CIA Investment Group Backs SiOnyx 'Black Silicon' Imaging

CIA firm invests in black silicon semiconductors, which enhance sensitivity of low-light, infrared imaging systems in defense, security systems.
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In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture investment arm, disclosed it is investing in SiOnyx, a company that develops technology used in low-light and infrared imaging systems.

Founded in 2006, SiOnyx has developed a semiconductor process that enhances the sensitivity of silicon-based photonics and strengthens images. The company's black silicon can be used in a range of applications, from collision-avoidance systems in cars to medical imaging.

In-Q-Tel said the investment will translate into low-cost complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology for visual imaging, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared systems. SiOnyx’s earlier investors include Coherent, CrossLink Capital, Harris & Harris Group, Polaris Ventures, RedShift Ventures, and Vulcan Capital.

SiOnyx’s technology already is being used to bring new capabilities to defense and intelligence systems. In November, SiOnyx announced a $3 million contract with the Office of Naval Research to develop improved focal plane array designs for tactical imaging systems.

[ Also read In-Q-Tel Partners With Looxcie On Next-Gen Videocam. ]

In 2010, working with the Army Research Office, SiOnyx demonstrated pixel-scale detectors that it said were 10 times better than standard silicon detectors. That work was tied to research programs of the Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Based on a laser implant method discovered at Harvard University, SiOnyx’s black silicon improves nighttime camera surveillance without compromising the camera's performance in daylight, according to the company. Its image sensors also can be used in iris-recognition systems, as well as in consumer, industrial, medical, and automotive applications.

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