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Patent Analysis of

Semiconductor image sensor with integrated pixel heating and method of operating a semiconductor image sensor

Updated Time 12 June 2019

Patent Registration Data

Publication Number

US10154215

Application Number

US15/313088

Application Date

21 May 2015

Publication Date

11 December 2018

Current Assignee

AMS AG

Original Assignee (Applicant)

AMS AG

International Classification

H04N5/335,H04N5/378,H04N5/3745,H04N5/365,H01L23/34

Cooperative Classification

H04N5/3745,H01L23/345,H04N5/378,H04N5/3651,H01L27/14643

Inventor

STOCKMEIER, THOMAS,FORSYTH, RICHARD,TROXLER, THOMAS

Patent Images

This patent contains figures and images illustrating the invention and its embodiment.

US10154215 Semiconductor image sensor integrated 1 US10154215 Semiconductor image sensor integrated 2
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Abstract

The semiconductor image sensor comprises a plurality of pixels (1) with photo sensors (2). At least one heater (4) is integrated with the photo sensors and is arranged in at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of at least one of the pixels. An appropriate operation of the heater will increase the temperature of the relevant pixel. Thus it is possible to achieve a local compensation of a temperature difference that may be due to the operation of an integrated readout circuit (3) or any other integrated component generating heat.

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Claims

1. A semiconductor image sensor comprising: a semiconductor body or substrate; a plurality of pixels, each pixel being provided with a photo sensor having a temperature, each of the photo sensors comprising a photodiode or cluster of photodiodes integrated in the semiconductor body or substrate; at least one heater integrated with the photo sensors; the pixels forming an array provided for producing a picture, the at least one heater being arranged in at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of at least one of the pixels, so that an operation of the at least one heater increases the temperature of the photo sensor of the pixel; and at least one integrated readout circuit, the at least one heater being arranged between the photo sensor of the pixel and the at least one integrated readout circuit, wherein the at least one heater is arranged in the vicinity of the at least one integrated readout circuit, to substitute or supplement generation of heat by the at least one integrated readout circuit with generation of heat by the at least one heater.

2. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:

each further one of the pixels being provided with a further integrated readout circuit and with a further heater arranged between the further integrated readout circuit and the photo sensor of the respective further one of the pixels.

3. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, wherein the heater extends in at least one further pixel or in the vicinity of at least one further pixel.

4. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, wherein at least a further one of the pixels is provided with a further heater, which is arranged in the further one of the pixels or in the vicinity of the further one of the pixels.

5. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, wherein the heater is formed by a plurality of individual heaters, which are arranged in the at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of the at least one of the pixels.

6. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 5, wherein the individual heaters surround the photo sensor of the at least one of the pixels.

7. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:

an integrated temperature sensor.

8. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 7, wherein the integrated temperature sensor is arranged in the vicinity of one of the photo sensors.

9. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 7, further comprising:

further integrated temperature sensors, the integrated temperature sensor and each of further integrated temperature sensors being arranged in the vicinity of a respective one of the photo sensors.

10. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:

through-substrate vias electrically connected with the photo sensors.

11. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:

through-substrate vias electrically connected with the at least one heater.

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Claim Tree

  • 1
    1. A semiconductor image sensor comprising:
    • a semiconductor body or substrate
    • a plurality of pixels, each pixel being provided with a photo sensor having a temperature, each of the photo sensors comprising a photodiode or cluster of photodiodes integrated in the semiconductor body or substrate
    • at least one heater integrated with the photo sensors
    • the pixels forming an array provided for producing a picture, the at least one heater being arranged in at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of at least one of the pixels, so that an operation of the at least one heater increases the temperature of the photo sensor of the pixel
    • and at least one integrated readout circuit, the at least one heater being arranged between the photo sensor of the pixel and the at least one integrated readout circuit, wherein the at least one heater is arranged in the vicinity of the at least one integrated readout circuit, to substitute or supplement generation of heat by the at least one integrated readout circuit with generation of heat by the at least one heater.
    • 2. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:
      • each further one of the pixels being provided with a further integrated readout circuit and with a further heater arranged between the further integrated readout circuit and the photo sensor of the respective further one of the pixels.
    • 3. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, wherein
      • the heater extends in at least one further pixel or in the vicinity of at least one further pixel.
    • 4. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, wherein
      • at least a further one of the pixels is provided with a further heater, which is arranged in the further one of the pixels or in the vicinity of the further one of the pixels.
    • 5. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, wherein
      • the heater is formed by a plurality of individual heaters, which are arranged in the at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of the at least one of the pixels.
    • 7. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:
      • an integrated temperature sensor.
    • 10. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:
      • through-substrate vias electrically connected with the photo sensors.
    • 11. The semiconductor image sensor of claim 1, further comprising:
      • through-substrate vias electrically connected with the at least one heater.
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Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Pictures produced by a semiconductor image sensor may show slight non-uniformities from pixel to pixel, which can be caused by local temperature differences in the sensor chip, because leakage current and responsivity of a photodiode depend on the temperature. To avoid this problem, image sensor chips are preferably operated at a constant, spatially homogeneous temperature. Usual methods of maintaining a spatially and temporally constant temperature, especially by heating or cooling the whole image sensor chip, may not be appropriate to obtain optimal temperature conditions, especially if photo sensors are integrated in the vicinity of components generating heat.

