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Infrared Cameras: Inventions and Uses

Infrared Cameras: Inventions and Uses

Issue Time:2022/06/10
A thermal or infrared camera is not the same as the camera in a smartphone. A typical camera looks at the wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum that bounce off objects and hit a receiver in the camera. The camera then turns the light into an image. 

Thermal cameras, on the other hand, ignore visible light and look for something else called infrared. According to the University of Calgary, infrared is low-frequency electromagnetic radiation that can sense heat. This is because infrared radiation excites molecules, causing them to move and vibrate around, causing an increase in temperature.

How do infrared cameras work?

According to Dr. Christopher S. Baird, every object in the universe is known to emit some level of infrared radiation, even if it's only slightly warmer than the lowest possible temperature.

The amount of infrared radiation it emits is related to the temperature of the object. The hotter an object is, the more infrared it emits. According to NASA, until an object is hot enough to emit visible light, such as molten metal, the only way to "see" the temperature is with a thermal imager. 

Thermal imaging cameras use a series of sensors and heat detectors to estimate the level of infrared light in front of them. An onboard sensor converts the infrared signal into an electrical current. These currents are then converted into color-coded images that show fluctuations in temperature and infrared radiation. 

The concept of thermal imaging isn't a recent technology, dating back to 1929 when Hungarian physicist Kalman Tihanyi created the first infrared-sensitive camera. Since then, thermal imaging technology has grown into a useful tool in many different industries, including construction and engineering, security, and medical diagnostics.

Some of the most common uses for thermal imaging cameras include:

Looking for wires

Thermal imaging can be used to evaluate different cables and connections hidden behind walls. When active wires are discovered, engineers can perform maintenance and detect faults.


Police and law enforcement officers can use thermal imaging to locate criminals in hidden environments such as inclement weather, darkness, or woodland.

Health examination

Veterinarians use thermal imaging of animal joints to detect hot spots that can be caused by autoimmune diseases, such as arthritis, without the need for surgery.

Look for heat loss

Thermal imaging is a handy tool for locating cold spots and moisture during building surveys. Additionally, this can be used to assess the overall integrity of the building structure.

Fire control

Firefighters can use thermal imaging to detect hot spots in burning buildings and make decisions about the best course of action. It's also a useful tool for locating someone trapped in smoke.

The discovery of infrared

British astronomer Sir William Herschel discovered infrared radiation in 1800. Through a series of experiments, Herschel set up a prism on a south-facing window with direct sunlight to direct and separate the light into different wavelengths, which subsequently produce different colors that, according to American scientists, make up visible light.

Then he exposed the thermometers to each of the different colors to see how they changed the temperature on the thermometer. However, he found that when the thermometer was placed outside visible light, beyond the red end of the spectrum, the temperature continued to rise. What he discovered was infrared radiation. 

The above briefly describes the invention and use of infrared cameras. If you want to know more or buy infrared camera modules or components, please contact us.

Javol is a professional custom infrared camera modules and components manufacturer. Our company designs develop and manufacture advanced imaging products and system solutions, which are widely used in applications such as machine vision, autonomous driving, drone payloads, high-end manufacturing, and medical diagnosis.
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