Optical Nanostructures in CMOS Technology

Optical nanostructures in CMOS technology concerns the ability to structure the metal surfaces employed within a modern semiconductor process at the nanometer scale in such a way that they allow complex color and/or polarization sensors to be manufactured at a reasonable price. This calls for an understanding of surface plasmon effects in metals and materials relevant to CMOS as well as the optics expertise to design filters – expertise that Fraunhofer IIS possesses. Fraunhofer IIS has also developed the capacity to optically model nanostructured metals, along with simulation and design capabilities for nanostructured color and polarization sensors.

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Distribution prices of different multispectral sensors compared to the costs using the nanospectral filter technology

Keyfacts and Benefits



  • Realization of many multispectral channels on one chip,
    with only 2 additional photolithographic process steps
  • Single-source manufacturing
  • Constant process costs for an arbitrary number of spectral channels
  • Metal filter material
  • Temperature resistance
  • Simple design of specific spectral behaviors
  • Application-specific filter properties
  • Applicable to existing single or image sensors
  • Easy implementation in standard products
  • Implementation in 2 different CMOS production plants
  • Independent service design and supply chains
  • Fast series transfer

Applications and technology potential

Lighting systems


  • Multispectral ambient light sensors
  • More spectral information compared to sensors with three channels
  • Integrated signal processing and standard interface I2C or SPI

Chip Size Spectrometer


  • Miniaturized multispectral sensors for the analysis of gases and liquids
  • Color sensors for industrial automation and automotive applications
  • Agriculture and smart farming

Multispectral imaging


  • Image sensors with spectral filters at the pixel level
  • Applying filters to standard products of new image sensors
  • Minimum pixel size: 5 μm