Samsung ISOCELL 2.0 could cram more pixels into an image sensor

Before becoming a brand in its own right, Samsung’s ISOCELL was first a new type of image sensor technology that aimed to resolve color crosstalk between pixels in a standard Backside Illuminated (BSI) sensor used in nearly every digital cameras, including those of smartphones. It’s proven to be very successful, at least according to Samsung, and it’s now taken to the next level with ISOCELL 2.0. This new iteration promises not only to improve light absorption but, in the long run, to also allow smaller pixels to be packed in larger quantities onto the same sensor size.

Color crosstalk occurs when light bleeds between adjacent pixels. ISOCELL corrected this by isolating each pixel “cell”, hence its name, with metal barriers between each. While it worked, for the most part the metallic material also absorbed light that never reached the sensor below. As a result, only a percentage of the light passing through the pixels is actually used to produce an image.

Samsung first solved this problem by changing the metal barrier to a new material with its ISOCELL Plus upgrade. However, this still left the lower part of the barrier using the same metal material, which is now fixed with ISOCELL 2.0. This has been replaced with a newer, more reflective surface which further reduces light waste. In short, each cell is able to deliver more light than it absorbs, which increases the light sensitivity of the sensor.

Since each pixel can now collect even more light than before, it can be scaled down while delivering the same amount of data as its larger ISOCELL 1.0 predecessors. Smaller pixels mean more pixels can be crammed into an image sensor of the same size, increasing the number of pixels and increasing the amount of light that can be captured without increasing sensor size.

Samsung’s image sensors already boast some of the highest pixel counts in the industry, with a 108MP sensor already in distribution. ISOCELL 2.0 could hint that the company is planning to go even further, perhaps make it another numbers game when it comes to smartphone cameras.

Michael C. Garrison