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Cool Running IR Sensors

Infra red (IR) sensors detect heat emissions. This makes them ideal sensors for any number of processes, from medical procedures to security, to food safety and detection systems. However, excepting casual usage systems such as remote control cameras, which just detect 'a' heat source as a flashing code rather than a complex signal, IR suffers from a common problem of all electrical devices. IR devices generate heat.

This operational heat is emitted by the sensor itself, and so it covers the sensor like a fog. All other heat signatures then have to get through this obsfucating heat haze. The more power that is pulled to get through this haze, the worse the problem gets.

Typically the only way to remove this haze is to build extra temperature reduction systems - such as dry ice - into the systems themselves. This cools them as fast as they heat up, but makes the devices bulky, and, not forgetting the dangers of dry ice to living material, often hazardous to use.

A new way has been desperately needed for some considerable time now, as if the cooling system could be cast aside, such devices would downscale very quickly.

A team from Electrical and Computer Engineering in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan State University think they might have cracked the problem, by radically altering the components of an IR sensor system. Professor John D. Ryder and colleagues have presented a heat sensor derived from carbon nanotubes, in which the detection system is a nanoscale pattern rather than a traditional electrical device - microcurrents over an area rather than a single electrical current generating friction.

Nanotube antennas in parallel, drawing power in almost undetectable amounts from a perpendicular array of microelectrodes, together form a criss-crossing latticework, which whilst individually incapable of sensing enough useful data, when multiplied thousands or even hundreds of thousands of times across a sensing head, produce a heat detection sensor which would rival today's designs - with no heat output.


Nanoantenna boosters for carbon nanotube infrared detectors

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