A sensing configuration based on commercially available triple-core photonic crystal fiber (PCF) for the image-based collection of thermal information is presented. Detection of thermal phenomena on the micro and nano scale is important for monitoring thermodynamic processes including cooling mechanisms for industry and basic research in both civil and mechanical systems. The thermal characteristics of the PCF combined with coupled-mode theory principles are used to construct a three core PCF with a 1-D core arrangement to simultaneously measure heat flux and temperature. The PCF sensor demonstrated high detection sensitivity (<1°C) and fast response times (<30μs), which is a significant improvement to current commercial standards. PCFs are specialty optical fibers that contain carefully spaced micronsized cavities that provide extraordinary waveguide characteristics not demonstrated by standard optical fiber. The three core PCF has a core diameter of 3.9μm, outer diameter of 132.5μm and varied inter core spacing. A single mode fiber is fusion spliced with the multi-core PCF such that the optical field is confined and launched into the PCF core. The output end of the fiber is inspected and imaged with a CCD camera. A 25mm section of the PCF is surrounded by a guarded hotplate configuration to control the thermal conditions for sensor characterization. Evanescent wave coupling occurs whereby power is transferred from the central core to a neighboring core. Minimum detection sensitivities of 0.2 °C were recorded. Theoretical sensitivities on the order of 10-2 °C are possible. Experimental results were in agreement with coupled-mode theoretical results.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.