Integrated Direct Electron Imaging Sensors
Background: Conventional charged particle imaging sensors use film and charged couple device (CCD). CCD has poor radiation tolerance and records images indirectly while the film is an analog recorder, unsuitable for high throughput digital imaging. What is needed then, is a direct, digital imaging sensor for high throughput digital imaging. Technology: University of CA researchers have developed a CMOS sensor dedicated to and optimized for direct imaging in electron microscopy. The invention is a new type of sensors that can directly detect charged particles such as electrons. The charged particles carrying structural information are registered directly in the pixel array and processed by on-chip circuitry, yielding high resolution images. It is a "direct imaging" camera in that it forms images using the transmitted electrons without an intermediate conversion to photons. The latter is required by current CCD imaging systems, and the needed phosphorescent screen reduces performance by scattering light, etc. This direct imaging CMOS device thus is superior. Further, its noise and spatial resolution figures are up to 10 times higher than competing indirect CCD/CMOS imaging systems.
Our invention is different from the prior art in that it makes use of CMOS cameras based on active pixel sensor (APS) arrays to directly record signal electrons: 1) target 2) electrons 3) digital image. As a result of direct electron detection, both image resolution and imaging speed is improved substantially.
The proposed devices are a new type of integrated sensors that can produce high resolution images in digital form by directly registering charged particles such as electrons. This novel sensor has important implications in studying biological matter since it can be utilized in conjunction with electron microscopy to analyze objects ranging from atomic scale building block to cells and tissue. In particular, this breakthrough may enable a dramatic reduction in the time and cost of performing protein structure analysis for drug discovery by eliminating the need for protein crystallization while at the same time allowing a wider range of protein molecular weights to be analyzed. Application: The proposed use for the invention includes, but is not limited to, image sensor for electron microscopy (transmission electron microscopes, scanning transmission electron microscopes, cryo-transmission electron microscopes).
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