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SILFRARED. The dark side of light

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[SILFRARED]Commercial_sheet_UPM_EN(Innovatech) PDF

Inexpensive silicon based photodetectors for night/thermal vision

Silfrared technology is a monocrystalline silicon based new concept that enhances silicon detectivity in the near and mid infrared range. Silfrared devices are uncooled and fabricated with non-contaminant and abundant elements, being the fabrication procedures easily integrated with CMOS technology. This properties can provide devices over a 20% cheaper than existing technologies. Silfrared will cover market’s demand for inexpensive devices sensible to the near IR and extended to the visible range that have been pursued since the early 90’s. 

Technology Solution

Silfrared devices are based on the illumination-coupled infrared new concept for silicon photodetectors technology that can provide high response in the near- and mid-IR range (added to visible range) with a monocrystalline silicon based uncooled device.

In contrast to other mid-IR commercial photodetectors (made of materials different from Si) these devices can take advantage of the low price of Si raw material and processing techniques, and of its non-contaminant character. This technology is also fully compatible with traditional Si CMOS technology.



Areas of application are:

  • Security: night vision cameras, military applications,…
  • TIC: optical communications, inspection and sensing for industrial applications, next generation of computing and gaming systems,…
  • Others: medical imaging, automotive safety, astrophysics,…


“Silfrared concept enhances Si detectivity in the mid-IR range at room temprature, fully compatible with CMOS technology, saving more than 20% of the cost”

Market demands

  • Security
    • Most infrared detectors need to be cooled, what prevents a reduction of the device size, specially interesting for security, firefighting and military applications. Uncooled devices are therefore very interesting.
    • Silicon based devices are also very demanded, not only for the reduced cost of silicon raw material, but also because it is not affected by political issues, since it can be obtained everywhere.
  • Automotivea new generation of infrared sensors are required for night vision, pedestrian security and collision prevention.
  • ICTcommunication in the infrared band is widely used in our daily lives (remote controls, computing, vehicles, medical diagnostic,...). An important cost reduction is highly desirable to many industries. 
Market potential

  • The mid IR sensor market at 789 M$ in 2012 are anticipated to reach 7 B$ in 2019.
  • North American IR detector and module market, estimated at 1 B$ in 2008, the largest in the world.
  • Sofradir, the number one developer and manufacturer of a key class of infrared (IR) detectors for military, space and industrial applications, had annual sales in 2011 of 150 M€ (two thirds in exportations. Sofradir is holding a 25% market share.
  • Sofradir shipped 40.000 IR detectors, worldwide. Customers include the US Army, Thales, Sagem, Selex, Thales Alenia Space, ESA (European Space Agency) and FLIR Systems.
  • ULIS, Sofradir subsidiary, had 50 M€ benefits in 2012.
  • FLIR, world leader in the design, manufacture and marketing of thermal imaging infrared cameras, had 1.4 B$ revenues in 2012 (628 M$ in thermal vision and measurement division, 486 M$ in surveillance division and 158 M$ in raymarine division). 619 M$ came from government systems. 700 M$ came from United States and 350 M$ from Europe.
  • FLIR invested 10% revenue in  R&D.
  • There are underpetenetrated existing markets: security cameras (7.7 B$), military infrared (7 B$) or automotive (6 B$).


“There is a huge underpenetrated market for an uncooled IR photodetector technology based on silicon. Inexpensive devices for the near IR detection extended to the visible range have been pursued since the early 90’s”


Competitive advantages

  • Direct application for a 20 B$ underpenetrated market. Silfrared is the only known technology based on silicon, uncooled, that works for the visible up to mid-infrared.
  • Saving more than 20% of the device cost: there is no need for cooling, while other silicon based devices must work at cryogenic temperatures (liquid nitrogen temperature: -196 °C) to reach the mid-infrared range.
  • Devices based on abundant, cheap and non-toxic elements such as silicon (28% of the earth crust) and titanium (0.5%). Actual devices are based on elements like lead (0.0014%) or cadmium (0.000015%).
  • Fast response devices. Sustitutive products such as microbolometers are comparatively slow.
  • Fabrication processes compatible with CMOS technology (90% of the actual technology), reducing costs.

  • Research group with an experience of more than 35 years in the microelectronics field.
  • Technology developed in colaboration with the Solar Energy Institute of Madrid - UPM (Spain).

  • Patent applied in Spain P201400241 (co-ownership UCM and UPM).
Development stage

  • Idea
  • R&D
  • Lab-Prototype
  • Industrial Prototype
  • Production

Silfrared contact

Dr. Javier Olea Ariza

e: j.olea@upm.es

UPM contact

Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Area

Centre of Support for Technological Innovation – UPM

e: innovacion.tecnologica@upm.es


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