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1k Pixel CMOS THz Video Camera

April 17, 2012


The University of Wuppertal, STMicroelectronics, and ISEN/IEMN presented the world’s first terahertz video camera fully integrated in a commercially available CMOS 65nm process technology from STMicroelectronics at the ISSCC 2012 in San Francisco in February 2012.

The design team has implemented a plug ‘n play, USB-powered, room temperature THz imager (size 2.9x2.9mm2) including 1024 THz pixel detectors in a focal plane array arrangement (FPA), on-chip column/row decoders, on-chip global shutter bias/reset network, on-chip serialization, digitization and video streaming for more than 25 frames-per-second. This THz video camera is implemented using a commercially available 65nm bulk CMOS technology from STMicroelectronics with no process modification. The camera operates over a wide bandwidth between 600GHz and 1THz (operation beyond 1THz is also possible).

Making use of the special characteristics of THz radiation (penetration of many dielectrics, absorption by water, reflection off metals) as well as their low-energy levels and their non-ionizing nature (contrary to X-Rays) opens up the perspectives over a huge range of applications.

This camera chip will be used for real-time applications such as security screening (detection of hidden weapons and chemicals in clothes and parcels), medical imaging (cancerous tissue analysis), industrial and agricultural quality control (detection of hidden defects and cracks in materials, monitoring of water-levels, etc...), as well as high data-rate communications.

The design of this camera chip is a breakthrough in the current state of the art, as it offers very low average power consumption, high pixel count, high level of integration and is designed in a technology that is considered the cheapest for high volumes production. What used to be implemented in expensive and low integration-level technologies (such as III-V compounds and Bolometers) has been made possible in low cost commercial CMOS, thus bridging the THz gap with Silicon technologies.

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