Infrared Imagers Using Colloidal Quantum Dots

QDIR is developing infrared imagers using colloidal quantum dots to reduce the price of high-resolution infrared imaging and alleviate the price barrier to its use in automation, surveillance, and transportation markets. QDIR leverages the advanced manufacturing opportunity of colloidal quantum dots for the scalable production of infrared imaging linear and area arrays.

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.

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