Some electronic devices' remote controls have their IR-diode covered with some glossy, dark acrlyic-glass like screen, others dont and you can directly see (and possibly touch) the IR-diode.

What is, however, the purpose of this cover?

And why do some remotes not require it?

What material is this cover made of?

Why is it dark (doesn't the dark toning diminish the amount of IR light being emitted)?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Whether something is dark or bright, translucent or not in the IR spectrum, the average person with their human eyes can not see. \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 20:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PlasmaHH that's understandable. So why bother with the cover? Why block visible light? \$\endgroup\$
    – Passerby
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 21:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ One likely reason for a cover over the LED is simply for physical protection of the LED. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 21:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Passerby: my guess would be for diffusion \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 21:28

2 Answers 2


The cover is made of plastic that is opaque to visible light but transparent to infra-red. It probably attenuates the infra-red a small amount but not enough to affect operation.

The cover is basically for aesthetics - it will work fine without it.

Learning remote controls also have an IR photo-diode where there may be some advantage to filtering out visible light to avoid picking up other lights during the programming process.


After working with IR for years, and observing numberless products, I conclude that the reason just: tradition, and a bit of aesthetics.

But with a caveat.

For receivers, the bandpass window is critical for rejecting the visible band: sunlight and bright room lighting. Even when using modulation, filters, and synch detectors, and with IR-sensitive silicon, your IR link may overload and stop working if used outdoors, or used indoors with sunbeams or spotlights. Ideally the wavelength-passband of the receiver's "black" plastic window should be very narrow and centered on the transmitter's spectral line emission. A visible-black dye might reduce the detector sensitivity slightly. But this is a good tradeoff for blocking the offband optical interference.

So, with no receivers present, some designers still habitually use the visible-blocking plastic. Gleaming black seamless enclosure, not transparent, no unseemly electronics exposed. And there's the ancient "IR windows are always black" tradition. But it's not necessary. And if the LED emission line isn't right at the peak of the window dye's IR passband, adding black dye might reduce the LED's output power.

Similar question: why are red LEDS in red plastic, green LEDs in green? And, why are IR LEDs black? Most IR sources aren't, not anymore. But some were, decades ago.


If given the option, I go with totally transparent enclosures, so all the PCBs are visible. I've found pocket radios and desk phones. Also, the 2010 special edition Livescribe Smartpen had a "see thru" cases. Of course the non-composite pure plastics may be less tough than their opaque counterpart with various admix materials.

But it's WORTH IT.

And besides, any fractures in the clear enclosure are immediately visible, and can be cured with a bit of #3 ethylene chloride solvent cement, or crazy glue cyanoacrylate. I still haven't bought a modern tablet, and I'd be a total victim if someone was selling a transparent-case version. Maybe I'll wait a few years for printer resolution to improve, then have a removed tablet case 3D scanned, and 3D printed with transparent materials.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know about coloured plastic for LEDs but it sure makes it easier to sort them out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Transistor
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 22:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @transistor yeah, that's probably why they use a bit of blue-gray dye in some IR LEDs. In IR sensors it makes sense to use black visible-block dye, but there's no purpose to coloring the LEDs except for sorting out the ones that are "colored infrared." Heh, what's the standard "infrared color" for IR LEDs? Slight violet, slight gray? Slight red is already taken, pink for super-bright red LEDs. \$\endgroup\$
    – wbeaty
    Commented Oct 17, 2015 at 23:04

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