Ximea and imec co-operate to commercialise miniature hyperspectral imaging camera

June 04, 2014 // By Graham Prophet
Belgian nanoelectronics research centre imec, and Ximea, maker of machine vision systems, are to enter a partnership to integrate imec’s hyperspectral imaging (HSI) sensors together with Ximea’s xiQ USB3.0 camera product line. The partnership will enable new opportunities in multi-spectral and hyperspectral imaging thanks to highly compact and low-weight camera solutions.

Most cameras have developed around the requirement to imitate human vision, and to provide a signal set that can be used to reproduce images/video in as near to the human experience as possible; hence they use red/green/blue sensors and (approximately) confine their range to that of the eye.

Neither is mandated when capturing visual information; the spectrum can be captured in narrower bands, not confined to the three of RGB; and they can extend into the ultraviolet or infrared. This happens in nature – it is established that birds and insects have a very different view of the world to humans, and derive information not available to us.

Hyperspectral imaging does exactly that, using sensors that have responses at selected wavelengths, and filters that select narrow spectral bands. Such cameras can tap new sources of information on agriculture – such as crop growth and health – or natural resources surveying. As such, they can be carried on vehicles such as UAVs ('drones') so weight and power are critical. Imec has been developing technology in which this capability is effected by nanoscale processing, at wafer level. This brings all the potential of integration and miniaturisation to the design of such cameras. Exceptional interoperability between camera and sensor's technology streamlined the success of the integration with the Ximea platform.

Ximea is now incorporating imec HSI sensors into its 27-grams compact XiQ cameras.

“Combining imec's hyperspectral sensor with Ximea's compact xiQ cameras is a new milestone for us. The high-speed USB3.0 interface includes power supply over USB that removes the need for expensive and bulky frame-grabbers and separate power supplies. It will enable our partners to design and mass-produce extremely compact hyperspectral imaging camera solutions” stated Andy Lambrechts, program manager for imaging & vision systems at imec.

By applying narrow-band spectral filters at pixel-level using semiconductor thin-film processing, imec’s technology enables hyperspectral image sensor solutions with extreme compactness, low weight, high reliability and