A Valley News Publication

Dartmouth College engineering Professor Eric Fossum and his colleagues at the Thayer School of Engineering are trying to equip cameras with the kind of vision that would make even Superman envious (or, more simply, make photos taken by your iPhone X look like cave paintings).

National Public Radio reported on Tuesday that Fossum has developed an ultra-sensitive chip called QIS, which stands for Quanta Image Sensor. Rather than pixels, the chip has “jots,” which can detect a single particle of light, aka a photon.

“What this chip can do because it’s sensitive to single photons is it can see in the dimmest possible light,” Fossum says.

Fossum envisions QIS will permit a new approach to creating digital images. Fast electronics allows each jot to be sampled 1,000 times per second. To build an image from the chip, the individual samples are added together and, using image processing software, a single image is produced.

The downside? Fossum’s technology isn’t likely to start popping up in cameras anytime soon — Fossum estimates it’ll be about 20 years before the chip sees widespread use.