Some of you may remember this article that I wrote a while back in which I touched on the benefits of capturing wide-spectrum light rays with photographic sensors, and while I haven't seen anything about single-pixel detectors hitting the consumer market anytime soon, I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll soon be able to see some of these benefits anyway with the help of one of the lightest industrial materials on earth - Graphene!
A team of researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, with the help of a $200,000 grant has developed a camera sensor using Graphene which is - according to them, 1000x more sensitive than current pixel-based light sensor technology due to its ability to capture and hold light-generated electron particles from wavelengths beyond the visible spectrum. In laymen's terms, it "sees" a lot more light than our eyes can, and therefor can produce much cleaner images at higher ISO settings.
(Photo credit: Nanyang Technological University)
According to research team leader, Assistant Prof. Wang Qijie, the sensor has been developed with current manufacturing methods in mind, and can be built using the CMOS process which is already used to make the sensors that we see in our cameras today. While we often hear about technology that could, theoretically lead to innovation in the photographic industry - I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll actually be seeing these on the market in the not too distant future.
So, what does this mean to photographers? While I can't compare this to the jump from film to digital, its still huge - especially if you're someone who frequently has to shoot in low light. I guess the question is then, how big of a difference will these actually make? On that point all I can do is speculate. While they say it will amount to 1000x efficiency I highly doubt we'll see the next generation of DSLR's with ISO 100,000,000... I can't think of any new technology that's actually lived up to it's claims of potential in its first appearance in the consumer market whether it's due to manufacturing limitations, cost-cutting measures, or plans to increase the capabilities in stages for maximum profit. What I can tell you, is when this does come to market shooting at ISO 6400, 12800, and even higher won't be considered a last resort anymore.
Outside of traditional photographic purposes, there is also hope that this technology can be used to improve security systems, satellite imaging, and infrared detection.