Part of the Electronics glossary:

A photosensor is an electronic component that detects the presence of visible light, infrared transmission (IR), and/or ultraviolet (UV) energy. Most photosensors consist of semiconductor having a property called photoconductivity , in which the electrical conductance varies depending on the intensity of radiation striking the material.

The most common types of photosensor are the photodiode, the bipolar phototransistor, and the photoFET (photosensitive field-effect transistor). These devices are essentially the same as the ordinary diode , bipolar transistor , and field-effect transistor , except that the packages have transparent windows that allow radiant energy to reach the junctions between the semiconductor materials inside. Bipolar and field-effect phototransistors provide amplification in addition to their sensing capabilities.

Photosensors are used in a great variety of electronic devices, circuits, and systems, including:

  • fiber optic systems
  • optical scanners
  • wireless LAN
  • automatic lighting controls
  • machine vision systems
  • electric eyes
  • optical disk drives
  • optical memory chips
  • remote control devices

This was last updated in April 2005
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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