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Published: 04 June 2014

New sensor could light the way for low-cost imaging

Research published in Nature’s Scientific Reports demonstrates a new type of light sensor that could allow medical and security imaging via low cost cameras.

A team of Surrey researchers, led by Dr Richard Curry of the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), has developed a new ‘multispectral’ light sensor that detects the full spectrum of light, from ultra-violet (UV), to visible and near infrared light.

Near infrared light is already used to perform non-invasive medical monitoring, such as measuring the oxygen level in tissue and detecting tumours. It is also commonly used in security camera systems and for quality control in the agriculture and food industry. The new research demonstrates that by introducing an ultralow ‘photodoping’ mechanism, in addition to conventional detection of visible light, photosensitivity can be extended to the UV and near infrared without compromising performance, opening up a number of new possibilities.

“Until now high-performance light sensors have been limited in the spectrum of light they can detect, with multiple sensors required to measure different regions of the light spectrum, significantly increasing cost,” says Dr Curry.

“The new technology could allow surgeons to ‘see’ inside tissue to find tumours prior to surgery as well as equip conventional consumer products, such as cameras and mobile phones, with night imaging options. This is useful for capturing quality pictures in the dark, and may eventually enable parents to simply monitor a child’s blood or tissue oxygenation level via a smartphone camera which could be linked to healthcare professionals.”

The new ‘multispectral’ sensors are highly flexible and can be produced cheaply, using the inkjet printing method found in homes and offices and – unlike other sensors – do not require specialised manufacturing conditions.

Dr Curry is a Reader in the ATI specialising in the application of advanced materials and the development of optoelectronic technologies. Published on 23 May, the paper, ‘Ultrahigh Performance C60 Nanorod Large Area Flexible Photoconductor Devices via Ultralow Organic and Inorganic Photodoping’, is available to download for free from Nature Scientific Reports.