Imaging, imaging, everywhere…
I am on the journey home from Dresden after attending a 5-day training course run by CEI Europe. I have learned about pinned photodiodes, modulation transfer functions, blooming, and a host of other topics.
The course started with a brief overview of semiconductor physics, and a history of image sensor development punctuated with personal anecdotes from someone whose career has spanned the full lifetime of this technology. Delivered in a confident, quirky manner with an impressive range of vocal sound effects, our course tutor, Dr Albert Theuwissen gives you the reassurance that you are listening to someone who seriously knows his stuff.
I have known Albert for years, but I have never had the opportunity to experience his teaching first hand and it’s clear why he’s earned his reputation as ‘best in class’.
In attendance were engineers from a movie camera company, an automotive Tier 1, a security camera company, a research institute, a medical imaging company, a laptop manufacturer, and finally a sensor design house. And me, an event organiser. The venue was well located, with an agreeable room rate exclusive to the organisers, and very comfortable (once I had figured out how to adjust the bedroom temperature control)!
The group were quiet to begin with, but by Day 2 the conversations flowed, oiled by shared lunches and perhaps shared anecdotes over last night’s informal drinks. I estimate that only half of the group will directly employ their learnings when they return to the office, but to consider that a criticism that would miss the point – it’s all about context. Several in the room, similar to myself, work with and have daily exposure to cameras (it’s hard to avoid puns in this field), but have not had the need to delve into core image sensor science.
My physics teacher always used to tell me, “What I’m teaching you is actually obsolete now, but you need to learn it anyway.” In the same way, Albert tells us that many of the early lecture slides cover CCD technology, which has largely been replaced by CMOS in mainstream applications. However, he also tells us that the latest CMOS sensors are akin to “miniature CCDs in each pixel of a CMOS sensor”.
Technology it seems, just like music and fashion, comes around in cycles and as in many technical professions, you can’t manipulate the start-of-the-art without mastering the basics.
Imaging, imaging, everywhere…
In my new role as Chair of the IEEE-SA working group on automotive image quality, I am keen to augment my knowledge of digital imaging systems. This week has certainly been useful in that regard, but I would like to come back to my original point: Digital imaging is literally everywhere. Cameras are present in almost every aspect of our lives, they are the digital eyes of tomorrow’s technology.
Whatever your application field, in attending this course you’ll learn a whole lot from Albert, not least about Neil Young’s back catalogue and other rock’n’roll songs with appropriately ‘punny’ titles!
All modern imaging systems, whether you are talking about a car, a CT scanner, a mobile phone or a surveillance satellite, are complex. But at their heart are semiconductor image sensors that share many characteristics.
The biggest feeling I’m taking away with me is wonder – That such a diverse cohort of professionals base their various unrelated industrial careers on such a similar core technology. That really is indicative of how digital imaging has pervaded so many aspects of modern life.
CEI Europe has been running advanced technical courses for professionals for over 30 years – you can find out more here: www.cei.se