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Sofradir develops next generation 10-micron pitch IR detector

The detector uses mercury cadmium telluride (MCT/HgCdTe), a cooled IR technology for use in military and defence applications

The image quality of an infrared detector depends on its spatial resolution, which is related to the size and number of pixels. The higher the number of pixels and the smaller the pixel size, the sharper the image.

Sofradir is now using a compact 10-micron pixel pitch in its latest MWIR detector, which is suited for use in military, defence and space applications. The French firm says the small pitch in its prototype detector, means that the number of pixels on a standard size chip can be doubled.

With this significant increase in image resolution, fighter pilots and soldiers will be considerably more effective in distinguishing between small objects at long distances (up to ten km) during the day and night, and through fog and smoke.

Targeted military applications of Sofradir’s 10-micron pixel pitch IR detector will include Infrared Search and Track Systems (IRST), targeting and reconnaissance pods, long-range surveillance and armoured vehicles.

“It is critical for the military to see first and see the right target, whatever the weather conditions. This is what the higher resolution, higher range 10-micron pixel pitch infrared detector helps provide,” says Philippe Bensussan, chairman and CEO at Sofradir.

“Sofradir continues to build on its legacy of innovation. We were the first to introduce the 15-micron pixel pitch TV format IR detector, a compact high-resolution product that brought system integrators significant advantages in performance and footprint and has become an industry standard. We’re taking the lead once again by pushing the bar from 12-micron pixel pitch that exists today to 10-micron. Our customers can look forward to the ultimate performance in IR systems.”

The focal plane array prototype was developed with the support of DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) by CEA-Leti at DEFIR, the joint laboratory of Sofradir and CEA-Leti. CEA-Leti is a European microtechnology, IT and health technology research centre. 

Sofradir credits its Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT/HgCdTe), a cooled IR technology using a silicon-like photodiode implantation process, for enabling the development of the 10-micron pixel pitch IR detector. 

MCT is extremely effective at controlling pixel diodes. What's more, Sofradir’s indium bump positioning process is claimed to be very accurate. The bumps are connection pads that join the detection circuit and the read out integrated circuit together. This level of control offers Sofradir two options: It can fit more pixels on the IR chips currently in use and therefore further enhance image resolution or develop smaller IR chips for overall IR system cost-savings.

Sofradir will demonstrate a prototype of what it says is the first 10-micron pixel pitch IR detector for tactical applications at SPIE DSS in Baltimore, April 23 – 27 stand #1711.
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