A new, disposable camera which is smaller than a grain of salt has been developed, though don't expect it to show up in your next smartphone. Instead, the prototype was created by the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration for use in endoscopies, and unlike traditional models are cheap enough to throw away after use rather than demand sanitization.
The 62,500 pixel camera uses an electrical cable, rather than a more expensive fiber optic connection, and is the result of a new manufacturing process developed by Fraunhofer and Awaiba GmbH. This mounts the camera sensor contacts while the sensors themselves are still joined on the wafer - up to 28,000 of them - and then pairs that with a lens wafer before cutting.
The traditional system would cut the sensor wafer first, then fix the contacts, then mount the lenses, a far more fiddly and expensive process and one which doesn't allow for units as small as the new method. Fraunhofer hopes to bring the camera to market in 2012, with applications in medicine, automotive design and systems monitoring.