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Meet the 2011 National Inventors Hall of Fame Inductees

Mar 06, 2011   |

Eric Fossum led the team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory that created a miniaturized camera technology known as the CMOS active pixel sensor camera-on-a-chip. Today, CMOS image sensors are a fixture in imaging.

In 1990, Fossum joined JPL to bolster image-sensing research for space applications. To reduce power and size of CCD cameras for interplanetary spacecraft, he used CMOS technology to put all necessary technology on one chip. Each chip contained arrays of light-sensitive pixels, each with its own amplifier. Circuits within the chip allowed functions like noise reduction, analog-to-digital conversion, and digital image processing.

Fossum and JPL co-workers formed Photobit Corporation in 1995, which was eventually acquired by Micron in 2001. Worldwide annual revenue for the technology is estimated to reach $6 billion in 2011.

Over 90% of camera phones use the CMOS image sensor technology. The CMOS sensor market continues to grow with applications that include digital SLR cameras, embedded web-cams, video cameras, automotive safety systems, swallowable pill cameras, toys and video games, and wireless video-security networks.

Born in Connecticut, Fossum received his B.S. from Trinity College, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from Yale. He was with Columbia before conducting his CMOS work at JPL and recently joined the faculty at Dartmouth College.

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