Francesco Pessolano, NVISION programme manager at IMEC, gave an interesting presentation at IMEC’s Technology Forum earlier this week in which he detailed IMEC’s vision for the future of digital optics.
“We are going to replace optics, where we use light as an analogue signal, with chips where we use light as a digital signal,” he said.
Pessolano pointed out that there is more light reflected from objects than the eye sees, just outside the visible part of the spectrum in the IR or UV bands. If a sensor could record the entire spectrum of light reflected from an object, it could tell what the object is made from, since the curve would be a function of the material from which the light is coming. A hyperspectral camera, capturing an entire spectrum of reflected light, could potentially be used in the food industry to distinguish bad foods from fresh and even in the healthcare sector for tasks like tumour detection. Due to the size and expense of constructing such a system using classical precision optics, it’s currently only used by NASA.
Moving away from classic ‘analogue’ optics, Pessolano said it would be possible to construct a hyperspectral camera using a digital optical sensor to produce a faster, smaller and cheaper version. IMEC is developing a prototype of such a system (pictured) which he said would be ready around the end of 2011 and demoed publically in January 2012.