Long Wave Infrared (LWIR) Camera Technology


Long-wave infrared (“LWIR”) cameras operate in the long wave portion of the electro-magnetic spectrum which spans 7 to 14 micrometers. For most purposes an LWIR camera will effectively cover 8 to 12 micron (note that micron and micrometers are used interchangeably in LWIR camera lingo). LWIR camera technology is also called ‘thermal imaging’ since the cameras are able to detect heat signatures emitting from an object and do not require illumination to form a picture. The thermal imaging capabilities of LWIR cameras have made them attractive as key components for a growing number of military, scientific, and industrial applications.

In order to differentiate between different types of LWIR cameras we can categorize them quickly and easily as being either ‘cooled’ or ‘uncooled’. There are a number of pros and cons for the use of cooled and uncooled long wave infrared.

Cooled LWIR:

  •   Increased sensitivity
  •   Reduction of thermal noise
  •   Improved image quality
  •   Faster frame rates
  •   Increased weight
  •   Increased size
  •   Additional cost
  •   Limited portability

Uncooled LWIR:

  •   Cost competitive
  •   Smaller size
  •   Easily integrated
  •   Portable
  •   Thermal noise present
  •   Lower resolution

The choice of a cooled vs. uncooled IR camera is really up to you. Your application will have requirements that will match more closely with one or the other. Your budget is also a consideration as some cooled IR cameras can cost up to 10x more than an uncooled IR camera. An additional method to further delineate between types of cameras is by sensor type. The sensor of choice for uncooled LWIR is the microbolometer. The commercial versions of the sensors commonly consist of either vanadium oxide or amorphous silicon. Cryogenically cooled LWIR sensors are generally based on MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride) or QWIP (Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector). Each camera will also have functions, features, and characteristics for your consideration. When you require a long wave infrared camera for your military, industrial, or scientific application – let Rice Camera help you. We’ve developed an agnostic attitude toward imaging technology because our belief is that ‘the best’ only matters if it is the best fit for your needs.

Please note that we are only able to assist customers that are U.S. citizens located physically in the United States due to export restrictions. If you meet those requirements and would like assistance with your LWIR camera, contact Rice Camera Today.