12 Jul 2012

Mobile phone technology harnessed in OU project aiming to capture sharper images in space

Dr Tom Greig working in the OU science lab

Dr Tom Greig working in the OU science lab

An Open University project to examine the adaptation of mobile phone imaging technology for use in hostile space environments has been awarded funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA).

The collaborative project, between the Open University and e2v Ltd in Chelmsford was awarded £50,000 as part of the UKSA’s “Future technology pathfinder programme” which aims to promote “fresh thinking for tomorrow’s space products”.

The project was one of 10 given funding after a call to the UK space community to respond with “innovative ideas” in space technology research and development. The aim of the Pathfinder is to spot future space developments – investigating new technologies – as well as examining the commercial and technological impact of the new space techniques. The projects selected for funding were chosen due to each showing strong future potential meeting the strategic objectives of the UKSA and industry.

The project aims to develop CMOS image sensors capable of operating in the harsh radiation environments of the solar system, for example those in close proximity to the sun or Jupiter. A team of 4-5 researchers at the OU will work with engineers from e2v, with which it already has an existing partnership, for a period of six months and hope to gain further funding.

Dr Tom Greig, from the Centre for Electronic Imaging, at the OU’s Department of Physical Sciences, said: “The CMOS imaging technology used in mobile phones and other devices has many benefits that could open up new imaging applications in space. However, it is not currently well understood how these devices will respond to the hostile radiation environments present in the solar system”.

“We are very pleased to receive this funding from the UKSA. This project will kickstart a long term programme of activities between the OU and e2v to investigate the use of this imaging technology in space.”

OU/e2v Centre for Electronic Imaging

The Open University and e2v, a leading developer and manufacturer of specialist components and sub-systems for the Medical, aerospace and defence industries, are both partners of the Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI) located the Open University’s Milton Keynes Campus. The centre, based on a five-year partnership, is dedicated to the research and development of advanced technologies for electronic image sensing.
CEI focuses on the development of technologies opportunities in space and terrestrial imaging, with plans to extend to the scope to health and environmental applications. The centre provides the ideal place to explore industrial advancements and technological breakthroughs in science and medicine and plays a central role in stimulating knowledge exchange between the wider UK technology industry and the academic world.

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