10 December 2019 The Graphene Flagship selects the AUTOVISION Spearhead Project

Graphene-based infrared image sensor for enhanced vision systems for the automotive industry. Image Credit: ©ICFO

ICFO leads one of the eleven Spearhead Projects of the Graphene Flagship to develop Short Wave Infrared Radiation (SWIR) cameras for autonomous driving. Yesterday, the Graphene Flagship announced the launch of eleven new “Spearhead Projects”, each focused to take graphene-enabled prototypes to commercial applications. The Flagship is investing €45 million in these commercialisation projects led by key industrial partners in Europe such as Airbus, Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles, Lufthansa Technik, Siemens, and ABB. Alongside, the project partners will also co-fund the projects with a further combined contribution of €47 million, showing their interest in the development of graphene-enabled products. The newly launched projects have been designed to increase the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of graphene-based technologies — a metric used to determine the maturity of a technology and its estimated time to market.

One of the eleven projects selected has been the AUTOVISION project. For this, ICFO has teamed up with industrial partners, aimed to demonstrate an industry-ready graphene-based image sensor for infrared light and use it within a high-resolution camera system, which will be critical for the safe functioning of self-driving cars.

Autonomous driving is the future. Low visibility conditions are one of the main challenges for the reliable deployment of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) & automated driving systems (ADS). Current state-of-the-art cameras used in such systems rely on the visible spectrum of light and therefore, perform poorly in these conditions. Antonios Oikonomou (Graphene Flagship business developer at ICFO) mentions that ”currently (short-wave) infrared cameras are based on image sensors made from materials of low-manufacturability and high cost, hindering their uptake in mass markets such as the automotive”.

“The AUTOVISION Spearhead Project will create a new high-resolution image sensor for autonomous vehicles that can perform better under adverse weather (e.g. fog) as well as at night time” emphasizes Stijn Goossens (project leader). The graphene-based CMOS image sensor, a concept and development demonstrated by ICFO, has the potential to bring the combined SWIR vision advantages to ADAS/ADS systems. As Frank Koppens (responsible group leader) also stresses, “Graphene photodetector technology provides high manufacturability, ensuring wafer-scale production, facile integration with silicon readout electronics, and therefore, enabling its mass adoption . Compared to other technologies, graphene reduces the temperature dependence of the sensitivity, making active cooling obsolete and allowing the realisation of low-power systems, a pre-requisite for the automotive industry”.

Once the pilot line production phase is completed, the project will undertake extended testing to allow for the launch of evaluation kits in 2023. The collaboration with one of the leading Tier-1 automotive suppliers of self-driving mobility solutions will help the consortium partners accelerate the product development and prepare for attaining the automotive quality and production standards for market compliance.