Photonics Dictionary

linear image sensor

A linear image sensor is a type of solid-state electronic device used to capture and convert light into electrical signals. Unlike area image sensors (such as CCD or CMOS sensors), which capture an entire image at once, linear image sensors capture a single line of pixels at a time as the image is scanned across the sensor.

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Here are some key features and characteristics of linear image sensors:

Array structure: Linear image sensors consist of an array of closely spaced photosensitive elements (pixels) arranged in a single row or line. Each pixel converts incident light into an electrical charge proportional to the intensity of the light.

Scanning mechanism: To capture a complete image, a linear image sensor requires a scanning mechanism to move the sensor or the object being imaged relative to each other. The sensor scans the object line by line, converting the light intensity of each line into electrical signals.

Integration time: The integration time, or exposure time, of a linear image sensor refers to the duration for which each line of pixels is exposed to light during the scanning process. Longer integration times result in higher sensitivity but may increase motion blur in fast-moving objects.

Application specificity: Linear image sensors are commonly used in applications where high-speed scanning and image acquisition are required. Examples include document scanners, barcode readers, line-scan cameras for industrial inspection, and spectroscopy systems.

Monochrome and color sensors: Linear image sensors are available in both monochrome and color configurations. Monochrome sensors capture grayscale images, while color sensors use a color filter array (CFA) or other color-separation techniques to capture color information.

Signal processing: After capturing the electrical signals from the pixels, linear image sensors typically require signal conditioning and processing to convert the analog signals into digital form, correct for noise and distortion, and output the final image data.

Pixel size and pitch: The size of individual pixels and the pitch (spacing) between them affect the sensor's spatial resolution and sensitivity to light. Smaller pixel sizes and narrower pitch allow for higher-resolution imaging but may result in reduced sensitivity.

Dynamic range: The dynamic range of a linear image sensor refers to the range of light intensities that the sensor can accurately capture. Higher dynamic range sensors can capture both bright and dim areas of the image without saturation or loss of detail.

Linear image sensors offer advantages such as high-speed operation, simplicity of design, and suitability for applications requiring continuous scanning. However, they may be less suitable for applications requiring full-frame imaging or high-resolution output compared to area image sensors.
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