Stephen Cornford


  Saturation Trails [ acid ] (2017)

Saturation Trails seeks to reveal the architecture of the digital image through direct material interaction with image sensors, the
now ubiquitous photosensitive semicondcutors which transduce light into voltage in our digital cameras. The project appropriates
three techniques from optoelectronic manufacture and testing: pulsed lasers, acid etching and x-ray radiation.

The silicon substrate of image sensors is highly inert and can only be etched with hydroflouric acid, which is used to lay down the conductive microelectronic architecture of the chip during manufacture. The exposure of a sensor to acid produces a liquid
photogram on its surface which gradually reveals its layered structure: wrinkling the polyamide coating before attacking the pixel
structure of the image. The different readout patterns of CCD and CMOS chips become visible in the geometric patterns produced
during etching. During these acid tests the machine eye hallucinates colours which have no referrent in optical reality.

VIDEOS: acid test #1 | acid test #2

The work was conducted in the Optoelectronic Research Centre at the University of Southampton.
Thanks to Neil Sessions and Professor Rob Eason.