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Infrared Thermography (IRT)

Infrared Thermography Main Image
Thermogram of a domestic cat showing increased temperature near brain and in face. From: Wikimedia Commons (image captured by Lcamtuf)

Infrared thermography (IRT) is the leading non-invasive and non-destructive method used to detect and localize material defects, short circuits, and other powered failures. It works by analyzing the heat dissipation that results from these device faults.

Infrared thermography can be used to measure the heat distribution in integrated circuits (die) and printed circuit boards, and nearly any powered device to detect hot spots.


  • Works well for Ohmic and metallic short-circuits
  • Wide temperature range


  • Low-power failure sites (< 3 mW)
  • Devices with high power dissipation and low power failure sites (thermal signature masking)
  • Obstruction by thick metals or other thermally conductive materials impairs analysis

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Sample Requirements

Example Outputs

IRT image showing a hot spot in upper right corner of a flip-chip die: differential/subtraction mode.

Thermal image captured of a spinning car tire

From: FLIR

The Thermogram of a domestic cat: apparently captured while it was deep in thought, as it is showing increasing temperatures near its brain and in its face.

From: Wikimedia Commons (image captured by Lcamtuf)

Instruments Used

FLIR ThermoVision SC6000 IR

FLIR ThermoVision SC6000 IR

  • Detector Type: Indium Antimonide (InSb)
  • Spectral Range: 3.0 – 5.0 microns
  • Temperature Range: -25 to +500 °C
  • Temperature Sensitivity: as low as 0.018 °C
  • Adjustable Frame Rate: 0.0015 Hz to 126 Hz

How IRT Works

Infrared thermography (IRT), also called thermal imaging or infrared thermographic imaging, maps thermal radiation intensity/wavelength (correlating to material temperature) in the same way that a standard camera maps visible light.

IR light is emitted by all materials and is directly tied to temperature, and thus the radiation/emission sites can be used to localize powered failures or quantify sample temperatures.

The detected IR signal is captured over a specialized pixel array, which correlates the IR light at each pixel-point to a given color or grayscale value indicative of temperature. Contrast in thermal images (called “thermograms”) is generated from the difference in thermal energy between pixels. While each pixel contains accurate quantitative temperature measurement, the relative temperature difference between pixels makes up the thermal contrast in the image. Using this, minor changes in temperature can be detected and localized.