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Researchers figure out how make Xenon flash modules tiny, might ship in 2014

Researchers have figured out how to make Xenon flash modules incredibly tiny. The trick is to make the capacitor out of polymers, not electrolytics.
February 20, 2013

I don’t care how awesome you think your smartphone is, whenever you take a photo at night and that dinky little LED on the back of your devices goes off, I just have to point and laugh at your feeble attempt to capture a memory. First of all, you shouldn’t use flash, because it distorts everything and washes out colors. And if you do use flash, then you should use a Xenon flash. The problem with Xenon is that it’s a technology that’s meant for larger devices like dedicated point and shoot cameras, not the ridiculously thin pocket computers we all carry around.

Researchers from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University aim to fix that. They developed a capacitor that’s just 1 mm thick compared to today’s solutions which are 5 mm thick and above. How did they do it?

Xenon flash works by storing a charge in what’s called a capacitor. Said capacitor then releases the charge into a bulb filled with Xenon gas. Simple, right? The largest part of a Xenon flash module is the capacitor itself, and making it smaller is what these researchers did. They made the capacitor from polymers instead of the traditional electrolytic design that’s been around since at least the 1920s.

Now for the important question: When will this new technology hit the market? According to C|Net, the first prototypes should start sampling in Q3 of this year. The problem is finding someone to mass produce them. Assuming they can find a partner, then the researchers expect you should be able to buy a thin Xenon equipped camera phone during Christmas 2014.

That’s not too far off, but it’s not close either. Combine this new Xenon flash with technology like HTC’s “UltraPixel” and you can easily see that there’s a lot of room leftin terms of the advancement of camera phones technology.