Microcamera Big As Grain Of Salt

A microcamera no larger than a coarse grain of salt has been developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration in Berlin, Germany.


(Microcamera as large as coarse salt)

Digital camera systems consist of two components: a lens and a sensor that transforms the image into electrical signals. Electrical contacts on the sensor allow access to these signals and therefore also to the information of the image. Due to the way they are manufactured, these contacts are located between the sensor and the lens...

The researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration have streamlined this process by developing a new way to access the electrical contacts. Now, the wiring process is faster and the entire camera system is smaller. The trick lies in the fact that they do not reach the contacts of each individual image sensor via the side any more but rather, simultaneously, with all sensors via their reverse side while they are still connected as a wafer. That means that you no longer have to mount the individual lenses. Instead, you can connect them with the image sensor wafers as lens wafers. Only then is the stack of wafers sawed apart into individual microcameras. Another upside is the fact that it supplies razor-sharp pictures even with very thin endoscopes. To date, the camera systems built into them had to be divided because of their size. The lens was at the tip of the endoscope and the sensor at the other end of the glass fiber strand. The new microcamera is small enough for the tip of the endoscope. It has a resolution of 25,000 pixels and transmits the image information through the endoscope via an electrical cable. Stephan Voltz, who is the CEO of Awaiba GmbH, says that “at 0.7 times 0.7 times 1.0 millimeters, this camera is as small as coarsely ground grain of salt – the smallest camera that we are aware of.”

This new camera will be manufacturable for pennies, making disposable cameras available for a variety of purposes.

When I read about this, I thought that they would be just the thing for tiny micro aerial vehicles, like Raymond Z. Gallun's Scarab robot flying insect from his 1936 short story The Scarab; it had "minute vision tubes" to bring an image to its remote operator.

Via Fraunhofer press release.

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