New graphene sensor could make low-light photos stand out

Researchers over at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore may have developed the key to low-light photography after two years of research. It's an ultra-light sensitive sensor and it's made with graphene.

Graphene is a versatile, atom thick, layer of carbon arranged in a honeycomb lattice. The material is capable of conducting electricity faster than anything else known to man and is both the strongest and thinnest  material in the world.

With those properties, graphene can be used to create a variety of objects, from cheap and efficient solar panels to high-quality headphones. The material is difficult to manufacture for now, but future advances in manufacturing technology is expected to make the material widely available.

And that manufacturing technology may come sooner than previously thought: it also turns out that graphene is one of the best materials out there capable of trapping a broad spectrum of light - from visible to mid-infrared - for a longer period of time than most sensors today. Being able to do this, Science Daily reports, allows a graphene sensor to produce a clearer photo in low-light situations.

This new graphene-powered sensor is 1,000 times more effective at capturing light than traditional sensors, like CMOS or CCD sensors, while using ten times as less energy.

"We have shown that it is now possible to create cheap, sensitive and flexible photo sensors from graphene alone," Assistant Professor Wang Qijie, the inventor of the Graphene sensor, from NTU's School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, said in an interview with Science Daily. "We expect our innovation will have great impact not only on the consumer imaging industry, but also in satellite imaging and communication industries, as well as the mid-infrared applications."

Initial applications for the new sensor range from satellite surveillance to traffic cameras, though researchers are looking for industry collaborators to put the new sensor into a commercial product. Production of the sensor shouldn't be too difficult to implement, as Professor Wang said his research team kept current manufacturing practices for CMOS sensors in mind while designing graphene sensor.

When graphene sensors do eventually reach mass market point-and-shoot cameras, don't expect to break the bank: the sensor, reports CNET, will be five times cheaper than its nearest competition once it hits mass production.

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