The Fundamentals of a Pyroelectric Detector

The Fundamentals of a Pyroelectric Detector

Pyroelectric sensors are basically thermal detectors and use the pyroelectric effect to detect even the slightest changes in the temperature of a body. Temperature fluctuations cause the charge on the surface of pyroelectric crystals to change, which produces a corresponding electrical signal. This temperature gradient can be created by the absorption of light or a host of other things. 

There are plenty of different pyroelectric materials available, but only three are commonly used in pyroelectric detectors. These three are DLaTGS, LiTaO3, and PZT. The named materials have specific properties that make them suitable to be used in pyroelectric detectors. To compare materials with regard to their fundamental suitability for pyroelectric detectors, it would yield better results when we analyze them using the parameter pyroelectric coefficient specific AC resistance/dielectric constant specific heat capacity. Using these metrics, DLaTGS and LiTaO3 achieve the best results, which makes them best suited, just as mentioned earlier. 

DLaTGS has the highest performance level, which is approximately 2×109 @ 10 Hz. The use of this material is widespread in IR measurement technology in the laboratory, especially in routine FTIR applications. On the other hand, LiTaO3 is mostly reserved for industrial applications because of its thermal behavior. PZT is primarily used in consumer products.


As mentioned earlier, the three most used pyroelectric materials have a few properties in common. These properties are what make them suitable for being used in pyroelectric detectors.  

. Pyroelectric Coefficient

This is a figure that is used to determine the ability of the material to produce current from IR radiation. The more radiation produced by the material, the better that particular material is suited to be used in a pyroelectric sensor. Therefore, the bigger the pyroelectric coefficient of the material, the better chances of that material being used in a detector. 

. Dielectricity Constant

This figure is used to determine the capacitance and therefore affects the noise produced. In voltage operation, the higher the capacitance, the lower the noise. For that reason, you need a material that has a larger dielectricity constant to reduce the noise produced.

. Specific Heat Capacity

The specific heat capacity is used to determine the temperature increase in the crystal as a result of the amount of radiation absorbed. A low specific heat capacity indicates a larger temperature increase and thus a better signal. You should therefore aim for materials that exhibit a lower specific heat capacity. The lower, the better. 

. Specific AC Resistance

It is usually coupled with dielectric losses that, in turn, produce a kind of Johnson noise. Pure dielectrics don’t normally produce any noises, so it is always best to go for the pure kind. Also, the lower the AC resistance, the better, and you should therefore look for a material that has lower AC resistance. 

The Modes of Operation of Pyroelectric Detectors

The IR crystal is modulated as a power source housed in a TO can with additional electronic components and parallel capacitance. As a result, there are two basic modes of operation of pyro detectors: voltage mode and current mode.

. Voltage Mode

JFET-based voltage mode has been widely used for quite a long time now. However, it comes with a few demerits, which can be very dire to the inexperienced hand. It is therefore only recommended for experienced users. That disadvantage is that it produces a relatively low signal on a strongly temperature-dependent offset. That notwithstanding, this mode of operation has a few advantages of its own. The main one is that the highest value for D* can be achieved with the simplest design, which is approximately 0.5×109 @ 10 Hz. Another significant advantage is that the amplification is flexible. 

. Current Mode

Under this mode, a high signal is produced on a low offset with relatively low-temperature dependence. For that reason, it doesn’t necessarily need experienced hands on it, unlike the voltage mode. However, if you are experiencing any troubles, you can seek assistance from someone who is familiar with it. For current mode, OPVs are required to exhibit just a low electrical power consumption. With this version, beginners can most quickly and successfully develop their product. The low output impedance leads to additional EMC advantages. 

Where to Get Your Pyroelectric Detectors

There are plenty of companies that manufacture and distribute pyroelectric detectors, but none of them are as reliable as Excelitas. This is a company that has been in the business for decades now, and they have always delivered when it comes to quality. Why choose them? Below are a few reasons that should convince you. 

. Experience

As mentioned, the company has been in business for a very long time now, and that has enabled them to gain loads of valuable experience. With that experience, they have been able to learn a lot of things concerning the products they make and also how to improve what they already have. Also, with an experienced team comes quality products because each member of that team has learned a lot throughout their careers and can use that knowledge to meet the customers’ needs. 

. Variety

Excelitas doesn’t just have a variety of products when it comes to light sources and displays; they stock a lot of different pyroelectric detectors. From single element to dual element and even four element detectors, they’ve got it all. All these different varieties are suited for different purposes, which means that the company has tried its best to serve the diverse market they have. 

. Reputation

Excelitas has the highest quality products, and this is due to the stellar reputation they hold within the innovation industry. They have worked hard to earn the trust of the consumers, which makes it their responsibility to continue to deliver quality products. If you are looking for durable, high-quality pyroelectric detectors, then there’s nowhere else to look other than Excelitas. They also have a professional team that is always available to help if needed. If you don’t know what type of sensor will suit your needs, you can always ask them, and they are ever more than willing to step up.

John Norwood
John Norwood is best known as a technology journalist, currently at Ziddu where he focuses on tech startups, companies, and products.