Applications of CMOS in Medical Imaging and Life Sciences


Nikita N, freelance scientific consultant at Kolabtree, writes about the applications of CMOS in medical imaging and life sciences, along with examples of companies working in this area. 

CMOS: Next Generation Image Sensors

The outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19 has negatively impacted companies that are producing image sensors. The increase in usage of high-resolution cameras containing image sensors for mobile, automotive, and medical and life science applications fuels the growth of image sensors in the market. However, the sales of image sensors have significantly decreased worldwide, owing to lockdowns in the markets. Even though image sensors in the Medical and life science industries have suffered in sales, it has still maintained an optimistic growth in the past four years. Of late, low-light image sensors, which are segment into CCD (charged coupled device) and CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) technologies, are finding their way in smartphones and medical applications with a market growth expectation of USD 18.4 billion by 2024 and a CAGR of 12.8% during the forecast period (2020-2024). The CMOS technology-based market is expected to dominate during the forecast period due to its various advantageous features that it possesses over the CCD image sensors. High resolutions, Small size, higher frame rates, low power consumption, greater sensitivity, faster frame rate, low noise, and lower manufacturing cost are a few of the critical advantages of CMOS over CCD.  

CMOS v/s CCD sensors 

The sensors’ difference is how the charge is transferred out of the pixel and into the imaging device’s or readout. CCD output has an analog pulse, whereas CMOS gives a digital output. Generally, life science applications use digital cameras. Analog output is primarily used in applications, which require continuous feedback.  Life science industries don’t have the requirement for constant feedback or analog needs in vision systems.  

Adios CCD sensors…

Various manufacturers including Basler, FLIR Systems Inc, Teledyne (e2v), Vieworks, Cognex, Sony, Jai, Baumer, Toshiba Teli, Omron (Microscan Systems), National Instruments, IDS, Allied Vision/TKH Group, Daheng Image, The Imaging Source, HIK vision are working on developing and launching a new generation of CMOS sensors. Manufacturers are investing in improving the CMOS sensors by including exciting features such as high resolutions, small size, higher frame rates, low power consumption, greater sensitivity, faster frame rate, low noise, and lower manufacturing cost.  

Applications of CMOS in Medical Imaging and Life Sciences 

Imaging sensors have applications in various life sciences sectors, including but not limited to:

Dental Imaging 

Teledyne DALSA has developed CMOS image sensor technology for dental radiology, including cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT), panoramic, and cephalometric imaging applications. The CMOS image sensors offer significant advantages over traditional ones, such as radiation-hard pixel designed for a more extended image sensor lifetime, package encapsulation technology for withstanding harsh environments, vibrations, and shocks. 

Digital Mammography 

Sony optronics offers a CMOS HD Camera image sensor that features the latest-generation image sensor technology with a better low-light sensitivity revealing superb image and video reproduction capability at an affordable price. Compatible with most brands of surgical and operating microscopes.


JAI offers a wide range of 3-CMOS with prism-based technology industrial RGB area scan cameras for medical and life sciences applications. The 3CMOS series provides higher color accuracy and spatial precision than typical Bayer-filter cameras and is especially used for the color vision system. 

JAI’s prism-based RGB cameras separate the incoming light into red, green, and blue wavelengths directed to three precisely-aligned CMOS sensors producing better color accuracy and spatial precision than traditional color cameras the Bayer mosaic technique through color imaging technique. The cameras give High resolution combined with high frame rates with outputs 3 x 3.2 megapixels at 38 frames/second and 79 frames/second. The CMOS has application in ophthalmology i.e. eye examination, looking at interior features such as the retina, optic nerve head, the macula and microcirculation in blood vessels, giving accurate and detailed color images.

 X-Ray image reconstruction 

Teledyne DALSA’s organization has recently developed a Xineos X-Ray Image Reconstruction Technology that overcomes traditional limits by capturing sharp panoramic images. The technology uses CMOS detectors that are high-speed frame-based and captures a 3D tomographic volume containing clinically relevant patient anatomy. An ideal 2D panoramic projection is obtained, having high sharpness across the entire image, regardless of the patient’s alignment, allowing better diagnosis and few re-takes.

Endoscopy and digital pathology

The latest CMOS cameras can reproduce even the subtlest color variations and details for endoscopy imaging In endoscopy and surgical imaging systems. Digital pathology JAI Apex cameras are ideal for integration into microscopes and whole slide scanners, capturing human tissue slices, biopsy tests, and cell samples. 

Orthopedic and surgical 

The company Olympus offers a range of microscope solutions to meet life science research needs in various areas including Cancer Research, Cell Culture, Developmental Biology, Drug Discovery, Fluorescence, Live Cell Imaging, Molecular Cell Biology, Neuroscience Imaging, and Regenerative Medicine. The CMOS and CCD chip cameras offer resolution digital imaging. The microscopes capture the fine structure and morphological change of neurons and the deep structure of tissues with super-resolution and clear three-dimensional images. That helps in capturing calcium-sensitive dyes and high-speed responses of membrane potential.


In conclusion, to meet the medical and life sciences sector’s ever-demanding requirements, reliable, accurate, and high-performance vision and camera sensors are urgently required to improve image efficiency and accuracy. Advancements in technologies at the pixel level have led to the CMOS sensor’s game-changing performance, resulting in additional features such as low noise, ultra-high sensitivity, and higher and more reliable image quality. The applications of CMOS Imaging in medical devices and life sciences looks promising. According to the market research analysis, the Iimage sensor sector is projected to reach USD 28.0 billion by 2025 from an estimated USD 18.5 billion in 2020, growing at a CAGR of 8.6% (2020-2025). 

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About Author

Nikita N. received her Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Mumbai University, India, and Syracuse University, the USA, respectively. During her study at Mumbai University, she designed a distillation column system for the ethanol-water binary mixture system from Shroff & Associates Engineering Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India. Her coursework at Syracuse University included Radiochemistry nuclear fuel reprocessing & Nonproliferation, Materials for Energy Systems, Advanced Chemical Engineering Design, Fluid Dynamics, Biofuels, Biochemical Engineering, Kinetics, Green Engineering, Chemical Engineering Methods, Environmental Chemistry & Analysis. She has  written articles and shared peer reviews on various platforms such as the Massive Science Journal, Prescouter Journal, Editage, ecoideaz. She has also written articles about biofuel production from algae, second-generation ethanol production from crop stubble, environment-friendly anti-corrosion resistant paint coatings for oil and gas industries.  

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