Charge-coupled device

A specially developed CCD in a wire-bonded package used for ultraviolet imaging

A charge-coupled device (CCD) is a device for the movement of electrical charge, usually from within the device to an area where the charge can be manipulated, for example conversion into a digital value. This is achieved by "shifting" the signals between stages within the device one at a time. CCDs move charge between capacitive bins in the device, with the shift allowing for the transfer of charge between bins.

In recent years CCD has become a major technology for digital imaging. In a CCD image sensor, pixels are represented by p-doped metal-oxide-semiconductors (MOS) capacitors. These capacitors are biased above the threshold for inversion when image acquisition begins, allowing the conversion of incoming photons into electron charges at the semiconductor-oxide interface; the CCD is then used to read out these charges. Although CCDs are not the only technology to allow for light detection, CCD image sensors are widely used in professional, medical, and scientific applications where high-quality image data are required. In applications with less exacting quality demands, such as consumer and professional digital cameras, active pixel sensors, also known as complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors (CMOS) are generally used; the large quality advantage CCDs enjoyed early on has narrowed over time.


George E. Smith and Willard Boyle, 2009

The charge-coupled device was invented in 1969 in the United States at AT&T Bell Labs by Willard Boyle and George E. Smith.[1] The lab was working on semiconductor bubble memory when Boyle and Smith conceived of the design of what they termed, in their notebook, "Charge 'Bubble' Devices".[2] The device could be used as a shift register. The essence of the design was the ability to transfer charge along the surface of a semiconductor from one storage capacitor to the next. The concept was similar in principle to the bucket-brigade device (BBD), which was developed at U.S. Patent 4,085,456) on the application of CCDs to imaging was assigned to Michael Tompsett.[3]

The initial paper describing the concept[4] listed possible uses as a memory, a delay line, and an imaging device. The first experimental device[5] demonstrating the principle was a row of closely spaced metal squares on an oxidized silicon surface electrically accessed by wire bonds.

The first working CCD made with integrated circuit technology was a simple 8-bit shift register.[6] This device had input and output circuits and was used to demonstrate its use as a shift register and as a crude eight pixel linear imaging device. Development of the device progressed at a rapid rate. By 1971, Bell researchers led by Michael Tompsett were able to capture images with simple linear devices.[7] Several companies, including Fairchild Semiconductor, RCA and Texas Instruments, picked up on the invention and began development programs. Fairchild's effort, led by ex-Bell researcher Gil Amelio, was the first with commercial devices, and by 1974 had a linear 500-element device and a 2-D 100 x 100 pixel device. Steven Sasson, an electrical engineer working for Kodak, invented the first digital still camera using a Fairchild 100 x 100 CCD in 1975.[8] The first KH-11 KENNEN reconnaissance satellite equipped with charge-coupled device array (800 x 800 pixels)[9] technology for imaging was launched in December 1976.[10] Under the leadership of Kazuo Iwama, Sony also started a large development effort on CCDs involving a significant investment. Eventually, Sony managed to mass-produce CCDs for their camcorders. Before this happened, Iwama died in August 1982; subsequently, a CCD chip was placed on his tombstone to acknowledge his contribution.[11]

In January 2006, Boyle and Smith were awarded the National Academy of Engineering Charles Stark Draper Prize,[12] and in 2009 they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics,[13] for their invention of the CCD concept. Michael Tompsett was awarded the 2010 National Medal of Technology and Innovation for pioneering work and electronic technologies including the design and development of the first charge coupled device (CCD) imagers. He was also awarded the 2012 IEEE Edison Medal "For pioneering contributions to imaging devices including CCD Imagers, cameras and thermal imagers".

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