In order to achieve high sensitivity for low-light-level CMOS image sensors (CIS), a capacitive transimpedance amplifier (CTIA) pixel circuit with a small integration capacitor is used. As the pixel and the column area are highly constrained, it is difficult to achieve analog correlated double sampling (CDS) to remove the noise for low-light-level CIS. So a digital CDS is adopted, which realizes the subtraction algorithm between the reset signal and pixel signal off-chip. The pixel reset noise and part of the column fixed-pattern noise (FPN) can be greatly reduced. A 256×256 CIS with CTIA array and digital CDS is implemented in the 0.35μm CMOS technology. The chip size is 7.7mm×6.75mm, and the pixel size is 15μm×15μm with a fill factor of 20.6%. The measured pixel noise is 24LSB with digital CDS in RMS value at dark condition, which shows 7.8× reduction compared to the image sensor without digital CDS. Running at 7fps, this low-light-level CIS can capture recognizable images with the illumination down to 0.1lux.
An incremental sigma-delta ADC is designed for column-parallel ADC array in CMOS image sensor. Sigma-delta modulator with single-loop single-bit structure is chosen for power consumption and performance reasons. Second-order modulator is used to reduce conversion time, without stability problem and large area accompanied by higher order sigma-delta modulator. The asymmetric current mirror amplifier used in integrator reduces more than 30% power dissipation. The digital filter and decimator are implemented by counters and adders with significantly reduced chip area and power consumption. A Clock generator is shared by 8 ADCs for trade-off among power, area and clock loading. The ADC array is implemented in a 0.18-μm CMOS technology and clocked at 10 MHz, and the simulated resolution achieves 15-bit with 255 clock cycles. The average power consumption per ADC is 118 μW including clock generator, and the area is only 0.0053 μm2.
CMOS image sensors (CIS) have lower power consumption, lower cost and smaller size than CCD image sensors. However, generally CCDs have higher performance than CIS mainly due to lower noise. The pixel circuit used in CIS is the first part of the signal processing circuit and connected to photodiode directly, so its performance will greatly affect the CIS or even the whole imaging system. To achieve high performance, CMOS image sensors need advanced pixel circuits. There are many pixel circuits used in CIS, such as passive pixel sensor (PPS), 3T and 4T active pixel sensor (APS), capacitive transimpedance amplifier (CTIA), and passive pixel sensor (PPS). At first, the main performance parameters of each pixel structure including the noise, injection efficiency, sensitivity, power consumption, and stability of bias voltage are analyzed. Through the theoretical analysis of those pixel circuits, it is concluded that CTIA pixel circuit has good noise performance, high injection efficiency, stable photodiode bias, and high sensitivity with small integrator capacitor. Furthermore, the APS and CTIA pixel circuits are simulated in a standard 0.18-μm CMOS process and using a n-well/p-sub photodiode by SPICE and the simulation result confirms the theoretical analysis result. It shows the possibility that CMOS image sensors can be extended to a wide range of applications requiring high performance.