CEA-Leti has created this fully-functional prototype of a 20MP full frame image sensor. Photo Credit: LAM / CEA-Leti

Curved image sensors are an area of intense interest and research, and now the field of astronomy is jumping into the mix, developing curved sensors for use in telescopes. The latest prototype comes from CEA-Leti, a France-based research institute for electronics that has managed to create a fully-functional, 20MP full-frame curved image sensor prototype.

The project was conceived in a collaboration between the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM) and CEA-Leti.

The optical benefits of a curved sensor are fairly straight forward: primarily more direct illumination for pixels at the edge of the sensor and lighter lenses because there's no longer a need to correct a curved projection for a flat sensor. And while Microsoft and Sony are both working on mass-market applications for this tech, these benefits are of serious interest to astronomical observatories.

"In terms of technologies, this is the dawn of a new era for astronomical instrumentation, with the access to wider fields and exquisite homogeneity of the optical properties across the images, and faster systems not possible with classical flat focal planes," explains a press release about the new sensor from the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science 2017 (EWASS). "Fewer components are needed, and the remaining ones are less complex."

Further competition in this market, even from niche markets like this, can only be a good thing. Curved sensors might very well be the next major 'breakthrough' in the world of digital imaging.