U.S. Pat. No. 7,480,006 B1 discloses an integrated circuit package including a substrate with a surface disposed to receive an image sensor chip and with a heater element positioned underneath a sensor area of the image sensor chip.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,046,433 A discloses an integrated circuit die containing a metal heater resistor, which is disposed around the periphery of the die and provided with electrical terminals.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,808,009 A discloses an integrated sensing device including a resistance temperature sensor formed in a semiconductor substrate, and a resistance heater, which is formed on an insulating layer covering the substrate surface.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The semiconductor image sensor comprises a plurality of pixels, which are each provided with a photo sensor, and at least one heater, which is integrated with the photo sensors and is arranged in at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of at least one of the pixels. At least one integrated readout circuit may also be integrated. An appropriate operation of the heater will increase the temperature of the photo sensor of the relevant pixel. The temperatures of the other photo sensors may be increased by a smaller degree or not affected by the heating.

In an embodiment of the semiconductor image sensor comprising at least one integrated readout circuit, the heater is arranged in the relevant pixel between the photo sensor of this pixel and the integrated readout circuit.

In a further embodiment, each further one of the pixels is provided with a further integrated readout circuit and with a further heater arranged between the further integrated readout circuit and the photo sensor of the respective further one of the pixels.

In a further embodiment, the heater extends in at least one further pixel or in the vicinity of at least one further pixel.

In a further embodiment, at least a further one of the pixels is provided with a further heater, which is arranged in the further one of the pixels or in the vicinity of the further one of the pixels.

In a further embodiment, the heater is formed by a plurality of individual heaters, which are arranged in the at least one of the pixels or in the vicinity of the at least one of the pixels.

In a further embodiment, the individual heaters surround the photo sensor of the at least one of the pixels.

A further embodiment comprises an integrated temperature sensor, which may especially be arranged in the vicinity of one of the photo sensors.

A further embodiment comprises further integrated temperature sensors, and the integrated temperature sensor and each of the further integrated temperature sensors are arranged in the vicinity of a respective one of the photo sensors.

A further embodiment comprises through-substrate vias electrically connected with the photo sensors and/or through-substrate vias electrically connected with the at least one heater.

In the method of operating such a semiconductor image sensor, the at least one of the pixels is heated with the heater, so that the temperature of this pixel is increased by a larger degree than the temperature of at least a further one of the pixels. Some or all of the further pixels may essentially not be affected by the heating process. In particular, heating the pixel aims at a local compensation of a temperature difference that is due to an operation of the integrated readout circuit and/or further integrated readout circuits.

In a variant of the method, the temperature is locally controlled by at least one integrated temperature sensor.

The following is a detailed description of examples of the image sensor and the method of operating such an image sensor in conjunction with the appended figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 schematically shows the arrangement of the photo sensor, heater and readout circuit in a pixel of an embodiment of the image sensor.

FIG. 2 shows an arrangement according to FIG. 1 for a further embodiment comprising a plurality of individual heaters surrounding the photo sensor.

FIG. 3 shows an arrangement according to FIG. 1 for a further embodiment with through-substrate vias.

FIG. 4 shows a group of pixels of a further embodiment with a heater arranged close to this group of pixels.

FIG. 5 shows an arrangement according to FIG. 1 for a further embodiment comprising a temperature sensor.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 shows a pixel 1 of the semiconductor image sensor. The pixel 1 comprises a photo sensor 2, which is integrated in a semiconductor body or substrate. The details of the photo sensor 2, which may especially be a photodiode or a cluster of photodiodes, for instance, are not essential and are therefore not shown in FIG. 1. A readout circuit 3 may optionally be integrated in the semiconductor body or substrate together with the photo sensor 2. The readout circuit 3 may be a CMOS circuit, for instance. Each pixel 1 may be provided with an individual readout circuit 3. Instead, a readout circuit 3 may be provided for some or all of the photo sensors 2 in common. In the embodiment according to FIG. 1, the photo sensor 2 and the readout circuit 3 are integrated within the pixel 1 on the same side of the semiconductor body or substrate, but the arrangement of the photo sensor 2 and the readout circuit 3 can differ from this example.

A heater 4 is integrated in the pixel 1 or in the vicinity of the pixel 1. The heater 4 may especially be a resistive heater and is optionally provided with electric connections 5 for an application of a voltage or electric current. Resistive heaters are known per se in semiconductor technology. In the embodiment according to FIG. 1, the heater 4 is arranged between the photo sensor 2 and the readout circuit 3. An arrangement of the heater 4 in the vicinity of the readout circuit 3, like the arrangement shown in FIG. 1, may be especially suitable, because such an arrangement allows to substitute or supplement the generation of heat by the readout circuit 3 with a similar generation of heat by the heater 4, especially during a mode of operation of the image sensor in which the readout circuit 3 does not generate the maximal or usual amount of heat. Thus a homogeneous temperature distribution can be maintained during every mode of operation of the image sensor.

