In this article the development of a newly designed Time-of-Flight (ToF) image sensor for underwater applications is described. The sensor is developed as part of the project UTOFIA (underwater time-of-flight image acquisition) funded by the EU within the Horizon 2020 framework. This project aims to develop a camera based on range gating that extends the visible range compared to conventional cameras by a factor of 2 to 3 and delivers real-time range information by means of a 3D video stream.
The principle of underwater range gating as well as the concept of the image sensor are presented. Based on measurements on a test image sensor a pixel structure that suits best to the requirements has been selected. Within an extensive characterization underwater the capability of distance measurements in turbid environments is demonstrated.
This contribution describes the modeling of CMOS image sensors employed in time-of-flight (ToF) sensor systems for 3D ranging applications. Our model relies on the theoretical description of photo-generation, charge transfer including diffusion, fringing field, and self-induced drift (SID). This method makes it possible to calculate the time-dependent charge carrier generation, transfer, and distribution. The employed approach allows elimination not only of irradiance-dependent charge transfer, but also of undesired reflectance effects, and the influence of ambient light through an in-pixel background measurement. Since the sensor is operated with very short integration times it is crucial to accomplish a fast transfer of the generated charge from the photodetector to the sense node, and speedy conversion into an electrical signal at its output. In our case, we employed a lateral drift field photodetector (LDPD), which is basically a pinned photodiode with a built-in drift field formed by a doping gradient. A novel pixel structure is presented which is optimized for a fast charge transfer by the appliance of the shown model. Numerical calculations predict a two times faster charge collection.
The performance of a fabricated CMOS line sensor based on the lateral drift-field photodiode (LDPD)1 concept is described. A new pixel structure was designed to decrease the charge transfer time across the photoactive area. Synopsys TCAD simulations were performed to design a proper intrinsic lateral drift-field within the pixel. The line sensor was fabricated in the 0.35 μm CMOS technology, and further characterized using a tailored photon-transfer method2 and the EMVA 1288 standard3. The basic parameters such as spectral responsivity, photo-response non-uniformity and dark current were measured at fabricated sensor samples. A special attention was paid to charge transfer time characterization4 and the evaluation of crosstalk between neighboring pixels – two major concerns attained during the development. It is shown that the electro-optical characteristics of the developed line sensor are comparable to those delivered by CCD line sensors available on the market, which are normally superior in performance compared to their CMOS based counterparts, but offering additional features such as the possibility of time gating, non-destructive readout, and charge accumulation over several cycles: approaches used to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of the sensor output.