Existence of new technology raises questions

Posted on : 2007-07-25 12:43 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Government investment in development of nano sensor technology could all be for naught

Prosecutors have launched a probe into whether Single Carrier Modulation Photo Detector (SMPD), the nano technology-based image sensor developed by a local research institute, really exists as its commercial use has been long delayed. The probe comes amidst prior charges raised on stock manipulation and false disclosure.

The technology was allegedly developed by the Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI), a state-run research institution operated under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. It was then sold to Planet82 Inc., a KOSDAQ-listed company, in November 2005 for 5 billion won (US$5.5 million). The government reportedly spent as much as 10 billion won (US$10.93 milion) to develop the technology in question.

The SMPD uses nanotechnology to enable cameras to take high resolution photos or video in the dark without a flash. Planet82 Inc. said that the nanotechnology-based image sensor, the world’s first chip of its kind, was 2,000 times more sensitive to light than other image sensors. According to Planet82, the sensor makes it possible to take clear images even when the light level is less than 1 lux. One lux is equivalent to the brightness from one candle one meter away in a dark room.

After disclosing that it had acquired the technology, stock prices in Planet82 skyrocketed more than ten-fold, from 4,300 won (US$ 4.69) per share on November 11 to 46,950 won (US$ 51.31) on December 7.

On July 24, prosecutors raided the offices of Planet 82 and confiscated boxes of computer files to obtain related evidence. The previous day, college professors who had participated in certification of the nano image sensor technology were summoned as part of the investigation.

The prosecution’s move comes as some have raised suspicion over whether the technology really exists, as its commercial launch has been long delayed. Stock manipulation charges have also been raised. In December last year, the Korea Exchange asked the prosecution to launch a probe into the charges that seven workers of Planet 82 had sold off their stakes in the company, just after company stock prices soared in the wake of its disclosure of the technology development.

The prosecution is also weighing charges of a fake disclosure in which the company promised to make the nano image technology commercially available within three months. “To that end, we have no choice but to investigate whether the technology itself exists,” the prosecution said.

Planet 82’s legal representative Cha Hyung-geun said, “The company has already been under investigation by KETI’s technology certification committee. The prosecution, without waiting for the results of the probe, is just going ahead with its own investigation.” She added, “The nano image technology surely exists and is in its final stage of development before its commercial launch.”

Meanwhile, the KETI said the results of its own investigation will be announced on July 25 and a certification committee consisting of outside experts will soon carry out an in-depth probe into the suspicions.

Please direct questions or comments to [englishhani@hani.co.kr]

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