Infrared detector size - How low should you go?

Ronald Driggers, Gerald Holst, Joseph Reynolds, Jonathan Fanning, Richard Vollmerhausen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

10 Scopus citations


In the past five years, significant progress has been accomplished in the reduction of infrared detector pitch and detector size. Recently, longwave infrared detectors in limited quantities have been fabricated with a detector pitch of 5 micrometers. Detectors with 12 micrometer pitch are now becoming standard in both the midwave infrared (MWIR) and longwave infrared (LWIR) sensors. Persistent surveillance systems are pursuing 10 micrometer detector pitch in large format arrays. The fundamental question that most system designers and detector developers desire an answer to is: "how small can you produce an infrared detector and still provide value in performance?" If a system is mostly diffraction-limited, then developing a smaller detector is of limited benefit. If a detector is so small that it does not collect enough photons to produce a good image, then a smaller detector is not much benefit. Resolution and signal-tonoise are the primary characteristics of an imaging system that contribute to targeting, pilotage, search, and other human warfighting task performance. In this paper, we investigate the task of target discrimination range performance as a function of detector size/pitch. Results for LWIR and MWIR detectors are provided and depend on a large number of assumptions that are reasonable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInfrared Imaging Systems
Subtitle of host publicationDesign, Analysis, Modeling, and Testing XXIII
ISBN (Print)9780819490339
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes
EventInfrared Imaging Systems: Design, Analysis, Modeling, and Testing XXIII - Baltimore, MD, United States
Duration: Apr 24 2012Apr 26 2012

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
ISSN (Print)0277-786X


ConferenceInfrared Imaging Systems: Design, Analysis, Modeling, and Testing XXIII
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityBaltimore, MD


  • Infrared Detectors
  • Infrared System Performance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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