Sony stacks CMOS image sensor pixel structures and chips

January 23, 2012 – JCN Newswire — Sony Corp. has developed a next-generation backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS image sensor (CIS) that layers the pixel section with back-illuminated structures over the chips containing signal processing circuits, instead of using supporting substrates. The result is a denser, higher-performance, smaller-form-factor BSI CIS for smartphone cameras and other applications.

Conventional CMOS image sensors package the pixel section and analog logic circuit on top of the same chip, which require numerous constraints when wishing to mount the large-scale circuits — circuit scaling and chip size, suppressing the noise caused by the layout of the pixel and circuit sections, and optimizing the characteristics of pixels and circuit transistors. Sony’s stacked packaging structure layers the pixel section containing formations of back-illuminated structure pixels over the chip affixed with mounted circuits for signal processing, which eliminates the supporting substrates used in conventional BSI CIS. In the stacked structure, large-scale circuits can now be mounted, keeping small chip sizes. Since the pixel section and circuit section are formed as independent chips, a manufacturing process can be adopted that enables the pixel section to be specialized for higher image quality while the circuit section can be specialized for higher functionality. Faster signal processing and lower power consumption can also be achieved through the use of leading processes for manufacturing the chip containing the circuits.

Features of stacked CMOS image sensor:
- Large-scale signal processing circuits required for higher image quality and better functionality are built-in
- More compact image sensor chip size
- Even higher image quality of the pixel section by adopting manufacturing processes specialized for superior image quality
- Faster speeds and lower power consumption by adopting the leading process for the circuit section

More sophisticated cameras in consumer electronics like smartphones enable a wider range of scene capture. In addition to the higher pixel numbers, superior image quality and faster speeds than conventional image sensors, this Sony stacked image sensor technology enables highly advanced functionalities and a more compact size.

Also read: CMOS image sensors overrun CCD for digital cameras

Sony has developed a model with built-in signal processing functionality, an element that usually requires external embedment. Samples will be shipped from March 2012. Models have been developed with Sony’s "RGBW Coding" function for low noise, high quality image capture even in low light condition, and "HDR (High Dynamic Range) Movie" function for brilliant color images in bright light.

Planned product launches:

- Type 1/4 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with approx. 8.0 effective megapixels (equipped with camera signal processing function). Sample shipments planned for March 2012.

- Type 1/3.06 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with approx. 13.0 effective megapixels (equipped with "RGBW Coding" and "HDR Movie" functions). Sample shipments planned for June 2012.

- Type 1/4 Stacked CMOS Image Sensor with approx. 8.0 effective megapixels (equipped with "RGBW Coding" and "HDR Movie" functions). Sample shipments planned for August 2012.

Sony Corporation is a leading manufacturer of audio, video, game, communications, key device and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets. Sony Global Web Site: http://www.sony.net/

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