FLIR Image Intensifier Tube Types and the difference between SD, ID, HD and Quicksilver.

Armasight by FLIR manufacture various image intensifier tubes and tube grades, and we take a look at the differences between Core, Gen 1 and the varying commercial Gen 2 types and grades such as SD, ID, HD and Quick Silver.

CORE Technology

Devices such as the Spark use CORE (Ceramic Optical Ruggedized Engine) technology image intensifier tubes offering Gen 2 type performance with 60-70 lp/mm, at a remarkable price

While Armasight SPARK CORE is essentially a Gen 2 type image intensifier but does not contain a micro channel plate (and so by definition lands in the Gen 1 category) that is where the parallels end. Instead of glass, CORE tubes use a specially formulated ceramic compound fused with metal alloys similar to those used in production of Gen 2 and Gen 3 image intensiffier tubes.

Generation 2 technology

This tech marked the development of a microchannel plate, which multiplies the number of electrons by the thousands. This produces a clear image in nighttime situations without the distortion seen in Gen 1 technology. All new production Gen 2 IIT is normally referred to as Gen 2+ due to major improvements in performance since the time it was introduced.

  • SD stands for "Standard Definition" Gen 2+ IIT with resolution 45-51 lp/mm. These may have small cosmetic belmishes which are synonymous with the production of Gen 2 image intensifier tubes.
  • ID stands for "Improved Definition" Gen 2+ IIT with resolution 47-54 lp/mm. ID has less cosmetic blemishes than on Standard Definition IIT. 
  • HD stands for "High Definition" Gen 2+ IIT with resolution of 55-72 lp/mm and considerable less cosmetic blemishes than Standard SD models, however some "dust and black spots" may still occur due to natural design of Gen 2+
  • QS stands for "Quick Silver" Technology which allows you to view night vision in black and white hue instead of standard green color. Users suggest that White Phosphor IIT puts less strain on their eyes which allows them to use NV longer. QS  Gen 2+ IIT has resolution range of 47-72 lp/mm. 

Please note, although HD, ID and QS tubes have considerably less cosmetic blemishes than Standard SD models, however some "dust and black spots" may still occur due to natural design of Gen 2+. This is common across all manufacturers and generations of night vision and is due to the natural design and manufacturing of image intensifier tubes.

Photonis explain this natural design process as best as we have found in this article.

Black Spots are cosmetic blemishes that may originate from fixed particles inside the I2 tube or in the fiber optic. Small size black spots in the I2 tube are inherent to the manufacturing process and do not affect the performance or reliability of the device.

However, some manufacturers produce I2 tubes with excessive black spots that will obstruct a large portion of the image, significantly reducing a soldier’s situational awareness and consequently his ability to perform the mission.

Black spots can be acceptable as long as they do not interfere with the viewing of the image to be observed and therefore specifications of tubes should be fine‐tuned to match the constraints of the end‐use application 4.

The image quality of night vision device for helicopters pilots or snipers shall be more demanding that that of a standard night vision goggle or monocular for situational awareness and movement.

The amount of black spots has a direct consequence on the unit price of an I2 tube (the more spot the less costly) but has no influence on its actual low light or high light level performance.

Spots are always measured according to Mil‐Spec at input light levels of 1 to 10 mlx for best image contrast. Spots are measured by comparing to calibrated target spots of given size, and are classified in quantity and per zones of the useful diameter of the tube.

Text Extract courtesy of Photonis.