Prototype camera for IR sensor testing developed

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Scientists of the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS have engineered a prototype camera designed to simplify product development of infrared sensors.

Fraunhofer IMS is fabricating sensors in the far-infrared region that operate at room temperature. The sensors can be used to help improve the heat efficiency of buildings, for instance, by spotting points where heat penetrates faster to the outside world known as thermal bridges.

The prototype camera, built at the Institute in Duisburg, Germany, aims to simplify product development based on these room-termperature detectors in future. ‘It is very time consuming and expensive to create an image from a new detector. The sensor must first be adapted to the given camera model. We want to reduce this effort by offering a suitable camera as a testing platform for our detectors that generates images on a PC immediately,’ explained Dr Dirk Weiler from the Fraunhofer IMS.

While commercially available infrared cameras have integrated image processing that typically sharpens temperature edges or smoothes surfaces, the EVAL-IRFA camera model from the Duisburg researchers presents a true image of every pixel. While it makes sense to enhance the images during regular operations later on, doing so during the R&D phase is counter-productive. The performance and operation can only be evaluated and adapted to a given application with the help of the raw detector data.

‘Since our customers come from very different application areas, they often have very specific requirements for the sensor – in relation to the optical or temperature resolutions, for example,’ explains Weiler. ‘If we tweak one or the other adjustment during the development phase here, the customer can immediately check the result in the actual image using our camera.’

The researchers are presenting their camera during Sensor and Test in Nuremberg, from 3 to 5 June 2014. Weiler is certain the demand is there: ‘Our technology opens up innovations especially for mobile applications, since it leads to smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient camera systems.’

This is of interest not just in themography for buildings. IR cameras installed as part of driver assistance systems could improve road safety, since people and animals on unlighted roadways can be detected at large distances without high beams blinding oncoming traffic. Infrared cameras could also be valuable in building surveillance or monitoring production machinery.

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