Thermal imaging is a technology that has been used since the 1950s to detect infrared radiation and convert the electrical pulses generated into an image that can be interpreted easily by humans. Thermal imaging lets you “see in the dark” so to speak because the infrared radiation that is visible to the thermal imaging camera are invisible to the human eye.
In the old days the thermal imaging techniques were mostly used in military espionage. But over the years, the technology has evolved and become more mainstream. Today, the thermal imaging techniques find wide application in various fields ranging from security surveillance to search and security, firefighting, gas detection, road safety, building diagnostics, pest inspection, equipment preventive maintenance among others.
The fact that the thermal imaging technology does not rely on light waves allows it to be applied in areas with or without light. Some of its first applications were in the military where they were also used in night vision equipment.
How Does Thermal Imaging Work?
Thermal imaging is based on the principle that objects emit heat in the form of infrared radiation at varying frequency. The intensity of the radiation is directly proportional to the amount of heat radiated by the object.
Thermographic cameras have been designed to detect this infrared radiation and produce temperature-calibrated images called thermogram. The cameras are calibrated such that the hottest objects captured give the brightest images while objects that are not emitting any heat will give a blank or black color. The objects identified by the thermographic camera will appear as distinct objects in the thermal image, enabling one to easily identify the image formed by the camera.
Just like with other electronic devices, there are numerous brands and types of thermographic cameras with varied specifications that you can purchase to enable you to capture thermal images. The kind of camera that you will purchase will depend on the area of application. There are thermographic cameras that are designed specifically for firefighting and they are called thermal imaging cameras. They enable firefighters to easily identify the hot areas even in the midst of thick smoke.
Thermographic cameras are also applied in diagnostic uses in mechanical, structural and electrical installations where they are used to identify faults. One of the most popular uses in the recent years has been in the surveillance industry. They are more effective than the usual surveillance cameras that rely on light to capture images. Thermographic cameras are able to capture images of intrusion even in pitch darkness.
As research continues into thermal imaging technology, manufacturers are coming up with ever sophisticated thermal imaging devices that are able to accomplish things that were once deemed impossible. In airports, thermographic cameras are being used to detect patients that may have slightly raised body temperatures which may be a sign of stress or sickness.
In the future, it will be possible for users to capture even more refined thermal images that will take surveillance and diagnostics work to a whole new level.