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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Carver Mead

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

The Foveon X3 direct image sensor is the most advanced color image sensor ever developed. It represents a giant leap forward in color photography and is the only image sensor technology that combines the power of digital with the essence of film.

A direct image sensor is an image sensor that directly captures red, green, and blue light at each point in an image during a single exposure. Foveon pioneered the development of the direct image sensor using the most advanced developments in semiconductor design, image processing, and signal processing. Here is how it compares to film and typical CCD image sensors.


For over 100 years, color film has traditionally been held as the gold standard for photography. It produces rich, warm tones and incredible color detail that consumers around the world have become accustomed to. Film has achieved this by using three layers of emulsion to capture full color at every point in the image.


Digital CCD image sensors were developed approximately 30 years ago, ushering in the era of digital photography. Unfortunately, the rich, warm tones and detail of color film that the world came to expect suffered over the convenience and immediacy of digital. This was due to the fact that CCD digital image sensors were only capable of recording just one color at each point in the captured image instead of the full range of colors at each location.

Foveon X3 direct image sensor

Finally, Foveon has combined the best of what both film and digital have to offer. This is accomplished by the innovative design of Foveonís X3 direct image sensors which have three layers of pixels, just like film has three layers of chemical emulsion. Foveonís layers are embedded in silicon to take advantage of the fact that red, green, and blue light penetrate silicon to different depths Ė forming the first and only image sensor that captures full color at every point in the captured image.

From point-and-shoot digital cameras to high-end professional equipment, Foveon X3 technology offers multiple benefits to consumers and manufacturers alike. At the same time, it opens the door for other innovations, such as new kinds of cameras that record both video and still images without compromising the image quality of either.


Brief Biography

Chairman and Founder of Foveon, Dr. Mead is a highly respected member of the Silicon Valley Scientific and Business Community. Before starting Foveon, he made many pioneering contributions in solid-state electronics, and was one of the leading forces in VLSI design methodology.

Dr. Mead is an internationally known author and educator. He has written on such subjects as solid-state physics, microelectronics, and biophysics, and contributed to over 100 publications. He is the Gordon and Betty Moore professor emeritus at the California Institute of Technology, having taught there for over 40 years. Dr. Mead recently received the National Medal of Technology from President Bush on November 6, 2003.