And still more on the 100 meg CCD

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by RichA, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. RichA

    RichA Guest

    A Record-Breaking Camera Chip
    This new imaging advance packs 100 million pixels into a picture.
    By Kate Greene

    This charge-coupled device (CCD) chip has the highest resolution in
    the world; it can capture an image with more than 100 megapixels (100
    million pixels), equivalent to 18 photos shot with a 6-megapixel
    digital camera. Designed for taking pictures of celestial objects, it
    could also be used for microscopy, surveillance, and mapping. (Credit:
    Richard Bredthauer, Semiconductor Technology Associates.)

    San Juan Capistrano, CA-based Semiconductor Technology Associates
    (STA) has designed the world's highest-resolution digital camera chip,
    capable of holding an image composed of more than 111 million pixels.
    By comparison, the best consumer cameras take shots of 12 to 16
    million pixels, and an average computer monitor offers about one
    million pixels.

    The imaging chip, which is a charge-coupled device (CCD), was designed
    for use in telescope cameras that map stars and ever-moving objects in
    the solar system, says Richard Bredthauer, STA's president. But this
    large-scale chip -- it measures four inches square -- could be useful
    in more fields than just astronomy, he says, including high-resolution
    microscopic images of proteins, military surveillance applications,
    and even civilian mapping projects that require detailed aerial

    Currently, most large-scale digital photographs are either taken by
    arrays of smaller CCDs connected together, or created by stitching
    together hundreds of images. With arrays, the quality of each part of
    the picture can vary because each CCD might have been manufactured
    under slightly different circumstances. Additionally, assembling an
    array of multiple CCDs can be expensive and complicated. With the
    stitching method, the lighting in the pictures changes over time,
    since it can take from minutes to hours to collect enough pictures for
    a large-scale panorama. The 100-megapixel CCD (a mega pixel is one
    million pixels) doesn't have these drawbacks, and could also
    potentially be cheaper to manufacture, since a single chip could give
    the same resolution as many arrayed chips, says Robert Groulx, CCD
    product manager at Dalsa Semiconductor, the Ontario-based foundry
    where the chip was manufactured.

    The reason such a large CCD was achievable, says Bredthauer, is in
    part due to the same advances in semiconductor fabrication that have
    crammed more transistors into microprocessors and memory chips, such
    as in photolithography, the technology used to pattern smaller and
    smaller transistors on a chip. A CCD device is made using the same
    processing steps and materials -- silicon, silicon dioxide, and
    aluminum -- as microprocessors and flash memory, differing only in the
    design of the circuitry on the chip. "CCD imagery has been following
    on the coattails of [the semiconductor] industry," Bredthauer says.

    Perhaps the key improvements in semiconductor fabrication that have
    made possible this giant imaging chip are the quality of materials
    used and the cleanliness of fabrication facilities. If the "clean"
    rooms aren't sufficiently clean, dust and other particulate matter can
    contaminate the chemical layers used to build the CCD, says Barry
    Burke, a senior staff member at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. Not only can
    defects create defunct pixels -- ones that are permanently white or
    black, he says, they can also create electrical shorts in the
    circuitry, rendering portions, if not all of the device, defective.
    "To get a perfect device of that size is a major challenge," he says.
    Hence, advances in air-filtering technology in clean rooms have
    enabled larger defect-free devices, Burke says.

    Design considerations are also important in making such a large chip,
    says Bredthauer. The pixels of a CCD collect photons that are
    instantly converted to an electrical charge proportional to the
    intensity of light. In order for the charge to actually produce an
    image, it is passed through the chip to circuitry lying on the
    periphery of the device, where it is amplified and converted into a
    voltage that's used to record the final image. A large CCD runs the
    risk of producing "traffic jams," where the electric charge can't
    quickly and effectively make it to the output circuitry. To solve this
    problem, Bredthauer designed the output ports to simultaneously
    extract charge from different regions of the chip, thereby keeping the
    charge flowing smoothly and allowing for quick image rendering.

    Currently, these mega-chips are priced at a breath-taking
    $80,000-100,000 each, and are custom manufactured for each specific
    (mostly astronomical) application. The steep cost is one reason such
    CCDs are not likely to show up in consumer products soon. And, for the
    average image-taker, current resolutions in the tens of megapixels is
    sufficient. "From the consumer's point of view, it seems like there's
    almost enough pixels to do what people want to do -- to look at
    pictures and share them," says Michael Cohen, senior researcher in
    Microsoft's interactive visual media group and graphics group.

    However, the chance to take extremely high-quality digital pictures,
    which can produce three-foot by three-foot posters without losing
    quality, is alluring to photography buffs outside scientific and
    surveillance fields. Since the announcement of their record-breaking
    chip, Bredthauer says the photography blogging community has been
    writing about using the chips in professional cameras that
    traditionally use film that's four inches by five inches. He's
    received inquiries about their 100-megapixel chip from private
    parties. "That's high-end photography," he says.
    RichA, Oct 6, 2006
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  2. David J. Littleboy, Oct 6, 2006
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  3. RichA

    Annika1980 Guest

    "I think we're gonna need a bigger hard drive."
    Annika1980, Oct 6, 2006
  4. RichA

    RichA Guest

    That's what Canon calls them.
    RichA, Oct 11, 2006
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