The new infrared sensor developed by NEC (photo courtesy of NEC)
The new infrared sensor developed by NEC (photo courtesy of NEC)
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NEC Corp developed an uncooled infrared sensor whose pixel pitch is as small as 12μm.

It has a sensitive wavelength range of 8-14μm and a pixel count of 640 x 480. It is the 640 x 480-pixel infrared sensor that has the world's smallest pixel pitch, NEC said. The pixel pitch was realized by using the company's own MEMS technologies to improve pixel structure.

As a result, it becomes possible to reduce not only sensor size but the size of infrared lens to be combined with the sensor. Compared with a product whose pixel pitch is 23.5μm, lens volume can be reduced by 75%, NEC said.

The infrared sensor measures 24 x 24 x 6.7mm and weighs 11g. Its volume is 1/10 that of NEC's existing product. Because the new sensor enables to drastically reduce the size of infrared camera, it is expected to expand the application of infrared cameras such as monitoring and SAR (search and rescue).

This time, NEC redesigned the readout circuit inside the sensor chip, digitized the adjustment of the sensor's output voltage and lowered its power consumption. Because of the digitization, it became possible to output more suitable infrared images in accordance with each application, the company said.

NEC has been developing a material for the surface that receives infrared light in collaboration with Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). For the future, the company aims to realize an infrared sensor with a higher sensitivity based on the results of the development. The company will exhibit a prototype of the new infrared sensor at International Technical Exhibition on Image Technology and Equipment 2012, which runs from Dec 5 to 7, 2012, in Yokohama, Japan.