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UV light used to make smartphone cameras better

By Tim Sandle     Oct 25, 2016 in Technology
The smartphone market is driven by incremental improvements to device models. One key selling point is the camera. The next generation of smartphone cameras could be improved by an innovation using UV light.
The innovation is based on improvements to photodetectors. These components are sensitive to light within a certain narrow bandwidth, which limits their application. A photodetector converts light signals that hit the junction into voltage or current. Photodectors are found in a range of applications, from solar cells to gas detectors.
In cameras the types of photodetectors found are photodiodes. These are typically a type called complementary metal–oxide–semiconductors, and they function to capture light and converting it into electrical signals. The efficiency of these elements affects how well a camera in smartphone functions at low light, for example.
To make photodectectors better, researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) have treated the components with ultraviolet light. This transforms a standard photodetector to one capable of operating at a high bandwidth. The application of ultraviolet light appears to influence internal photoelectric effect. This is the redistribution of electrons within a material (in this case a polymer) under the influence of light, resulting in electrical conductivity.
Discussing the application with Controlled Environments magazine, lead researcher Dr. Vadim Agafonov states: “There is a lot of demand for photodetectors that are sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, but they are difficult to design.”
Outlining the complexities, Dr. Agafonov notes: “It’s hard to find the right materials, because the substances that permit ultraviolet light tend to be nontransparent to infrared radiation, and vice versa. We found a way to ‘broaden’ the spectral response of photodetectors.”
In trials the modified detectors were more effective, showing a more effective spectral response. These were polymer-based photodetector incorporating zinc oxide nanoparticles. The improvement in efficiency happened because more electrons are captured.
In addition, the modified photodetectors are relatively inexpensive to produce and further tests, incorporating the modified detectors into camera intended for smartphones are underway.
Then findings are published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials (with the study titled "Ultrahigh Gain Polymer Photodetectors with Spectral Response from UV to Near-Infrared Using ZnO Nanoparticles as Anode Interfacial Layer.")
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