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A Simple Guide to Infrared Sensors Working Principle and Applications

An infrared sensor is defined as an electronic instrument the main application of which is to sense certain characteristics of its surroundings. This is done by either emitting or detecting infrared radiation. Also, these sensors can measure the heat being emitted by an object and detect motion. Both thermal ir sensors and quantum infrared sensors are not just found in industry but also in regular life. This article explains the working principle and applications of infrared sensors.

The Working Principle of Infrared Sensors

It is three laws that govern the physics behind infrared sensors:

  • Plank’s Radiation Law: Radiation is emitted by every object at a temperature T not equal to 0 K.
  • Stephan Boltzmann Law: The total energy emitted by a black body at all wavelengths is related to the absolute temperature.
  • Wein’s Displacement Law: Spectra peaked at different wavelengths is emitted by the objects of different temperatures.

Thermal energy is possessed by all objects which have a temperature greater than absolute zero (0 Kelvin) and also are a source of infrared radiation as a result. Blackbody radiators, silicon carbide, and tungsten lamps are different sources of infrared radiation. Infrared lasers and LEDs with specific wavelengths are used by infrared sensors as sources.

The Key Applications of Infrared Technology

Here mentioned are the key applications of thermal ir sensor and quantum infrared sensor:

  • Night Vision Devices:

It is the night vision equipment in which the infrared technology is not enough visible light available to see unaided. Ambient photons of light are converted by the night vision devices into electrons and then these are amplified by using a chemical and electrical process before finally converting them back into visible light.

  • Infrared Astronomy:

Infrared astronomy is a field of astronomy in which astronomical objects visible in infrared radiation are studied. Telescopes and solid-state detectors are used by astronomers to observe objects in the universe that can’t b detected using light in the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum.

  • Infrared Tracking:

Infrared tracking also referred to as infrared homing, is basically a missile guidance system that operates using infrared electromagnetic radiation emitted from a target to track it. These missile systems are oftentimes called ‘heat-seekers’ because infrared is radiated strongly by hot bodies, including aircraft, people, and vehicles.

  • Art History and Restoration:

Art historians use infrared reflectography so that hidden layers can be revealed in the paintings. This reflectography technique is used to decide whether a painting is an original version or is copied version and whether it has been altered by restoration work.

  • Hyperspectral Imaging:

The information from across the electromagnetic spectrum is accumulated and processed by using hyperspectral imaging which further can also be used to track nanoparticles inside large living organisms.


The key benefits of infrared sensors (thermal ir sensor and quantum infrared sensor) include low power requirements, simple circuitry, and also their portable features. Apart from the above-listed applications, infrared sensors are used in meteorology, climatology, water analysis, gas detectors, rail safety, petroleum exploration, and more.

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