Thermal imaging cores

Thermal imaging cores are subsystems that provide similar features and functions to those found in some FLIR Systems standard camera products. However, cores are designed to permit easy integration into other systems. Cores can be used ”stand-alone” or as a subsystem component by an OEM in many applications. As interest in thermal imaging increases, more and more OEMs want to integrate a thermal imaging module in their own product. Cores, like Tau, are the perfect systems to do this.

Choice of image quality

Tau incorporates a maintenance free, uncooled Vanadium Oxide (VOx) focal plane array (FPA). According to system requirements, the user can select 160 x 128 or 320 x 256 image resolution. Tau delivers crisp video images which can be displayed on any monitor that accepts composite video. The focal plane array delivers outstanding image quality and sensitivity. Tau makes temperature differences of 50 mK or less visible.

Different versions available

Tau can be used to fit in any product or application, FLIR Systems has identified three major applications and markets a different version of Tau for them:

- Tau D
This is an extremely affordable thermal imaging core for numerous applications. It provides fully digital interfaces and video outputs. It is specifically designed for large volume OEM applications requiring commercial performance, digital only interfaces and wider field of view (>24°) applications.

- Tau P
This version provides the greatest flexibility and performance. Tau P features:

  • Higher thermal sensitivity for extraordinary image detail.
  • FLIR Systems patented Digital Detail Enhancement (DDE).
  • Different color palettes and symbology.
  • Dynamic zoom and pan.
  • More lens options available.
  • Support for lens-less configuration.

- Tau F
This version has been especially developed for convenient integration in fire-fighting cameras. It incorporates specific features demanded by fire-fighters:

  • Greater temperature range.
  • Temperature measurement.
  • Isotherms.
  • Color palettes and symbology.

Compact, easy to integrate

Tau is a very compact and lightweight package. The core weight for the WFOV configurations is only 70 grams. It can easily be integrated in small locations. The integrator can interface directly to the Tau’s Hirose 50-pin electrical connector for power (in), video (out), RS-232 commands, serial and parallel digital data and other select functions. 

Advanced video processing

Tau supplies 8.3Hz digital video as a standard. Versions supplying 30 Hz are available, subject to obtaining a validated export license from the US Department of Commerce for use outside the USA. The user has the choice between a 8- or 14-bit digital video output. The digital data protocols are serial LVDS, CMOS and BT-656. Video processing features include multiple automatic, dynamic image optimization algorithms, as well as polarity control (white-hot/black-hot), image orientation control (invert / revert), and freeze-frame capability.

Wide operating temperature range

Tau surpasses the requirements of the most demanding ambient temperature requirements. Tau D operates between -10°C and +50°C. Tau P and Tau F between -40°C to +80°C. 

Digital Zoom

The Tau core incorporates a 2x digital zoom feature. The center pixels of the FPA are upsampled to the full image resolution. This enables close-up imaging at safe stand-off distances. 

Advanced image processing

Tau contains an advanced Digital Detail Enhancement (DDE) video processing algorithm. This is a sharpening filter which aids in making edges and other image details more distinct in both night and daytime conditions.

No Thermo-Electric Cooler (TEC)

All versions of Tau employ a novel combination of on-FPA circuitry and non-uniformity compensation (NUC) processing to eliminate the thermo-electric cooler (TEC). FLIR’s patented approach to TEC-less operation enables the camera to operate over a wide temperature range while maintaining excellent dynamic range and image uniformity. Two significant benefits are realized from TEC-less operation: reduced power consumption and an “instant-on” capability. The time to image is less than 2 seconds - ideal for on-demand applications.

Software Developers Kit (SDK) to create applications for camera control and/or acquiring digital data

The Tau SDK enables customers to create their own applications for camera control as well as data acquisition using one of several interfaces. Languages supported include VB6, VB.net, C#, and C++ (MFC). Code examples are included to help illustrate how some of the functions can be used. The Tau SDK also works on Linux. There is an example in the SDK that works in the Linux environment. It has everything needed to write your own Tau control application.

Alternate configurations

For those applications where Tau needs to be integrated in extremely small spaces, Tau is available as a shutterless camera (3.81 cm x 3.81 cm) Tau also supports a split architecture allowing the single electronics board to be located up to 20 cm away from the camera.

User configurability

The Tau offers complete flexibility to easily configure every camera for integration into system platforms with the powerful Tau GUI and SDK. 


There are several Tau specific accessories: the VPC (video/power/communication) breakout module, the Tau XP (expansion) board reference design module, the software SDK, and a tripod adapter.

Choice of lenses

All Tau versions are available with a family of wide field of view (>24°) lenses; 5 mm, 9 mm, 13mm or 19 mm lens. This makes Tau an ideal instrument for a wide variety of applications. Tau P offers even more choices. The 320 x 256 pixels version can be ordered with the before mentioned lenses as well as with three NFOV lenses: a 25 mm, 35 mm or 60 mm lens. The Tau P is also available as a lens-less core.

Available lenses

Tau P only
320 x 256 pixels 5 mm 9 mm 13 mm 19 mm 25 mm 35 mm 60 mm
Field of View NA 48° (H) x 37° (V) 34° (H) x 26° (V) 24° (H) x 18° (V) 18° (H) x 14° (V) 13° (H) x 10° (V) 7.6° (H) x 5.7° (V)
f/number NA 1.25 1.25 1.1 1.4 1.4 1.25
IFOV (mrad) NA 2.778 1.923 1.316 1.000 0.714 0.417
Coating Type Hard carbon like High durability coating Hard carbon like

160 x 128 pixels 5 mm 9 mm 13 mm 19 mm
Field of View 43° (H) x 35° (V) 25° (H) x 20° (V) 17° (H) x 14° (V) 12° (H) x 10° (V)
f/number NA 1.25 1.25 1.1
IFOV (mrad) 5.000 2.778 1.923 1.316
Coating Type Hard carbon like