Noise Reduction Techniques and Scaling Effects towards Photon Counting CMOS Image Sensors
This paper presents an overview of the read noise in CMOS image sensors (CISs) based on four-transistors (4T) pixels, column-level amplification and correlated multiple sampling. Starting from the input-referred noise analytical formula, process level optimizations, device choices and circuit techniques at the pixel and column level of the readout chain are derived and discussed. The noise reduction techniques that can be implemented at the column and pixel level are verified by transient noise simulations, measurement and results from recently-published low noise CIS. We show how recently-reported process refinement, leading to the reduction of the sense node capacitance, can be combined with an optimal in-pixel source follower design to reach a sub-0.3 e(rms)(-) read noise at room temperature. This paper also discusses the impact of technology scaling on the CIS read noise. It shows how designers can take advantage of scaling and how the Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (MOS) transistor gate leakage tunneling current appears as a challenging limitation. For this purpose, both simulation results of the gate leakage current and 1/f noise data reported from different foundries and technology nodes are used.