Sensor sees a colorful world

March 4, 2004
Designers now have a drop-in option for adding color-sensing capabilities to products, thanks to a new integrated sensor from TAOS Inc.
The TCS230 from TAOS Inc. is an integrated RGB color sensor with a digital interface that links directly to a microcontroller, eliminating the need for analog-to-digital converters.
The TCS230 integrates photodetectors, amplifiers, multiplexing, and analog-to-digital conversion all on one chip, eliminating the need for discrete components and saving space.

Designers now have a drop-in option for adding color-sensing capabilities to products, thanks to a new integrated sensor from TAOS Inc., Plano, Tex. ( The TCS230 is a programmable color light-to-frequency converter that integrates red, green, and blue filters on a single die. The single die helps simplify mounting and optics, and having all three filters on the same optical plane ensures accurate measurements. The sensor is capable of 10 to 12-bit resolution per color channel without the need for analog-to-digital converters, so output can be sent directly to a microcontroller.

The sensor has a 64-photodiode grid consisting of four types of photodiodes; red, green, blue, and clear for overall intensity information. The four types are interdigitated to minimize the effects of nonuniformity of incident irradiance. The 16 photodiodes of the same color are connected in parallel and the color is dynamically selectable via two programming pins.

The device responds to light over a 250,000:1 dynamic range, with a typical output frequency range of 2 Hz to 500 kHz. Two other programming pins select scaling factors from 100 to 2% or a power-down mode.

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