Graphene-based SWIR G-Imager

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Emberion, Graphenea, and AMO have been approved a European Innovation Council Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) project to help bring to the market the G-IMAGER, a graphene imager based on graphene-on-wafer technology. The G-Imager is a SWIR detector for applications in semiconductor inspection, sorting systems, spectroscopy hyperspectral imaging and surveillance. The projected market size for SWIR cameras in 2020 is around $1 billion.

The G-Imager will be based on the scientifically proven operation of a graphene channel coupled to nanocrystal light absorbers. The nanocrystals serve the function of strong light absorbers for high efficiency, whereas the graphene channel efficiently transports the generated charge to electrical contacts for detection. The benefits of G-Imager compared to other SWIR detectors, apart from the dramatic cost reduction, will be a lack of cooling requirements, low noise, large dynamic range, broad spectral range and scalable pixel size. These benefits guarantee quick market uptake of the product beyond the project duration, which is 24 months.

To bring G-Imager to the market, the project consortium will have to tackle challenges related to maturing the innovation. Namely, the production process yield for the detectors meeting a specified set of quality requirements must be guaranteed at a minimum of 85%, which is an industry standard. The technology readiness level must be raised to level 8, while scaling up the production process to meet volume requirements. Graphenea will scale up production of 200mm graphene-on-wafers to 10,000 wafers/year. A key project goal is integration into semiconductor production processes, such that G-Imager production is compatible with demanding requirements of the foundries where high-volume semiconductor device production takes place, like the foundry at AMO GmbH. AMO will develop a new “graphene device foundry service” to industrialize production of the photodetector. The SWIR detector production will be finalized at Emberion, where VGA resolution imager products will be made by depositing and patterning photosensitive materials on the graphene devices. Product finalization includes encapsulation, dicing and packaging the final imager products and integrating them into Emberion’s camera core products.

The consortium expects the project to assist in raising the cumulative net income of the consortium members to 60M€ in 4 years.

In a separate announcement, Emberion is to present a cost-competitive 512× 1 pixel VIS-SWIR linear array sensor for visible light to shortwave infrared (VIS-SWIR) detection at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco on February 5-7, 2019. The sensor provides superior and consistent responsivity with very low noise over the broad (400 – 1800 nm) spectral range. The sensor is primarily designed for spectrometry applications. The sensor comprises an array of 25 × 500 µm2 pixels monolithically built on a tailor-made CMOS ROIC.

Beyond the linear array product introduced, Emberion will offer VGA imagers in late 2019. These VGA sensors cover the same VIS-SWIR spectral range (400-1800 nm wavelength) and are well suited for night and machine vision as well as hyperspectral imaging.

A 2017 Nature paper explains how the company's graphene imagers work:

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