Microbolometers are sensors that constitute a compact, lightweight, reliable, affordable and low-power solution for obtaining infrared images. However, they are inferior to cooled infrared sensors in performance and are currently not available for applications in absolute thermography and optical gas imaging. The EU-funded BRIGHTER project will improve the performance of microbolometers through innovative pixel technology, readout ICs, low-power edge image signal processing electronics and image processing algorithms. The introduction of new sensors will contribute to saving materials and energy in the manufacturing sector, autonomous vehicle sensor development, and better control of gas emissions in cities and industrial areas.
Micro-bolometer sensors are compact, light, low power, reliable and affordable infrared imaging components. They are ahead of the cooled infrared sensors for these criteria but lag behind them in terms of performance:
- Existing micro-bolometer technologies have thermal time constants around 10 msec. This is more than 10 times that of cooled detectors.
- Moreover, there is no multispectral micro-bolometer sensor available today for applications such as absolute thermography and optical gas imaging.
BRIGHTER will develop 2 new classes of micro-bolometer solutions to reduce the performance gap with their cooled counterparts:
- Fast thermal micro-bolometer imaging solutions with time constant in the 2.5 to 5 msec range, that is to say 2 to 4 times faster than that of today’s micro-bolometer technologies. Read out integrated circuits able to operate up to 500 frames per seconds will also be investigated.
- Multi-spectral micro-bolometer solutions with at least access at the pixel level to 2 different wavelengths in the range 7 to 12 µm.
The developments will focus on pixel technology, Read Out Integrated Circuit, low power edge image signal processing electronic, optics, and image treatment algorithms. All stakeholders of the value chain are involved: academics, RTO, micro-bolometer manufacturer, algorithm developers, camera integrators and end users. They will collaborate to define the best trade-offs for all use-cases.
The 2 new classes of products that will spring from BRIGHTER will generate concrete benefits. They will make it possible to save on material and energy in the manufacturing sector, perform efficient and affordable monitoring of infrastructures and trains, contribute to autonomous vehicles sensor suite, decrease the road casualties among Vulnerable Road Users, better control gas emission in cities and industrial areas. These new usages served by the European industry will allow Europe to increase its market share in the infrared imaging industry.