The Difference between Cooled and Uncooled Infrared Detectors

You have most likely see a thermal imaging camera in use on TV programmes that follow the police and rescue services. These are the cameras that return an image in bright colours, reflecting the heat output of the subject.

Police and rescue helicopters use them, as do the military and many other organisations, for many different purposes. They work by picking up the infra-red heat signal of a person or object. This is then converted into electrical impulses. The impulses are then used to create an image as described.

While a thermal imaging camera does not return a clear and defined image as a night vision or standard camera does, it is very useful in finding people – and also has many uses around the home.

There are two different types of thermal imaging camera – cooled and un-cooled – so we have taken a look at the differences for you below.

Outlining the Difference

First, let’s talk a little about what a thermal imaging camera does. Put simply, it will find the infra-red heat signal of any object – living or otherwise – that is above zero degrees. This means just about everything that is not frozen! It does so via a sophisticated series of receptors and processors. The eventual image is that you may have seen as described.

The impressive thing about the thermal imaging camera is its range. Most can detect down to -4 Fahrenheit, and up to as much as 3600F! That’s an amazing spectrum of temperature. They usually detect changes of as little as 0.4F, so are also surprisingly accurate. Furthermore, they usually scan at a rate of 30 times per second, so will give you a constant real-time update of the situation.

What is the difference between the two types?

Cooled Thermal Imaging Camera

The cooled – or cryogenically cooled – thermal imaging camera is the more sophisticated type. It is also the most accurate, and the more expensive of the two types of thermal imaging camera. This type of camera is used by professionals, and is more of a scientific appliance.

The cooled camera has all of its components sealed in a specially designed chamber. They are constantly cooled to a temperature of below 32F or 0C. The advantage of this is that the processors work better at such temperatures. This gives better results.

There is no doubt that the accuracy and definition of the cooled model is much better. Sensitivity is improved, and they can sense a temperature change of as little as 0.2F at a distance of 1000ft. The advantage of this in military use is that it can see if someone is, for example, about to fire a gun.

The downside of this version is that, thanks to its sophisticated construction, it is not as durable and rugged as the un-cooled model, so is more susceptible to damage.

Un-Cooled Thermal Imaging Camera

The more popular and less expensive of the two types of thermal imaging cameras, the uncooled model, is still a sophisticated device, albeit not to the extent of the cooled version.

With these models, the internals work at room temperature, so you get instant start-up with no need to wait for the cooling process. They are powered by rechargeable battery, are built to be used in rough terrain, and still return a reading of acceptable accuracy.

If you are looking for a thermal imaging camera, Powerpoint Engineering can be the place to go. Especially if you need something to use around the home – perhaps for detection or security solutions – then the un-cooled version perhaps makes more sense, as it will cost less to buy, and will provide you with the results you need.

Post Author: Makay Oliue