Infrared Imagers Using Colloidal Quantum Dots

QDIR is developing high-resolution thermal imaging sensors for system integrators serving defense and industrial markets. Our mission is to eliminate cost as a barrier to infrared technology by leveraging solution processing techniques and colloidal quantum dots to fundamentally change how infrared focal plane arrays are manufactured at scale. QDIR’s advanced material platform and patent pending sensor design will enable us to offer high-performance sensors at a lower cost to ensure national security, monitor industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance the safety of autonomous vehicles.

Critical Need for this Technology

Infrared images provide information complementary to and distinct from a visible image. Though a shortwave infrared image can look like a visible image having much of the same detail and spatial information, it can also differentiate based on material chemistries and, for objects hotter than 200oC, measure thermal information about the object in the scene. In addition, shortwave infrared can operate under low-light and low-visibility situations critical to both military and commercial applications in transportation and security.

Despite the many potential applications for shortwave infrared technology and its importance today for national defense, telecommunications, and research, infrared imaging systems remain prohibitively expensive, pricing out potential end users. The major limitation to the broader adoption and application of this technology is high cost of the detector array in the camera that captures the light to create an image. These imaging arrays are made from unique semiconductor alloys of either indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) or mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe), which are expensive to produce and complex to integrate with moderate- to high-resolution silicon readout electronics. QDIR is addressing a need shared by infrared camera equipment manufacturers for affordable and high-resolution shortwave infrared imagers.

Potential CO2 Reduction

Black products account for approximately 15% of material in the plastic recycling stream, but this material is not recycled because conventional plastic sorting technologies are not sensitive to the black pigments. QDIR’s technology can solve this problem. Increased recycling of black plastics would reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to the lower emissions intensity of producing plastic from recycled feedstock than from virgin feedstock.

Black plastic landfilling accounts for approximately 21 MtCO2e each year. Using QDIR’s technology to capture and recycle this material could save approximately 50% of these emissions.

Competition

  • The main competition are the well-established industry incumbents: for example, FLIR, Sensors Unlimited, Hamamatsu, Teledyne, Raytheon. These companies deliver high-end shortwave infrared technologies and have strong positions in the current market with ties to military and commercial customers. They rely on molecular beam epitaxial grown of indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs) and mercury cadmium telluride (HgCdTe) followed by flip-chip indium bump hybridization to silicon readout electronics.
  • Emerging low-cost alternative technologies such as SWIR Vision Systems, Emberion, and Trieye have also come onto the shortwave infrared market, targeting cost-sensitive markets and offering high-resolution imaging capabilities. These technologies rely on either PbS colloidal quantum dots (Emberion, SWIR Vision Systems) or metal-Silicon Schottky junction (Trieye).

Potential Markets

QDIR is targeting first the machine vision market, focusing on applications in agriculture, recycling, and non-destructive inspection of glasses and semiconductor materials. Specifically, QDIR is speaking with product managers, application engineers, and VP’s of engineering at equipment manufacturing companies who have expressed a need for cost-effective, high-resolution infrared imaging arrays.

Value proposition: QDIR’s infrared imagers deliver cost saving and high-resolution imaging in agreement with the needs of potential customers. QDIR also offers the added value of full shortwave infrared coverage while having high quantum efficiencies (or a high percentage of light detected). QDIR has validated its value proposition most confidently with machine vision product engineers but believes it is also valuable and necessary for emerging applications of video surveillance, night vision, advanced unmanned aerial vehicles, driver assistance, and autonomous transportation.

Key Innovation

Our team has developed a key chemical processing technique complementary to HgTe colloidal quantum dots that is critical for the fabrication of high-quality infrared photodiodes.

R & D Status of Project

From 2018 to 2020 at the University of Chicago, our team demonstrated infrared photodetection on single pixel detectors with performance approaching commercial infrared photodetector technologies. The work was peer reviewed, published, and a patent application was filed in 2019. At CRI, we will translate the results into scalable processes for the production of infrared imaging arrays.

Team Overview

Co-Founder and CEO

Matthew Ackerman

Ph.D. and M.S. in physical chemistry from the University of Chicago and B.S. in Chemistry from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. During his Ph.D., he made key contributions to the development of HgTe quantum dot photodiodes for infrared detection in both the shortwave and mid-wave infrared spectral regions.

Co-Founder and Advisor

Philippe Guyot-Sionnest

Professor of Chemistry and Physics, James Franck Institute, University of Chicago. Philippe is an expert in the spectroscopy and photophysics of materials and a leader in the field of infrared colloidal quantum dots.

Technology Profile

Status: R&D
Primary industry: Machine Vision/Industrial
Category: Infrared/Optoelectronics/Semiconductor

Estimated annual revenue: N/A
Employs: N/A
Social challenge: Advanced manufacturing
R&D commercial collaborator: N/A

Latest News

See All
  • 5 clean energy startups chosen for Argonne’s Chain Reaction Innovations

    Cutting-edge startups embed at Argonne to develop innovative technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen emerging U.S. energy technologies. Aerial view of Argonne. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.) Seven new innovators will join Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP) … Read More

  • UChicago Spinout Super.tech Acquired by Quantum Ecosystem Leader ColdQuanta

    Originally published May 10, 2022, by UChicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation A University of Chicago quantum software spinout and Duality Cohort 1 participant, Super.tech has been acquired by the global quantum ecosystem leader, ColdQuanta. Super.tech is embedded in Argonne National Laboratory’s Chain Reaction Innovations program and … Read More

  • Finalists Chosen for CRI's Cohort 6

    Eighteen individuals comprising 15 startups advanced to the Finals pitch competition to join Chain Reaction Innovations’ Cohort 6. A broad range of energy innovations are represented in this year’s applicants, including energy storage, circular economy, quantum information systems, manufacturing, materials and renewable energy. CRI focused … Read More

  • Semi-finalists Chosen for Cohort 6

    Thirty-two individuals comprising 28 startups were chosen to advance to the semi-finals and compete to join Chain Reaction Innovations’ Cohort 6. A broad range of energy innovations are represented in this year’s applicants, including energy storage and generation, water, decarbonization, circular economy, quantum, manufacturing, and … Read More

  • Chain Reaction Innovations Team Recognized by UChicago Board of Governors

    Chain Reaction Innovations’ (CRI) leadership team was recently recognized by the UChicago Argonne Board of Governors with a Distinguished Performance Award. The Award is given annually to honor lab achievements and celebrate their impact, thereby strengthening the core values of Argonne National Laboratory. The Distinguished … Read More