JDI paper-thin bendable image sensor reads pulse waves and fingerprints

JDI or Japan Display, Inc. is perhaps best known for making, as its name implies, display panels, many of which end up on smartphones. It does, however, also dabble in technologies only related to screens on the periphery, like biometrics and imaging sensors that can be placed under its display. Its latest boast may not yet have any display-oriented application but the new ultra-thin image sensor it has developed is in itself already impressive in how it combines two properties often found in two separate sensors.

There are different kinds of image sensors, including those used for cameras on smartphones. When it comes to biometrics, however, there are two distinct kinds. One is the more common fingerprint sensor that takes images of fingerprints and veins. The other uses less visual cues like pulse waves to uniquely identify people.

These two types of biometrics also require sensors and hardware with different properties. Given the speed and variability of pulses, a corresponding sensor would need high-speed readout of data. In contrast, a fingerprint scanner requires a sensor with high-resolution imaging to properly detect and record the fine grooves of the skin.

That's where JDI's sensor, co-developed with the University of Tokyo shines. It is capable of doing both high-res imaging and high-speed readout using a single sensor. As if that weren't enough, the sensor is only 15 micrometers thick, making it both lightweight and bendable.

The company hasn't yet revealed plans for the new sensor, which may still be in its experimental stage. It might not take much imagination, however, to envision wearables that perform both pulse wave reading as well as fingerprint scanning as needed. It could also reduce the space needed for fingerprint scanners inside phones though it isn't yet clear if this can be used with the new breed of in-display fingerprint scanners.