CCD and CMOS sensors take great images, but that doesn't mean they're perfect. They're bulky and bad in low light. It turns out that flash memory can actually double as a light sensor, and could solve both these problems.
Apparently, flash memory cells are highly receptive to light and capable of creating a completely digital image. A focused beam of light directed at sector on the chip becomes a pixel, no analog-to-digital conversion required. Flash memory sensors are up to 100x smaller than current CCDs, too. By my math, that means I could have a 200 megapixel camera in my pocket right now.
The drawback: small pixels are less receptive to light, which could mean problems as pixel density increases. The data also only comes in as binary, so grayscale is tricky. Regardless, the researchers are already achieving better grayscale and low-light performance than seen in CMOS sensors.
Edoardo Charbon and the rest of the team at the Technical University of Delft hope to have a working prototype by 2010. We're still waiting for response from Canon on the rumored, memory-sensor-based D40 Pico. [New Scientist via Wired]