NEC Corporation, under the Commissioned Research of the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT, •1), has developed a new pixel structure for Terahertz (THz, •2) array sensors and improved the Minimum Detectable Power per pixel (MDP) at 0.5 - 0.6 THz frequency, a ten time improvement over NEC's conventional product.
NEC currently produces and markets a THz camera (IRV-T0831) equipped with a 320X240-pixel array sensor. However, NEC's latest technologies enable it to develop and produce a 640X480-pixel array sensor which has four times the number of pixels than the current model. NEC has also developed a camera equipped with the array sensor, making it one of the world's largest number of pixels at a THz frequency band.
Furthermore, NEC improved the signal-to-noise ratio by four times using a 4X4 pixel binning process combining adjacent pixels, and enhanced the MDP value 40 times together with the effect of the new pixel structure so that NEC achieved one of the world's highest levels of sensitivity at the 0.5 - 0.6 THz frequency band for a two-dimensional array sensor (*3) operating at room temperature.
"NEC has been addressing the development of a highly sensitive real-time uncooled terahertz camera and the improvement in the sensitivity of terahertz array sensors since the development of a highly sensitive bolometer-type (*4) uncooled two-dimensional terahertz array sensor in April 2008," said Dr. Naoki Oda, Executive Engineer, Radio Application, Guidance and Electro-Optics Division, NEC. "Going forward, NEC will pursue the development and production of terahertz imaging equipment using the present results and contribute to a variety of fields such as non-destructive inspection, medicine/drug development, and illegal object detection."
The THz wave is an electromagnetic wave located between infrared and radio wave. Research and development of new application technologies to enhance measurement and communications are being promoted through use of the THz wave, which penetrates plastic, paper, and clothes and is thought to be safer than X-ray imaging. Therefore, THz technology has received extra attention as a major contributor to next generation technologies for non-destructive inspection, medical diagnosis and others.
Please see the attachments for an overview of the improvement in sensitivity and the positioning of the MDP value of NEC's array sensor featuring a new pixel structure.
(*1) Research and development for a real-time THz camera for filling a THz gap.
(*2) Electromagnetic wave of 0.1 THz to 10 THz frequency range, which corresponds to the wavelength range from 3 mm to 30 μm, located between radio wave and infrared.
(*3) Two-dimensional array sensor is a sensor in which microbolometers are arranged two-dimensionally in rows and columns. A familiar example is an image sensor inside a digital camera.
(*4) A bolometer is a detector-type that receives electromagnetic waves in a sensitive area and measures the electric resistance changing in accordance with the increased temperature.
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