Using Graphene to Improve SWIR Imager Market

A Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) program, ran by a European Innovation Council, has approved three graphene companies to produce a graphene-based imager that uses graphene-on-wafer technology – the G-Imager.


The G-Imager uses short-wave infrared (SWIR) detection for use in hyperspectral surveillance and imaging, semiconductor analysis, sorting and more. It is expected that the market size for cameras that use SWIR technology is as large as $1 billion.

The biggest obstacle towards a wider uptake of SWIR imaging systems is the prohibitive cost of SWIR detectors, which are currently based on InGaAs semiconductors. These semiconductors are difficult to manufacture; making them an expensive, yet nonetheless essential, component in SWIR technology.

To solve this problem Graphenea Semiconductor SL, AMO GmbH and Emberion Oy are developing the G-Imager. The G-Imager will be cheaper to manufacture than existing technologies allowing the market size for SWIR detectors to grow.

The G-Imager will be based on the coupling of a graphene channel to light-absorbing nanocrystals – a pairing which has already been shown to work. The graphene’s high conductivity means it acts as an efficient charge transporter towards the detector, and the crystals strongly absorb light and convert it into charge to provide a high sensitivity to SWIR radiation.

Advantages of the G-Imager

Besides the reduction in cost that the G-Imager provides it does not need cooling to function, has a large spectral and dynamic range, works at low noise and has an adjustable resolution. These advantages mean that the G-Imager is expected to be a popular addition to the market following the close of the 24 month project.

The business case for the G-Imager is clear. Vendors of SWIR detectors know that there is a huge potential in this area of the market with the price of current technologies acting as a barrier towards wider uptake.

To develop the G-Imager the project team needs to mature the technology. The main challenge is to ensure that the production process yield adheres to at least 85% of the industry quality standards. In addition, the technology readiness rating must be increased to level 8 and the production method must be successfully scaled in order to meet the volumes required.

Graphenea is going to scale up their production of 200 mm graphene-on-wafers to a production level of 10,000 wafers per year. An important goal for the project is to integrate graphene-on-wafer production to existing semiconductor processing methods as this will allow the G-Imager to be produced at high-volume semiconductor plants such as AMO GmBH’s foundry.

AMO is working on a novel ‘graphene device foundry service’ to scale up their photodetector production. Establishing rules for the parameters and design methods of graphene processing will reduce the time required to develop graphene devices that operate via similar principles.

Production of the SWIR detector will be completed at Emberion, where the deposition and patterning of photosensitive materials onto the graphene-on-chip system will be used to produce the VGA resolution imager. Finalization of the G-Imager will involve encapsulating, dicing and packaging the final system before integration into the Emberion’s camera core.

The project will deliver an economical, high-performance VIS-SWIR camera that will open the technology to new applications in the fields of machine and night vision, thus resulting in greater sales volumes.

Machine vision is used for quality control purposes, such as in the food industry where it is used to evaluate food quality throughout the entire supply chain, i.e. ‘from field to fork’, whereas night vision is used in surveillance such as at borders or for search and rescue operations in the wilderness or at sea.

The project team is going to work together and expect their total net income to increase over the next four years to 60M€.

Fast Track to Innovation Program

The European Commission’s Fast Track to Innovation (FTI) program is a bottom-up innovation program to encourage close-to-market innovation by industrial groups. The program assists partners in developing breakthroughs which either open up new markets or revolutionize existing ones under the guidance of the European Innovation Council (EIC) pilot.

This project has benefited from funding from the 2020 research and innovation program of the EU under grant agreement No 820591.

About Graphenea Semiconductor SL

Graphenea Semiconductor SL is an offshoot from Graphenea, an established graphene producer, started in 2010 following backing by Repsol. Graphenea is based at the CIC nanoGune nanotechnology cluster in San Sebastian, Spain with a US base at the MIT campus in Cambridge, MA Boston. The company has grown to be one of the world’s largest graphene suppliers.

Graphenea’s 22 members of staff work on exporting graphene to more than 600 customers, based in 55 countries. Graphenea’s expert lab team have enhanced graphene production technologies, allowing Graphenea to consistently push the limits of graphene quality.

Graphenea produces graphene oxide and CVD graphene wafers, whilst also working alongside other multinational companies to develop unique application-specific graphene materials.

Graphenea is a core member of the Graphene Flagship program, a 10-year EU project worth a billion euros, thanks to its research speed and versatility in the rapidly expanding field of graphene. Graphenea has good relationships with many of the world’s leading graphene researchers and is a frequent publisher of high-level scientific articles with an established patent portfolio.

About AMO GmbH

AMO GmbH is a German semiconductor company that is focused on research. The company was founded in 1993 with the aim of closing the gap between semiconductor research and the use of semiconductors in industrial applications.

AMO use a high-tech 400 m² cleanroom alongside the most advanced metrology and semiconductor analysis tools available for their ground-breaking research. The company focuses on determining new applications for nanotechnology, such as in photonics, sensors, IT and biotechnology.

AMO’s specific strengths are in the areas of pattern transferring (metallization and dry etching), nano-lithography (UV-nanoimprint, electronic beam lithography and optical beam lithography) and using new materials in silicon CMOS systems.

AMO has been involved in the development of graphene optoelectronics since 2006 and has designed processing technology for the fabrication of graphene devices onto silicon substrates.

About Emberion Oy

Emberion develops high-tech, graphene-based optoelectrical devices, as well as devices that use other nanomaterials, or with their own CMOS integrated circuits. Their most popular systems are IR detectors for use in thermal and VIS-SWIR imaging.

Emberion provides excellent performance at an economical price, enabling infrared imaging to be used in new application areas.

Emberion is a stand-alone offshoot from the R&D lab of Nokia, co-founded by employees and supported by funding from Verso Ventures. The company has operations in Espoo, Finland, and Cambridge, UK, and is a member of the EU’s Graphene Flagship Program.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Graphenea.

For more information on this source, please visit Graphenea.


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