National Inventors Hall of Fame Taps Former JPL Engineer

Eric Fossum (front row, center) and his team at JPL Eric Fossum (front row, center) and his team at JPL discovered the image sensor chip in the early 1990s while researching ways to drastically reduce the size of cameras on interplanetary spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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March 03, 2011

The National Inventors Hall of Fame is inducting former JPL physicist and engineer Eric Fossum, who led a team that invented a semiconductor active pixel image sensor that is widely used in cell phone cameras, webcams, digital still cameras, medical imaging and other applications. Fossum is now an engineering professor at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H.

The image sensor chip was created at JPL in the early 1990s. Fossum and his team discovered it while researching ways to drastically reduce the size of cameras on interplanetary spacecraft while maintaining the scientific image quality.

The result was the invention of the CMOS active-pixel sensor (CMOS-APS), which consolidates various functions of the prevalent image sensor of the time, but with one-hundredth of the power of its predecessors and with the ability to make its own conversion from analog to digital for output on computer monitors. Fossum soon realized that the CMOS-APS technology would be useful not only for space exploration, but here on Earth as well.

In 1995, Fossum and a group of JPL engineers founded Photobit, in Pasadena. Photobit exclusively licensed the CMOS-APS technology from JPL, becoming the first company to commercialize CMOS image sensors.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is managed by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information, visit http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/scitech/display.cfm?ST_ID=2364 .

Priscilla Vega 818-354-1357
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
priscilla.r.vega@jpl.nasa.gov

2011-065



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