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Date: 03-03-13

Micro Color Splitters from Panasonic to improve low light digital photography by 50%

Panasonic has developed "micro color splitters" to separate light that falls on image sensors by exploiting light's wavelike properties. This tech can help in capturing bright color images even under low-light conditions. Micro color splitters control the diffraction of light at a microscopic level. Panasonic says it has achieved approximately double the color sensitivity in comparison with conventional sensors that use color filters.

Panasonic has developed this technology for use in smartphones, digital still cameras and video cameras to make them capture high quality rich-colored pictures in low light. Image sensors powered by this tech can also be used in security, vehicle parking, office, and healthcare applications, and wherever the light is poor.

Panasonic explains: Conventional color image sensors use a Bayer array2, in which a red, green, or blue light-transmitting filter is placed above each sensor. These filters block 50 - 70% of the incoming light before it even reaches the sensor. Progress is being made in increasing the resolution of image sensors used in mobile and other devices by reducing pixel size, but demand for higher-sensitivity cameras is also increasing. Panasonic has developed a new technology that can be applied to existing or future sensors to enable them to capture uniquely vivid color images.

Benefits in brief:
Instead of color filters, vivid color photographs can be taken at half the light levels needed by conventional sensors.
Micro color splitters can simply replace the color filters in conventional image sensors, and are not dependent on the type of image sensor (CCD3 or CMOS4) underneath.
Micro color splitters can be fabricated using inorganic materials and existing semiconductor fabrication processes.

Technology in brief:
A unique method of analysis and design based on wave optics that permits fast and precise computation of wave-optics phenomena. Device optimization technologies for creating micro color splitters that control the phase of the light passing through a transparent and highly-refractive plate-like structure to separate colors at a microscopic scale using diffraction. Layout technologies and unique algorithms that allow highly sensitive and precise color reproduction by combining the light that falls on detectors separated by the micro color splitters and processing the detected signals.

Panasonic holds 21 Japanese patents and 16 overseas patents, including pending applications, for this development.

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