coherence Tomography product.


A bit off from the regular items in the blog, but I found this article at Vox interesting: "Why do women leave science and engineering?".
American women leave science and engineering at a higher frequency than men. This column suggests that the gender gap is explained by women’s relative dissatisfaction with pay and promotion opportunities. This gap is correlated with a high share of men in the industry. Remedies should therefore focus on such fields with a high share of male workers.

For lovers of statistics, at the same site there is a short note on a new data set on education around the world in the last 60 years: "Educational attainment in the world, 1950–2010".
Empirical investigations of the role of human capital require accurate measures across countries and over time. This column describes a new dataset on educational attainment for 146 countries at 5-year intervals from 1950 to 2010. The new data, freely available online, use more information and better methodology than existing datasets. Among the many new results is that the rate of return to an additional year of schooling on output is quite high – ranging from 5% to 12%.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A digital agenda for Europe

The European Commission has published its strategy on ICT for the coming years in the document "A digital agenda for Europe". From the press announcement:
More specifically, the key actions the Commission is planning to concentrate on are the following:
- leverage more private investment;
- reinforce the coordination and pooling of resources with Member States and industry;
- propose measures for 'light and fast' access to EU research funds in ICT;
- ensure sufficient financial support to joint ICT research infrastructures and innovation clusters;
- develop a new generation of web-based applications and services in cooperation with stakeholders.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

e2V's CCD-based UV imager

As noted by image sensor world among others, e2V has designed and manufactured the UV imager in the Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter. The press release does not offer much technical info. It's actually not easy to track the instruments specs of this one, but the technical data of the different instruments can be found here. More info at that link:
UVI uses a UV-coated backthinned frame transfer Si-CCD with 1024 x 1024 pixels and the pixel size of 13 micron. The spatial resolution is ~16 km at apoapsis and ~6 km from the distance of 5 Rv. The fullwell of the CCD is 10^5 e- per pixel, and the signal-to-noise ratio is 120. The output is digitized with 12 bit A/D conversion. The total mass including the optics, CCD detector assembly and electronics is ~3.4 kg, and the power consumption is 9.4 W.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Paper watch: Principles and techniques of digital holographic microscopy

SPIE offers in open access a comprehensive review (51 pages!) of techniques for digital holographic microscopy in its SPIE Reviews electronic journal. The abstract reads:
Digital holography is an emerging field of new paradigm in general imaging applications. We present a review of a subset of the research and development activities in digital holography, with emphasis on microscopy techniques and applications. First, the basic results from the general theory of holography, based on the scalar diffraction theory, are summarized, and a general description of the digital holographic microscopy process is given, including quantitative phase microscopy. Several numerical diffraction methods are described and compared, and a number of representative configurations used in digital holography are described, including off-axis Fresnel, Fourier, image plane, in-line, Gabor, and phase-shifting digital holographies. Then we survey numerical techniques that give rise to unique capabilities of digital holography, including suppression of dc and twin image terms, pixel resolution control, optical phase unwrapping, aberration compensation, and others. A survey is also given of representative application areas, including biomedical microscopy, particle field holography, micrometrology, and holographic tomography, as well as some of the special techniques, such as holography of total internal reflection, optical scanning holography, digital interference holography, and heterodyne holography. The review is intended for students and new researchers interested in developing new techniques and exploring new applications of digital holography.

A guide to designing for ESD and EMC from NXP

NXP offers a very readable application note on designing PCBs for ESD: AN10897 A guide to designing for ESD and EMC.

Depth from diffusion

Via the Nuit Blanche blog, a link to the project page at Columbia University for a Extended Depth of Field (EDOF) camera using optical diffusers. Also, a paper explaining the technique. The abstract reads:
In recent years, several cameras have been introduced which extend
depth of field (DOF) by producing a depth-invariant point spread
function (PSF). These cameras extend DOF by deblurring a captured
image with a single spatially-invariant PSF. For these cameras,
the quality of recovered images depends both on the magnitude
of the PSF spectrum (MTF) of the camera, and the similarity
between PSFs at different depths. While researchers have compared
the MTFs of different extended DOF cameras, relatively little
attention has been paid to evaluating their depth invariances. In
this paper, we compare the depth invariance of several cameras, and
introduce a new diffusion coding camera that achieves near identical
performance to a focal sweep camera, but without the need for
moving parts

5th EOS Topical Meeting on Advanced Imaging Techniques: program online

The program for the 5th EOS Topical Meeting on Advanced Imaging Techniques is online here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Microwave circuit model of the three-port transistor laser

Nanowerk reports on the research by Feng and Holonyak leading to a new model of an optoelectronic device (a transistor laser). The research has been published at the Journal of Applied Physics: "Microwave circuit model of the three-port transistor laser". The abstract reads:
Based on an earlier charge control analysis, we have constructed a microwave circuit model of a three-port quantum-well (QW) transistor laser (TL) by extending Kirchhoff’s law to include electron-photon interaction, to yield an electrical-optical form of Kirchhoff’s law. The TL circuit model includes both intrinsic device elements and extrinsic parasitic elements, and fits accurately measured microwave S-parameters up to 20 GHz and matches also measured eye-diagram data up to 13 Gb/s (equipment-limited). The TL model yields both electrical and optical device parameters as well as physical quantities such as QW charge density, nQW ∼ 1016 cm−3, which is useful in the analysis of the device physics of TL operation. The low density indicates that the base QW charge level is not as important as the current driving the QW and supplying electron-hole recombination, and implies that the quasi-Fermi level is discontinuous in the TL base. The model is used to simulate a directly modulated TL up to 40 Gb/s, for example, a TL employed in an optical communication link.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pure silicon IR photo-detector

SPIE reports on a new photo-detector developed at the NTT Basic Research Labs for the 1.55μm band using only silicon. Application is for optical communications, and it seems complicated to apply in an array fashion for imaging, but it's still interesting.
[...] The result is a high detection efficiency (~20%) with ultralow dark current (15pA) for all-silicon photodetectors in the 1.55μm band. [...]

Monday, May 10, 2010

Using piezoelectronics to wire thousands of neural nanosensors into a single optical output

Via Medgadget, an interesting article at nanowerk of work being done at Caltech. Some extracts:
Our method for transducing analogue signals is unique, in that unlike the usual method of operating NEMS, where a phase locked loop is used to track the resonant frequency of the structure, we resonate the device at a fixed frequency and monitor the variation in amplitude of the resonance. This allows real-time transduction of electrical potentials, unlike the changes over minutes to hours that are transduced using conventional techniques.
Although NEMS are being extensively studied as nanoscale sensors in their own right, we posit that a system like ours could allow NEMS to in fact interface other types of nanoscale sensors (nanowires, carbon nanotube sensors, NEMS etc) to the external environment through a single optical output.
There are several challenges to tackle before our system can be used in a practical setting. Firstly, our system was very noisy, and required substantial averaging to extract the signals. We anticipate this problem can be solved with better engineering, primarily using stiffer materials, better fabrication techniques etc. Secondly, the engineering techniques for fabricating these devices in a multilayer structure need to be worked on.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Graphene used for OLEDs

I-micronews reports on the joint research of Rtugers, Linkoping and Umea universities on graphene used in the cathode of a device similar to an OLED.