France has a long history as a leading center for infrared detector research and development. Fundamental research on IR detection technology began in the late 1970’s at Leti, an institute of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission. IR developments evolved when ULIS’ parent company, Sofradir, was founded in 1986 to develop and commercialize the results of this early R&D.
In the early 2000s, the military and defense market began to demand lighter, easier-to-handle and more cost-effective equipment than traditional cryogenic cooled technologies could offer.
Leti launched a new basic research program to develop an “uncooled” infrared detection technology capable of operating at ambient temperature. In 1994, development began on the microbolometer. In 2002, ULIS was created as a subsidiary of Sofradir to develop and market the results of the Leti’s uncooled IR detector research for initially defense and commercial market applications.
ULIS is the world’s second-largest producer of thermal image sensors (microbolometers). It offers a targeted range of sensors that are the key component of many top brands in thermal imaging equipment sold across Europe, Asia, and North America. ULIS is active in traditional markets like surveillance, thermography, defense, and leisure and is carving out a position in newer markets, such as smart buildings, road safety and in-cabin vehicle systems.
As costs have dropped, infrared detection technology has become more widely available for uses in building thermal performance and energy consumption audits, where it can help improve overall energy efficiency. It is also used to security applications to protect individuals, businesses and entire populations.
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The Sofradir Group pioneers developments in high performance IR detectors based on sophisticated technologies: Mercury Cadmium Telluride (MCT), Indium Antimonide (InSb), Quantum Well Infrared Photodetectors (QWIP), Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs), and a-Si Microbolometers. Many of the world’s missile seekers use Sofradir’s military-grade, battlefield-proven IR detectors; the detectors are also found in targeting pods, armored vehicle sights, handheld thermal imagers, and other airborne, naval, and ground vehicles. Sofradir is the leading European IR manufacturer for IR detectors deployed in space.
Founded in 1986, Sofradir Group is headquartered in Palaiseau, near Paris. It carries out high-volume manufacturing at its plant in Veurey-Voroize, near Grenoble. Sofradir owns two subsidiaries: ULIS, a high-volume manufacturer of microbolometers based in Veurey-Voroize; and US-based Sofradir-EC, a provider of uncooled and cooled IR imaging cores and engines, located in Fairfield, New Jersey. Together Sofradir, ULIS and Sofradir-EC employ about 800 staff.