World Premiere for a Disruptive Streak Camera

The S3C-1 integrates a CMOS sensor with 200 fast photodetectors and a matrix to store 200 time samples for each photodetector. (Source: W. Uhring, U. Strasbourg)

SATT Conectus and the German company Optronis have signed an exclusive license for the worldwide exploitation of the innovative solid-state streak camera technology from the French laboratory ICube. This will result in the launch of a new, unique ultrafast camera for research and industry. The first model will be offered to researchers and engineers in August 2020.

A streak camera is a precision instrument that makes it possible to analyze fast phenomena invisible to the naked eye and, ultimately, to optimize them. This type of high-speed camera can be used in industry, science and applied research. Although the technique of streak imaging is well known in the field of high-speed imaging, the models of this type of camera currently on the market have certain limitations. For many uses, they are still particularly fragile and cumbersome, and require a significant purchase cost (100 k€ on average). In this context, the new S3C-1 camera offers a new and totally disruptive alternative.

The new S3C-1 camera solves the constraints of current streak cameras. Technically, it is the first fully integrated solid-state streak camera (S3C) architecture realized in a CMOS technology: the camera no longer requires a very high speed rotating mirror neither an image converter vacuum tube. That makes it much more compact – a 12 cm cube / existing cameras are the size of a oven –, lighter – 2 kg instead of more than 20 kg –, and more robust: perfectly resistant to shocks or intense light, which facilitates its use in extreme technological contexts.

The performance of the S3C-1 camera is first-rate and the temporal definition is close to the nanosecond , says its data sheet. In addition, it has a novel feature: it allows continuous recording and allows to make a recording after an event has occurred. This is very useful for events for which the exact time of triggering is not known, for example in the field of research and test experiments. The instantaneous image acquisition rate exceeds 1 tera pixel/second. This camera should benefit all industrial players in the pharmaceutical, chemical, military, nuclear, physic, micromechanical and pulsed laser processes.

The unique technology of the S3C-1 camera is the result of the scientific excellence of the ICube Laboratory and one of its team, led by Wilfried Uhring. This laboratory has been collaborating for many years with the German company Optronis to refine and develop this technology. In 2011, their research results have been distinguished by the INSIS Institute of the CNRS.

The S3C-1 high-speed camera (Source: Optronis)

Much progress was made towards the crucial prototype stage. This is when the SATT Conectus came into play. Caroline Dreyer, its president, recalls the challenge: “After studying the economic potential of this nascent technology, Conectus decided in 2017 to provide the missing boost: to invest financially to produce the functional prototype of the sensor, the heart of the S3C-1 camera, thus taking a major step towards industrialization. Optronis, for its part, focused on electronics, software and design developments to conceive the complete camera. Today we have come full circle: we have collectively transformed an invention resulting from academic research into a concrete product on the market.”

Michel de Mathelin, director of the ICube Laboratory, adds: “Our heterogeneous systems and microsystems team has been designing ultrafast imaging systems for over thirty years, specializing in streak imaging, which is an imaging technique 100 to 1000 times faster than conventional framing imaging. The extreme performance of these systems has been used extensively for medical imaging research in the laboratory. The original idea of transposing this imaging technique into CMOS technology emerged in 1999 in the ICube laboratory. This new approach makes it possible to integrate practically all the functions of the ultrafast camera into an integrated circuit chip made in a technology similar to that of the smartphones cameras. This makes it a compact, reliable, easy to produce and potentially low-cost camera, while offering additional features such as anti-blooming and post-triggering. It took twenty years of research to come up with an industrial product with world-class performance.”

Patrick Summ, managing director of Optronis, concludes: “We have set ourselves the mission of developing and industrializing the S3C technology. Thanks to the SATT Conectus, we were able to jointly develop this new camera and acquire an exclusive worldwide operating license. We are building on a solid foundation because the technology has already been established by Conectus. This camera brings an unprecedented innovation that should appeal to all those working on the study of rapid physical phenomena. Our ambition is to be able to offer this global innovation at an attractive cost.” (Source: Oxygen RP / Alpha-Omega)

Links: OPTRONIS GmbH, Kehl, GermanyICube Laboratory, project of CNRS, University of Strasbourg, ENGEES, INSA of Strasbourg, FranceSATT CONECTUS, Illkirch, France

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