Wavelength- or polarization-selective thermal infrared (IR) detectors are promising for various novel applications such as fire detection, gas analysis, multi-color imaging, multi-channel detectors, recognition of artificial objects in a natural environment, and facial recognition. However, these functions require additional filters or polarizers, which leads to high cost and technical difficulties related to integration of many different pixels in an array format. Plasmonic metamaterial absorbers (PMAs) can impart wavelength or polarization selectivity to conventional thermal IR detectors simply by controlling the surface geometry of the absorbers to produce surface plasmon resonances at designed wavelengths or polarizations. This enables integration of many different pixels in an array format without any filters or polarizers. We review our recent advances in wavelength- and polarization-selective thermal IR sensors using PMAs for multi-color or polarimetric imaging. The absorption mechanism defined by the surface structures is discussed for three types of PMAs—periodic crystals, metal-insulator-metal and mushroom-type PMAs—to demonstrate appropriate applications. Our wavelength- or polarization-selective uncooled IR sensors using various PMAs and multi-color image sensors are then described. Finally, high-performance mushroom-type PMAs are investigated. These advanced functional thermal IR detectors with wavelength or polarization selectivity will provide great benefits for a wide range of applications.
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