Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Light-Field Photodetectors and Imaging Devices Based on Atomic Layer Crystals and Their Heterostructures

Technology #6939

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Theodore B. Norris
Managed By
Joohee Kim
Licensing Specialist, Physical Sciences & Engineering 734-764-8202
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending

Current imaging technologies, such as using a handheld camera for taking pictures, only capture a two dimensional (2D) projection onto an image sensor, losing the 3D information. The ultimate imaging system would be a camera that can capture not only the intensity of the light forming an image but also the direction of the light (light-field imaging), allowing for reconstruction of a 3D image. Current technology, such as plenoptic and focus stack cameras, is limited by either loss of resolution (reducing image fidelity) or requires multiple exposures at various focus points for one image. The imaging sensor market is a large and fast growing market with a global market of $18B in 2015 projected to be $35B in 2020 with a CAGR of 13.6%. Even capturing less than one percent of the global market still offers a market in excess of $1B.

How it works

By using new 2D photodetectors, the directionality of light, in addition to its intensity is recorded. The recorded data then goes through computer algorithms to reconstruct a 3D light-field image. This is fundamentally different than current imaging techniques (including current light-field camera technology) where the optics focuses an image onto an opaque image sensor. This technology is an enabling step towards light-field imaging offering the possibility of high resolution reconstructed 3D images with greater resolution in a single exposure, addressing the shortcomings of current state of the art systems, and can profoundly impact various imaging applications such as robotic image sensing, photography, and biomedical imaging.


  • Light-field photography
  • Robotic image sensing
  • Biomedical Imaging
  • Hyperspectral imaging


  • Able to capture light-field images with higher resolution than current plenoptic cameras
  • Able to capture light-field images in a single exposure (compared with focus stack based systems)