Interesting Facts to Know About Pyroelectric Sensors



 A pyroelectric sensor is an infrared-sensitive device used explicitly for sensing electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range. The energy emitted by any object above absolute zero is infrared radiation. For over 200 years, the scientific detection of infrared radiation emissions has been an active research and development area, yet it is relatively new to some engineers. This is because up until recently, infrared radiation has been limited to niche applications. However, one of the primary methods for detecting infrared radiations is understanding some of the basics behind pyroelectric sensors. Therefore, engineers can adapt it to create versatile sensing solutions.

Output Sensitivity

As a result of a change in thermal energy, a pyroelectric sensor generates an electrical output. The relationship between these particles indicates the sensor’s responsiveness. Both the temperature and wavelength of that wave will influence the production level based on the sensing element’s responsiveness. The sensor is reacting to a radiated wave that carries thermal information. Typically, using a controlled source, a sensor will be calibrated or characterized.

Functioning of Pyroelectric Sensor

Due to the single polar axis of pyroelectric detectors, they have a rare asymmetry. Pyroelectric energy is effective in sensor technology. For this, electrodes are coated perpendicular to the polar axis with a thin pyroelectric crystal. An absorbing layer is applied to the upper electrode of the crystal. The pyroelectric layer heats up, and the surface arises when this layer interacts with infrared radiation. A charge of the opposite polarity originates if the radiation is switched off. However, the cost is meager. Extremely low noises and low leakage current field-effect transistors or operational amplifiers convert the charges into a signal voltage before the crystal’s finite internal resistance can equalize the payments. However, the measuring effect of thermopiles is less significant, and they too belong to the group of thermal detectors. Thermopiles produce good results up to specific Hertz modulation frequencies only. At the same time, pyroelectric infrared sensors show an excellent signal ratio to modulation frequencies of 4kHz.

The Pyroelectric Effect

The polarisation of lithium tantalite changes when the temperature of its crystal varies. This creates an opposite polarity surface when the crystal is heated and cooled. The detectable sparks between the top and bottom surfaces equalize these charges.

Pyroelectric Sensor with Integrated Beam Splitter

A pyroelectric sensor, in addition to the pyroelectric crystal, contains optical and micro-mechanical components. A pyroelectric detector reacts to airborne and solid-borne sound. This is because pyroelectricity is a characteristic of a subgroup of piezoelectric crystals. The effects of pyroelectric sensors reduce dramatically with a monogrammed fastening of the pyroelectric chip.

Pyroelectric Materials

An electric response of polar dielectric with the temperature change is known as pyroelectric material. There is a movement of the atoms from their neutral position if the temperature in return changes, thus changing the material’s polarization. Suppose the temperature remains consistent at its new value. This effect becomes temporary. Due to leakage of the current, the pyroelectric voltage becomes zero. So, the charges developed by the heating and cooling effect are equal and opposite within this same temperature limit. All pyroelectric materials are also piezoelectric because they exhibit spontaneous polarization, which cannot change on applying the electric field.

 Types of Pyroelectric Materials

Polyvinyl Fluorides

Lithium tantalite

Cobalt phthalocyanine


Gallium nitride

Cesium nitride

Derivatives of Phenyl pyridine

Effect of Pyroelectric Coefficient with Temperature

The pyroelectric coefficient affects temperature.

An increase in temperature increases the pyroelectric coefficient.

It is more significant for second-order transitions and depends on the order of the phase transition.

Pyroelectric material increases where the TC is a curie temperature.

 Pros of Pyroelectric Materials

Pyroelectric materials do not cause pollution.

The maintenance cost of the materials is low.

They have a very high-frequency response.

Cons of Pyroelectric Material

An individual cannot measure static motion easily.

They need a high impedance cable.

Applications of Pyroelectric Materials

Laser diagnostic

Fire Sensor

Solar energy pyroelectric converter


Detection and protection of wildlife.

Comparison Between Pyroelectric and Ferroelectric Materials

The following are the differences between pyroelectric and ferroelectric materials


Ferroelectric materials generate electric polarization even in the absence of an electric field, while pyroelectric materials exhibit electric potential whenever heated or cooled.


Pyroelectric are IR detectors, temperature detecting elements, and image tubes, while ferroelectric materials are ultrasonic transducers acting as a memory device like random access memory.


Pyroelectric materials are unidirectional polarization, non-centrosymmetric, and exhibit pyroelectricity when T>= Tc. On the other hand, ferroelectric materials generate dielectric hysteresis and are both pyro and piezoelectric in nature.


Pyroelectric materials include ammonium, phosphate, and quartz crystal. On the other hand, ferroelectric materials include barium titanate and lithium niobite.

Differences between Pyroelectricity and Thermoelectricity

The phenomenon in which the material shows the reversible temperature change on the applied electric field is known as the electrocaloric. Therefore, thermoelectricity is different from pyroelectricity. Thermoelectricity, the two different temperatures are subjected to the two ends of the device resulting in a permanent voltage in the device resulting in their temperature differences. On the other hand, pyroelectricity pyro crystals change temperatures from one degree to another resulting in a transient voltage across the crystal.

Sensors That Take Advantage of The Pyroelectric Effects

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors can either be passive or active. Since the infrared emitter can be far apart, an active infrared sensor can work over a long distance. Using sensitive detectors configured to sense the infrared radiation heat from a source directly allows passive infrared detectors to detect motion.

Food Detectors

Food detectors are gauged to detect food-related substances such as lactose, fat, or sugar. These detectors can process factors and measure many different substances in a variety of environments.

Gas Detectors

Detecting and monitoring gas is one of the most popular applications of infrared pyroelectric sensors.

Flame Detectors

As flames are strong emitters of IR, flame detectors are easily constructed using pyroelectric sensing elements. They can, however, discriminate flame sources in IR flame detection systems. Flame detectors can respond faster and be more accurate than heat or smoke sensors.

Pyroelectric sensors effectively ensure that electronic devices work properly, indicating a change that requires a specific type of reaction.

Angela is a senior editor at Dreniq News. She has written for many famous news agencies.