State-of-the-art high performance IR sensing and imaging systems utilize highly expensive photodetector technology, which requires exotic and toxic materials and cooling. Cost-effective alternatives, uncooled bolometer detectors, are widely used in commercial long-wave IR (LWIR) systems. Compared to the cooled detectors they are much slower and have approximately an order of magnitude lower detectivity in the LWIR. We present uncooled bolometer technology which is foreseen to be capable of narrowing the gap between the cooled and uncooled technologies. The proposed technology is based on ultra-thin silicon membranes, the thermal conductivity and electrical properties of which can be controlled by membrane thickness and doping, respectively. The thermal signal is transduced into electric voltage using thermocouple consisting of highly-doped n and p type Si beams. Reducing the thickness of the Si membrane improves the performance (i.e. sensitivity and speed) as thermal conductivity and thermal mass of Si membrane decreases with decreasing thickness. Based on experimental data we estimate the performance of these uncooled thermoelectric bolometers.
Radiometric sub-millimeter imaging is a candidate technology especially in security screening applications utilizing the property of radiation in the band of 0.2 – 1.0 THz to penetrate through dielectric substances such as clothing. The challenge of the passive technology is the fact that the irradiance corresponding to the blackbody radiation is very weak in this spectral band: about two orders of magnitude below that of the infrared band. Therefore the role of the detector technology is of ultimate importance to achieve sufficient sensitivity. In this paper we present results related to our technology relying on superconducting kinetic inductance detectors operating in a thermal (bolometric) mode. The detector technology is motivated by the fact that it is naturally suitable for scalable multiplexed readout systems, and operates with relatively simple cryogenics. We will review the basic concepts of the detectors, and provide experimental figures of merit. Furthermore, we will discuss the issues related to the scale-up of our detector technology into large 2D focal plane arrays.