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[Eurostars 2] A Korean company is looking for an R&D partner to develop thermal imaging sensor for mobile devices employing micro thermopile technology

Country of Origin: South Korea
Reference Number: RDKR20180626001
Publication Date: 26 June 2018


A Korean MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical System) sensor company with its own MEMS fab developed a high sensitivity micro-thermopile that detects medium / far infrared ray between 2.5um~25um. The company is expanding its competitive micro-thermopile technology to develop low-cost 4,800-channel far infrared thermal imaging sensors for mobile phones and is looking for a joint development partner in Europe with low-noise analog technology. It is aiming to apply for the Eurostars 2 in September 2018.


The core technology of the 4th industrial revolution is IoT (Internet of Things). IoT products at home turn the light on and off automatically and the car can drive itself to work while the passenger checks his/her daily schedule/pattern. IoT products like these require MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical System) sensor. It is an integrated system of mechanical and electro-mechanical devices and structures. Also, it is manufactured using micro fabrication techniques. A MEMS device consists of 3 dimensional properties which sense and manipulate any physical or chemical property.

In 2012, a Korean MEMS sensor company with its own MEMS fab developed a high sensitivity micro-thermopile (electronic device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy) detecting medium / far infrared ray between 2.5um~25um. The company's micro-thermopiles have an average SNR (signal to noise ratio) which is five times higher than conventional silicon thermopiles. The 4,800-pixel thermal imaging sensor can be mounted on a mobile phone.

The company is an OEM manufacturer of sensor module for mobile phone companies. Their client would like to mass-produce the phone with its module height less than 5mm and its price less than $ 10.

With this target, the Korean MEMS sensor company has been currently carrying out the 1st term of development for the thermal imaging sensors. The company has not been able to achieve the NETD (Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference) target, which is a measure for how well a thermal imaging detector is able to distinguish between very small differences in thermal radiation in the image. This was due to a weak analog technology among the integrated circuit used for reading detectors of a particular type (Readout Integrated Circuit, ROIC).

To solve this problem the company is looking for analog ROIC design company with low noise amplifier and ADC (Analog-to-Digital Converter) technology. When an analog input, such as a video, is sent to a computer, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is required to change the analog format to the digital one so the computer can process the data. After the development, the ROIC design company will receive royalty from the sales of mobile phone. The local copyright can be also divided between two companies.

The target of R&D is compliance with national performance standards and related guidelines. The target performance is as below:
1) NETD (Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference): 50mK
2) Pixel size: under 50um
3) Module height: under 5mm
4) Price of module: under $10

The estimated period of the project is two years. The company is aiming to submit a proposal for Eurostars 2 in September 2018. EOIs will be accepted until the early August 2018.

Advantages and Innovations

- A major thermal camera company from the US has 4,800-pixel thermal imaging sensor which is priced at $ 80.  Although the quality is good, its price is too high for mobile implementation. 
- Thus, a Korean MEMS device company is planning to make 4,800-pixel thermal imaging sensor product with the European partner for mobile phones and surveillance camera products priced around $ 8. The company has successfully developed and tested technology for micro-thermopile, lens, package except for the ROIC (Readout Integrated Circuit)

- With a thermal imaging sensor mounted on a mobile phone, the user can always check the temperature around him/her. Thus, "Safety on Hands" function can be realized anywhere

- By pioneering the market for low-cost thermal imaging sensors, the existing surveillance camera market will be revolutionized. It will be possible to detect an intruder in a dark environment even without a separate light source by using low-priced thermal camera models.

Stage Of Development

Project in negotiations - urgent

Requested partner

- Type of partner sought: company

- Specific area of activity of the partner: Electronics / ICT/ IC (integrated circuit) semiconductor design company

- Task to be performed: joint development of thermal imaging sensor with the Korean company (Analog IC (ROIC) chip design)

Cooperation offer ist closed for requests