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Uncooled infrared detectors have realized many significant technology advances, improved reliability, better manufacturability and lower costs. This has fueled the availability of a wide variety of infrared cameras based on those detectors. Low cost portable and fixed infrared cameras as well as high performance systems have been introduced for a variety of thermal imaging applications. As a result of the new price points and better overall performance, traditional markets for infrared cameras have exploded while new markets have been created that benefit from the steady improvements in performance.
This article reviews how uncooled detectors have matured into the mainstream markets for infrared imaging. Significant performance improvements are described such as sensitivity, resolution, thermal time constant and uniformity as well as the benefits to system complexity and cost. Infrared camera cores are now available that deliver the performance and versatility required from OEMs to meet specific requirements. Primary applications for thermal imaging cameras are also reviewed.