Innovations in emerging image sensors

30 January 2023

The new IDTechEx report, ‘Emerging Image Sensor Technologies 2023-2033: Applications and Markets’, explores a range of image sensing technologies capable of resolutions and wavelength detection far beyond what is currently attainable.

Many of these emerging technologies are expected to make waves within numerous sectors, including chemical sensing and food inspection, among others. 

Conventional CMOS detectors for visible light are prevalent within robotics, industrial image inspection, and consumer electronics; however, there is extensive opportunity for more complex image sensors that offer capabilities beyond that of simply acquiring red, green and blue (RGB) intensity values. Extensive effort is currently being devoted to developing emerging image sensor technologies that can detect aspects of light beyond the visible range into the short-wave infrared (SWIR, 1000nm – 2000 nm) range. Extending wavelength detection into the SWIR range presents many benefits as it enables the differentiation of objects and materials that appear visually similar or identical within the visible range. This substantially improves recognition accuracy and paves the way for better and more functional image sensing.

An  important trend is the development of cheaper alternatives to costly InGaAs sensors for imaging in the short-wave infrared (SWIR, 1000 – 2000 nm) spectral region, which will open this capability to a much wider range of applications. 

There are several competitive emerging non-InGaAs SWIR technologies. These include hybrid image sensors where an additional light-absorbing thin film layer made of organic semiconductors or quantum dots is placed on top of a CMOS read-out circuit to increase the wavelength detection range into the SWIR region. Another technology is extended-range silicon, where the properties of silicon are modified to extend the absorption range beyond its bandgap limitations. Currently dominated by expensive InGaAs sensors, these new approaches promise a substantial price reduction, and that is expected to encourage the adoption of SWIR imaging for new applications such as autonomous vehicles.

In addition to imaging over a broader spectral range, further innovations include imaging over a larger area, acquiring spectral data at each pixel, and simultaneously increasing temporal resolution and dynamic range. On this front, a promising technology is event-based vision. With conventional frame-based imaging, a high temporal resolution produces vast amounts of data that requires computationally intensive processing. Event-based vision resolves this challenge by presenting a completely new way of thinking about obtaining optical information, in which each sensor pixel reports timestamps that correspond to intensity changes. As such, event-based vision can combine greater temporal resolution of rapidly changing image regions with much-reduced data transfer and subsequent processing requirements.

Another promising innovation is the increasing miniaturisation and conformality of sensor technology, making it easier than ever to integrate a sensor into a robotic arm, industrial inspection machinery, or consumer electronics. 

To find out more about this new IDTechEx report, including downloadable sample pages, please visit

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