Low noise upconversion of IR images by three-wave mixing, can be performed with high efficiency when mixing the object radiation with a powerful laser field inside a highly non-linear crystal such as periodically poled Lithium Niobate. Since IR cameras are expensive and have high levels of intrinsic noise, we suggest to convert the wavelength from the mid infrared to the visible/NIR wavelength for simple detection using CCD cameras. The intrinsic noise in cameras has two main contributions. First, read noise originating from the charge to signal read-out electronics. This noise source is usually measured in number of electrons. The second noise source is usually referred to as dark noise, which is the background signal generated over time. Dark noise is usually measured in electrons per pixel per second. For silicon cameras certain models like EM-CCD have close to zero read noise, whereas high-end IR cameras have read noise of hundreds of electrons. The dark noise for infrared cameras based on semiconductor materials is also substantially higher than for silicon cameras, typical values being millions of electrons per pixel per second for cryogenically cooled cameras whereas peltier cooled CCD cameras have dark noise measured in fractions of electrons per pixel per second. An ideal solution thus suggest the combination of an efficient low noise image wavelength conversion system combined with low noise silicon based cameras for low noise imaging in the IR region. We discuss image upconversion as a means to do low noise conversion of IR light to visible light. We demonstrate system noise performance orders of magnitude lower than existing cryogenic cooled IR cameras.
Proceedings of Spie, the International Society for Optical Engineering, 2013, Vol 8726