There continue to be size and packaging advancements at the chip level, as well. Vacuum packaging has been achieved at the pixel level and there have been demonstrations of single chip hybrid thermal/visible sensors. IR detector arrays based on a-Si have seen a steady reduction in pixel pitch from 45æm in 2000 to 17æm pixel pitch in 2008 and it is projected to reach 12æm. This has allowed array sizes to increase with little to no growth in detector size - a 14.4 mm width detector having 320x240 pixels and 45æm pixel pitch compares favorably with a 17.4 mm width detector having 1024x768 pixels with 17æm pixel pitch. The net result will be less expensive, more compact optics and cameras.
The volume of scale produced by certain applications will also drive down costs. The a-Si is used in solar cell production, where the industry is finding new ways to deposit and process the material. Enhanced vision systems planned by automotive manufacturers will create images from the heat that is naturally radiated by objects such as pedestrians, cyclists, animals and other roadside objects and add a new dimension of safety for drivers.
Other applications include heat-oss detection for building efficiency, firefighting and material inspection. The net result of device advancements coupled with mainstream implementations will yield some very exciting cost competitive future products for the physical security market.
Ray Coulombe is Founder of SecuritySpecifiers.com, the industry's largest searchable database of specifiers in the physical security and ITS markets; and Principal Consultant for Gilwell Technology Services. Ray can be reached at email@example.com or through LinkedIn.