Imaging Sensors in Life Sciences Applications

Innovations in imaging sensor technologies continue to open up new possibilities for image capture, observation, and discovery in the life sciences. From cellular biology to robot-guided surgeries, sensors are enhancing the capabilities of imaging devices and applications. Vision systems offer many benefits to life sciences applications for improving efficiencies too, such as maintaining quality control, minimizing costs, and ensuring traceability.

SensorThe two principal sensor types leveraged in life sciences vision systems are CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) sensors and CCD (charged coupled device). Each offer a unique set of capabilities and varying price points. Sensor selection is based on a number of factors - primarily sensor capabilities, component requirements, and cost. The recent trend is toward CMOS sensors, which are capable of high resolutions, higher frame rates, greater sensitivity, and low noise, all at a lower cost than CCD; however, sometimes the application requires CCD.

Top Sensor Selection Considerations

The main difference between CCD and CMOS sensors is the way in which they transfer the charge out of the pixel and into the imaging device’s ‘read out.’ CCD output is an analog pulse that is proportional to the intensity of the light. The charge is collected in the pixels and then shifted on the imager surface to the output. The result is high quality images that are less susceptible to noise. Each pixel of a CMOS sensor has several transistors that amplify and move the charge through the use of wires, making it more susceptible to noise. However, technological advances at the pixel level have resulted in game-changing performance of CMOS sensors, resulting in ultra-high sensitivity and low noise for higher, more reliable image quality.

Vision Sensors for Life Sciences Applications

Imaging sensors are used for a wide variety of life sciences applications, including but not limited to:

Medical and Dental Radiology

Radiology requires high-resolution image capture. To detect finer details for accurate diagnostics of medical anomalies at earlier stages, CMOS sensors are leveraged to significantly reduce treatment costs, improve patient recovery, as well as increase the probability of early illness detection and intervention.


Vision sensors are rapidly integrated into ophthalmology applications, using the latest techniques and therapies in the prevention and specialized treatment of conditions such as cataract, retinal detachment, and glaucoma, to name a few. Important requirements for imaging components in ophthalmology include, but are not limited to, consistency, sensitivity, reproducibility, a long service life, and superior image quality to accurately diagnose and treat eye conditions.

Radiotherapy and Fluorescence Applications

Low light imaging is required to detect metastatic cancer cells to determine the likelihood of them spreading throughout the body. State-of-the-art CMOS sensor technology makes it possible to “see” or measure tumor cell potential by detecting different signaling mechanisms related to metastasis with the help of fluorescence. In terms of treatment, fluorescence microscopy lights up tumor cells that have acquired high metastatic potential during chemotherapy and keeps the cells that are sensitive to chemotherapy or that have low potential dark and unlit.

Pathology and Research

Highest performance is required for image technology and vision sensors for scientific or medical diagnostics laboratory applications. 3D sensors allow for faster processing of analysis along with accuracy and superior image quality that are required for accurate diagnostics and research techniques. From simple applications like weighing, to complex vision requirements found in an imaging analysis device, sensors play an important role in pathology and research present in life sciences applications.

Bottom line

CMOS and CCD sensors both play critically important roles in life sciences applications, offering many advantages and state-of-the-art features for achieving medical and scientific breakthroughs. To meet the demanding requirements of life sciences applications, accurate, reliable, and high-performance cameras and vision sensors are required to improve efficiency and image accuracy.