The heater 4 can be integrated in the image sensor by placing a resistor or a set of resistors close to the photo sensor 2. The resistor or set of resistors can particularly be formed by a layer of electrically resistive material in a way that is known per se in semiconductor technology. Several individual heating elements formed by resistors may be connected in parallel or in series to form the heater 4. A voltage or electric current is applied to the electric connections 5 in order to generate heat in the resistor or set of resistors. The voltage or current supply can be provided directly on the image sensor chip or externally via electric terminals of the image sensor chip. The heaters 4 of copies of the image sensor may be connected to one another via interconnections between the chips.

FIG. 2 shows a pixel 1 of a further embodiment of the semiconductor image sensor. Elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 2 that correspond to elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 1 are designated with the same reference numerals. In the embodiment according to FIG. 2, the heater 4 comprises several individual heaters 4′, which may be provided with separate electric connections 5. The individual heaters 4′ may especially surround the photo sensor 2, as shown in FIG. 2 by way of an example, but the arrangement of the photo sensor 2 and the individual heaters 4′ can differ from this example.

FIG. 3 shows a pixel 1 of a further embodiment of the semiconductor image sensor. Elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 3 that correspond to elements of the embodiments according to FIGS. 1 and 2 are designated with the same reference numerals. The embodiment according to FIG. 3 comprises through-substrate vias 6, 7 for an electric connection of the photo sensor 2 and the heater 4. This arrangement is especially suitable if the readout circuit 3 is arranged on the side of the semiconductor body or substrate that is opposite the photo sensor 2. The heater 4 may also be arranged on the opposite side, especially in a location under the photo sensor 2, and in this case it may be sufficient to provide only the photo sensor 2 with through-substrate vias 6 for electric connection.

FIG. 4 shows an array of three neighboring pixels 1 of a further embodiment of the semiconductor image sensor. Elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 4 that correspond to elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 1 are designated with the same reference numerals. The embodiment according to FIG. 4 comprises a heater 4 arranged close to several pixels 1 in common. In the example shown in FIG. 4, the heater 4 is arranged between the photo sensors 2 and the readout circuits 3 of these pixels 1. The heater 4 may be arranged in the vicinity of any number of pixels 1 in common, and the arrangement may differ from the example shown in FIG. 4.

FIG. 5 shows a pixel 1 of a further embodiment of the semiconductor image sensor. Elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 5 that correspond to elements of the embodiment according to FIG. 1 are designated with the same reference numerals. The embodiment according to FIG. 5 further comprises a temperature sensor 8, which may be arranged close to the photo sensor 2. The temperature sensor 8 serves to detect the temperature of the photo sensor 2, so that the heater 4 can be operated under control of the temperature sensor 8 in order to avoid deviations of the desired temperature. Similarly to the use of the heater 4 for several pixels 1 in common, according to FIG. 4, the temperature sensor 8 may be used for a group of pixels 1 in common. Instead, each pixel 1 may be provided with an individual temperature sensor 8. The evaluation of the measurement of the temperature and the control of the corresponding operation of the heater 4 may be implemented in the readout circuit 3, for instance.

By integrating the heater 4 or an array of heaters 4 each provided for one pixel 1 or for a small group of pixels 1 into the image sensor chip, the effort for the assembly and/or housing of the image sensor chip are substantially reduced. The integrated heater 4 or heaters 4 allow to heat different areas of the image sensor chip, in particular different pixels 1 or groups of pixels 1, independently of one another and thus to maintain a temperature distribution of the image sensor chip that is spatially and temporally essentially constant. The image production is thereby improved and non-uniformities can be avoided or at least substantially reduced.

LIST OF REFERENCE NUMERALS

1 pixel

2 photo sensor

3 readout circuit

4 heater

4′ individual heater

5 electric connection

6 through-substrate via

7 through-substrate via

8 temperature sensor

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Citation

Patents Cited in This Cited by
Title Current Assignee Application Date Publication Date
Series diode electro-thermal circuit for ultra sensitive silicon sensor NORTHROP GRUMMAN SYSTEMS CORPORATION 26 January 2010 28 July 2011
Optical package for image sensor with integrated heater PIXIM, INC. 13 April 2004 20 January 2009
特に赤外線電磁放射を検出する構成部品 ユリス 12 December 2005 10 July 2008
Photodiode With Integrated Semiconductor Circuit and Method for the Production Thereof AUSTRIAMICROSYSTEMS AG 23 May 2006 05 August 2010
Sensor ANALOG DEVICES, INC. 20 October 2006 21 June 2007
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US10154215 Semiconductor image sensor integrated 1 US10154215 Semiconductor image sensor integrated 2