Infrared detector industry: many innovations to drive arrays costs down


  • Driven by smart lighting, smart buildings, and mobile devices, the infrared (IR) detector market will reach about US$500 million by 2020.
  • The next growth opportunities will be outside traditional markets, in smart buildings and mobile phones.
  • Technological developments to succeed in driving cost down in arrays: US$10 is the target.
  • In a changing supply chain, there are still opportunities for new entrants.

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LYON, France – January 19, 2016: “The different IR detection technologies positioning depends on the application and detector size”, details Yole Développement (Yole) team in its latest IR detector analysis, entitled, Infrared Detector Technology & Market Trends report (2015 edition). Today, pyroelectric detectors and thermopiles are the two dominant IR detector technologies with their market share split roughly 60/40. Pyroelectric technology is the only motion detection option. In parallel, the more recent thermopile technology is rather used for temperature sensing or gas detection.
For arrays’ application, the competitive landscape is more complex. Indeed, Yole’s analysts identified a mix of both technologies, pyroelectric and thermopiles, depending on the applications (HVAC, smart building and more…)… Generally speaking, many innovative technologies have been developed to drive cost down in arrays. Under this context, Yole’s analysts are analyzing the technology trends and market evolution. And they announces: US$ 10 is the target!

Yole released last November a new technology & market analysis dedicated to the IR detector industry. Under this report, the “More than Moore” market research and strategy consulting company proposes an in-depth understanding of the IR detector market, its supply chain, it infrastructure and players. It also presents the key technical insight into future technology trends and challenges. Yole’s analysis includes market metrics & dynamics from 2014 to 2020 (data per market segment – market share by player – application focus on key growth areas for IR technologies).

Two IR detector technologies, pyroelectrics and thermopiles, were historically available. The most recent technology, the thermopiles, is currently supplied by companies coming from the MEMS area with mainly silicon-based manufacturing technologies. Key players are: Excelitas, Heimann, Nicera, Melexis and Dexter Research. Microbolometers was expected to be a new potential technology for large arrays in smart building applications but this technology turns out to be very expensive...
In parallel, new pyroelectric technologies have been developed by specific companies (Pyreos, Irisys, DIAS infrared) with a strong focus on arrays’ development: from 1X8 to 64X64 pixels or 1x510 pixels. The main applications identified by Yole’s team are people counting, gas & flame detection as well as spectroscopy. In 2016, a new pyroelectric CMOS array technology will be introduced by Irlynx: the company will propose a very low pricing and target US$10 which is a key threshold to access to smart building applications. Beginning of November, the company already announced the completion of a €2 million Series A round of financing…

“In parallel with this technology fight, at Yole, we observe common parallel trends of increased functionality and cost reduction in the different detector markets”, asserts Yann de Charentenay, Senior, Technology & Market Analyst from Yole. And he details:
  Small detectors: detector manufacturers are increasing the added value of their solutions, by developing the resolution from dual to four pixels; they are also introducing the transition from analog to digital/calibrated sensors.
  Within the arrays area, Yole’s analysts distinguish medium and large arrays. Companies propose today medium arrays with a better resolution for faster/wider area detection. In parallel, regarding the large arrays, except for high value niche applications like retail sector people counting, cost reduction is clearly the main target. The objective is to get an access to new applications such as smart buildings applications, where market players are used to buying low-cost motion sensors. Large arrays’ technologies have succeeded in meeting low cost requirements:

“With their new thermopiles, Excelitas and Heimann, have reduced cost by introducing new designs of their 32x32 arrays,”
explains Yann de Charentenay from Yole. And he adds: “A new CMOS pyroelectric array, from Irlynx, will also enter the market soon with a 64x64 array targeting large volumes to get below the US$10 target.” 

IR imaging technologies introduced over the past two years with 80x60 pixel resolution, microbolometers and thermodiodes, from Ulis, FLIR and Bosch, are too expensive for smart building players today, with US$10 being a critical target price threshold. However, IR imaging costs could drop rapidly in the long term if it is adopted in smartphones. 

To reduce cost, manufacturers are focusing their technological development on the different parts of the detector: array pixel size, packaging, and optics are among the priorities. In Yole’s report, the analysts details the market strategy of each key IR detector players. Their aim is to explain how technologies are positioned and what technological developments manufacturers are making to reduce cost… A detailed description of this report is available on, imaging reports section.