The bolometer is a photon detector with an extremely
large sensing range. It is sensitive to all electromagnetic
radiation up in to cosmic radiation wavelengths. The basic
bolometer consists of a photon absorber, an extremely sensitive
thermoelectric sensor and often a cooling system. When a photon
hits the absorber, its temperature increases slightly. This is detected
by the temperature sensor. The bolometer is very sensitive, but it has a long recovery time, usualy several milliseconds since the
last photon hit. If the frequency of photon hits is lower than
the recovery time, you will get an accumulative measurement of the
energy of all the photons.
If the time between each hit is longer than the recovery time, the output will indicate the energy of the last photon. Since the energy is dependent on the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation (The higher the frequency the higher the energy), You can use a bolometer to measure the EM frequency of the photon. For example if a x-ray photon hits the bolometer the output variation
will be higher than if a IR photon hits it. This means that the bolometer
can be used in broadband spectroscopy as long as the time between each
photon hit is longer than the recovery time.
The temperature sensing component can be a thermistor.
In the most sensitive bolometers a superconducting
thin film thermistor is used. This thermistor is
biased to just the superconducting temperature, and
even a small temperature rise changes the current flow through
it. This change is measured by a Superconducting
Quantum Interference Device.
Recently the technology needed for making an array of these
devices has been developed. These arrays can be used in an X-ray telescope, for example.