Uncooled pyroelectric infrared detectors based on semiconducting Y–Ba–Cu–O have been investigated. Samples with four different structures were characterized. Two of the pyroelectric detectors were thermally isolated from the substrate by micromachining techniques for high optical sensitivity. Pyroelectricity was observed by the methods of optical illumination and direct substrate heating. A wide range of the values of pyroelectric coefficients was obtained with the maximum close to 20 μC/cm2 K in one device. Detectivities up to 108 cm Hz1/2/W were measured. The temperature dependence of these pyroelectric sensors was investigated. It was found that one device showed a fairly constant optical response with respect to temperature over a wide range around 300 K. However, responsivity of another device of a different geometry decreased sharply at ∼304 K. The spectral study of these devices showed that the wavelength-dependent response decreased when the silicon transmission increased. In addition, frontside illumination evoked a much stronger response than backside illumination. This is attributed to the enhancing effect of the microcavity under the bridge and the transmission properties of the silicon substrate. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.