Virtual spectral selectivity in a modulated thermal infrared emitter with lock-in detection Articles uri icon

publication date

  • July 2022

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 12


  • 14, 5451


  • 22

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1424-3210

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1424-8220


  • The need for affordable low-power devices has led MEMS-based thermal emitters to become an interesting option for optical gas sensors. Since these emitters have a low thermal mass, they can be easily modulated and combined with a lock-in amplifier for detection. In this paper, we show that the signal measured by a lock-in amplifier from a thermal emitter that varies its temperature periodically can have different spectral profiles, depending on the reference signal used. These virtual emitters appear because the Fourier series expansion of the emitted radiance, as a function of time, has different coefficients for each wavelength, and this spectral signature, which is different for each harmonic, can be retrieved using a reference signal that corresponds to its frequency. In this study, the effect is first proved theoretically and then is measured experimentally. For this purpose, we performed measurements with an IR camera provided with six different spectral filters of a modulated emitter, in combination with lock-in amplification via software. Finally, we show a potential application of this effect using multiple virtual emitters to gain spectral selectivity and distinguish between two gases, CO2 and CH4.


  • Materials science and engineering
  • Physics
  • Robotics and Industrial Informatics


  • thermal emitter; blackbody; lock-in amplifier; fourier series; optical gas sensor; gas detection; virtual emitter; methane; co2; spectral selectivity