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The Key Function of Thermal Camera Cores

Friday May 27th, 2022

thermal drone camera in a grassy field awaiting take off

There are nearly endless industrial applications for thermal imaging cameras (TICs), from detecting fevers and discovering electrical hazards to inspecting commercial buildings and finding missing people. If you're looking to get a better understanding of how they work, TherCam, an industry-leading thermal solutions provider, is here to help. In this piece, we'll:

  • Describe what a TIC is
  • Describe what a thermal camera core is
  • Discuss the function of thermal camera cores
  • Differentiate between cooled vs. uncooled cores

What Are Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICs)?

A thermal imaging camera (TIC) is a contactless device that detects an object's heat signature. They create an image by converting infrared (IR) radiation into an image visible to the human eye. This process is called thermal imaging.

Anyone, from engineers to safety experts, can use TICs to capture infrared radiation data. This data shows temperature differences and then assigns colors to different degree ranges. High temperatures appear as warm colors (yellow or orange), and colder temperatures appear as cool colors (blue or purple).

TICs detect infrared radiation with microbolometers. A microbolometer is a type of bolometer. These devices work by using temperature-dependent electrical resistance to measure an object’s radiation power. When infrared radiation strikes the detector, the detector changes its electrical resistance. The TIC then processes this resistance change to create an image people can see.

thermal camera on black background with disposable face mask

What is a Thermal Camera Core?

Inside a TIC is an array of critical components that make thermal imaging possible. One of these key mechanisms is the thermal camera core (module). Thermal camera cores are compact, integrative, lightweight components for high-level safety and security systems.

They're beneficial for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) specializing in civil, industrial, and military applications. Depending on your thermal imaging needs, you may need thermal imaging camera cores in longwave (LWIR), mid-wave (MWIR), or shortwave (SWIR) IR. 

Typically, a thermal camera core has four main parts:

  1. Lens: Focuses infrared energy onto the sensory.
  2. Thermal Sensor/Detector (Microbolometer): Detects infrared radiation and converts it into an image. 
  3. Processing Electronics: These circuit boards process the signal from the sensor and pass it to a visual display so people can see infrared radiation. 
  4. Mechanical Housing: Defends against heat, water, and other harsh conditions.

Whether you're in fire & rescue or waste management, you can integrate thermal camera cores into handheld, mountable, and organization-wide systems.

Thermal Camera Core Applications

Premium thermal camera cores have rugged reliability and mission-ready performance and are also size, weight, and power (SWaP) optimized. These characteristics make them ideal for a multitude of commercial, defense, and security applications such as:

Commercial Defense Safety and Security
  • Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS)
  • Aerospace & astronomical
  • Automation
  • Building diagnostics and inspection
  • Industrial inspection
  • Thermography
  • Intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR)
  • Tracking and targeting
  • Remote weapon station
  • Light armored vehicles (LAV)
  • Soldier systems
  • Critical infrastructure
  • Border security
  • Condition monitoring
  • Navigation
  • Search and rescue
  • Unmanned aerial system (UAS)
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems

camo helicopter in flight through grey skies

What is μm?

In your search for the right camera core, you'll often see the symbol "μm." μm is the symbol for micrometer (or micrometre), a unit of length equal to one-millionth of a meter. In the context of thermal camera cores, it will indicate the wavelength measurement a thermal camera is sensitive to. For instance:

  • Shortwave infrared (SWIR): .9 μm to 1.7 μm spectral band
  • Midwave infrared (MWIR): 3 μm to 5 μm spectral band
  • Long-wavelength infrared (LWIR): 8 μm to 15 μm spectral band

By and large, most applications will require mid-wave and long-wavelength capabilities. 

*Pro-Tip: If you’re interested in what kind of thermal camera core you need for your application, please reach out to TherCam for more information. Our seasoned team of professionals will tailor an IR solution to your precise requirements.

Cooled vs. Uncooled Thermal Camera Cores

Currently, there are two types of thermal camera cores: cooled and uncooled. Cooled thermal camera cores have cryogenic technology that keeps them at very low temperatures. These systems are more sensitive to heat than their uncooled counterparts but are also significantly more expensive and potentially less reliable due to the mechanisms that cool them.

Conversely, uncooled (bolometer-based) thermal camera cores operate at ambient temperatures. Because they don’t need a cooling system, they’re often more reliable and smaller, making them ideal for applications where a specific SWaP is essential.

Safety and Security Professionals to the Core 

If you need to find quality thermal camera cores at affordable prices to ensure the safety and success of your team, TherCam should be your go-to provider. We provide infrared solutions for a wide range of commercial, security, and industrial applications.

With one-of-a-kind customer service, a value-focused suite of camera options, and a library of helpful resources for public and private organizations, we're here to help you streamline your safety and surveillance processes and technologies. If you're interested in learning more, please browse our latest selection of products and solutions.