Discovery of Infrared Radiation

Infrared radiation was discovered around 1800 by Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel while trying to measure the temperature of the different colours of sunlight. For this purpose, he allowed sunlight to pass through a prism and placed thermometers in the individual colour ranges. He noticed that beyond the red end of the visible spectrum, the thermometer displayed the highest temperature. From the observed increase in temperature, he concluded that the solar spectrum continues beyond the visible red light.

Classification of the infrared spectral range into bands is not clearly defined. The technical applications of NDIR gas analysis, flame spectroscopy and pyrometry often use the subdivision of NIR, SWIR, MWIR, LWIR and FIR. The CIE (International Commission on Illumination) and DIN 5031-7 propose a division into bands IR-A, IR-B and IR-C.

Description German
according to
Wavelength /µm 
Near-infraredNIRNIRIR-A0.78 ... 1.4
Shortwave-infraredNIRSWIRIR-B1.4 ... 3.0
Midwave-infraredMIRMWIRIR-C3.0 ... 8.0
Longwave-infraredMIRLWIRIR-C8.0 ... 15.0 (50.0)
Far-infraredFIRFIRIR-C15.0 (50.0) ... 1,000.0
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Sources of Infrared Radiation

Sources of infrared radiation are initially all objects, whereby their temperature is the most important parameter (temperature radiator, Planck's law of radiation). This is used in contactless temperature measurement, pyrometry. Intensity and spectral distribution also depend on the surface of the object, which is described with the emission factor. An ideal temperature radiator has a spectrally constant emission factor of 1 and is referred to as a black radiator. Commercially available radiators are mostly not black at all, but have an electrically heated cavity that allows the radiation to escape through a perforated screen. Physically, such a cavity is almost ideally "black", since it does not reflect any radiation (cavity radiation). Technically, however, it is easier to manufacture and also has much more long-term stability than an ideal black surface. Light bulbs are also thermal radiators. However, their upper wavelength is limited to about 4 µm due to the absorption of the glass bulb. Other sources of infrared radiation are LEDs and lasers. Their spectrum is usually limited to a small range that depends on the semiconductor material.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Pyroelectric detectors from InfraTec utilise their strengths in measurement technology particularly in the mid-infrared range, but can also be used for laser applications in UV as well as in the range of distant infrared radiation.

InfraTec Spectral range

The absorption bands of numerous gases lie in the mid-infrared range from 2.5 to 13 µm. The concentrations of gases such as CO2, CO, NOx, ozone and hydrocarbons (alkanes, refrigerants, halogen and aromatic hydrocarbons) can be measured by determining the characteristic radiation absorption using thermal sensors (pyroelectric detector and thermopile). The use of ATR infrared spectroscopy (ATR - attenuated total reflection) enables, among other things, the measurement of gases in liquid media.

InfraTec Sensor Division - Measuring the breath alcohol concentration 1

A New Generation for Measuring Breath Alcohol

Alcohol is the most frequent cause of death in road traffic accidents and 20% of work-related accidents are caused by alcohol. According to the WHO, about three million people die worldwide each year from alcohol consumption – that is more than from AIDS, violence and road accidents combined.

By recognizing typical gas emissions in the MIR, which arise in the event of a fire, flames can be recognized selectively and very safely over long distances (flame detector, triple IR, IR3).

Detector Search

InfraTec offers five different product groups including approximately 50 standard pyroelectric detectors. Choose your suitable infrared detectors with the help of our detailed detector search.

Overview of all standard infrared detectors
Sensor division InfraTec detectors overview