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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Image Sensor

Image Sensor
A CCD image sensor on a flexible circuit board

An image sensor is a device that converts an optical image to an electric signal. It is used mostly in digital cameras and other imaging devices. Early sensors were video camera tubes but a modern one is typically a charge-coupled device (CCD) or a complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) active-pixel sensor.


Today, most digital still cameras use either a CCD image sensor or a CMOS sensor. Both types of sensor accomplish the same task of capturing light and converting it into electrical signals.
A CCD is an analog device. When light strikes the chip it is held as a small electrical charge in each photo sensor. The charges are converted to voltage one pixel at a time as they are read from the chip. Additional circuitry in the camera converts the voltage into digital information.
A CMOS chip is a type of active pixel sensor made using the CMOS semiconductor process. Extra circuitry next to each photo sensor converts the light energy to a voltage. Additional circuitry on the chip may be included to convert the voltage to digital data.
Neither technology has a clear advantage in image quality. CMOS can potentially be implemented with fewer components, use less power and/or provide faster readout than CCDs. CCD is a more mature technology and is in most respects the equal of CMOS. CMOS sensors are less expensive than the CCD sensors when it comes to manufacturing.
Another hybrid CCD/CMOS architecture, sold under the name "sCMOS", consists of CMOS readout integrated circuits (ROICs) that are bump bonded to a CCD imaging substrate – a technology that was developed for infrared focal plane arrays and now adapted to silicon-based detector technology. Another approach is to utilize the very fine dimensions available in modern CMOS technology to implement a CCD like structure entirely in CMOS technology. This can be achieved by separating individual poly-silcion gates by a very small gap. These hybrid sensors are still in the research phase, and can potentially harness the benefits of both the CCDs and the CMOS imagers

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Structure of a vacuum tube diode

In electronics, a diode is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts electric current in only one direction. The term usually refers to a semiconductor diode, the most common type today. This is a crystalline block of semiconductor material connected to two electrical terminals.

A vacuum tube diode (now little used except in some high-power technologies) is a vacuum tube with two electrodes; a plate and a cathode.

The most common function of a diode is to allow an electric current to pass in one direction (called the diode's forward direction) while blocking current in the opposite direction (the reverse direction). Thus, the diode can be thought of as an electronic version of a check valve.

This unidirectional behavior is called rectification, and is used to convert alternating current to direct current, and to extract modulation from radio signals in radio receivers.

However, diodes can have more complicated behavior than this simple on-off action, due to their complex non-linear electrical characteristics, which can be tailored by varying the construction of their P-N junction. These are exploited in special purpose diodes that perform many different functions. For example, specialized diodes are used to regulate voltage (Zener diodes), to electronically tune radio and TV receivers (varactor diodes), to generate radio frequency oscillations (tunnel diodes), and to produce light (light emitting diodes).

Diodes were the first semiconductor electronic devices. The discovery of crystals' rectifying abilities was made by German physicist Ferdinand Braun in 1874. The first semiconductor diodes, called cat's whisker diodes were made of crystals of minerals such as galena.

Today most diodes are made of silicon, but other semiconductors such as germanium are sometimes used.