Thermographic imaging cameras are portable electronic devices that have integrated visual display and designed to detect heat signatures. The primary component of these devices is heat sensors that are attached to a special type of lens. It is designed to work alongside standard devices that can capture images in real-time.
It allows specialists to quickly identify sources of wasted heat energy or excessive temperatures like overheating components or possible thermographic insulation gaps in property inspections. Lights visible to the naked eye form only a small part of the spectrum, the only part that people can see.
When these devices are the point at an area or object, sensors on thermographic detection cams allow users to view the invisible infrared spectrum, which exists at wavelengths between microwave rays and light visible to the naked eye. It is usually rendered as a color map in modern Infrared imaging cameras.
However, most industries still preferred black-and-white displays for specific applications because of their reduced visual activity and improved capture of images with finer detail. On the color thermal display, warmer regions or components will show up as colors yellow, oranges, and reds.
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In contrast, cooler objects will usually be shown as blues and purples (objects colored green indicates that they are roughly at room temperature). Since these devices measure IR radiation and light not visible to the naked eye, they are also useful for finding heat sources in dark or obscured environments.
Quality thermographic imaging cams are usually sole in varieties of user-friendly ergonomic designs, and they are offering temp detection capabilities covering a broader range of heat sensitivities. It makes these devices a valuable companion to medics, emergency response units, engineers, product manufacturers, as well as maintenance workers across a wide variety of various types of enthusiasts and hobbyists at home.
The history of the thermographic imaging camera
It was only in the past decade that mass production of thermographic imaging technology has reached a point where portable thermal cams or heat, infrared, or thermal detection cams are now an option very accessible to most hobbyists, and civil application uses. But, viewing heat signature as an IR spectrum display is not actually a new idea by any means.
As a matter of fact, the roots of basic thermal principles were established more or less 200 years ago by William Herschel, a German-British astronomer. In simplified terms, William Herschel was the first person to discover the presence if IR rays, way back in February 1800, while using a simple prism to study the light spectrum visible to the naked eye.
He found out that he could place a regular thermometer beyond the red-light end of the light spectrum to detect the existence of unknown, invisible wavelength, warmer than the visible light. Today, people refer to this invisible wavelength as IR radiation, which lies between microwave and visible light frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum.
Although thermographic imaging cams were still a very long way off, William Herschel’s test results were quickly used to produce early thermocouple-type devices, which could detect heat emanating from warm objects or bodies at a long distance and not visible to the naked eye. His discovery was then developed by a lot of physicists, inventors, and engineers in subsequent years.
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How thermographic imaging devices work?
An IR or thermographic imaging device works by measuring and detecting the IR radiation emanating from people or objects – in short, the device measures or detects the heat signature of any object, animals, or person. To do this, the device needs first to be fitted with a specialized lens that allows infrared frequencies to pass through.
The light is focused on a special sensor that can detect and read them. The sensors are constructed as a grid of specialized pixels, each of which will react to the IR wavelengths hitting the sensor by converting them into electronic signals. These signals are sent to the processor in the main body of the cameras, which then turns it using various algorithms into color maps of various temperature values. It is the map that is sent to the display screen to be rendered.
Different kinds of thermographic cameras will also include a shooing mode that works with a light spectrum visible to the eyes, like any other point-and-shoot digicams, or digicams in general. It allows for easy comparison of identical shots – one in the normal way and one in Infrared – to help immediately identify certain areas with problems once users step out from behind the camera’s lens.
Why do thermographic cams work better during nighttime?
These cameras used to work a lot better during nighttime, but they have nothing with the state of surrounding environments being dark or light. Instead, because ambient temperatures and core temperatures of unheated environments and objects are usually significantly lower during nighttime compared during daylight hours, thermographic imaging sensors can display warm environments at higher contrast.
Even in cool days, heat from the sun will be absorbed by construction materials, vegetation, roads, buildings, and other objects obtained in ambient temperature during the day. They become less recognizable from other warm objects; the device’s sensor is being used to highlight and detect.
For the same reason, a lot of imaging cams will show warm objects in sharper contrast after a few hours of darkness, instead of just after sunset. And even during the daytime, they will be pretty effective in the early morning compared to the middle of the afternoon.
Do these devices work through glass?
People might be surprised to know that these devices do not usually work through glass. The reason for that would be pretty complex from the physics’ point of view, but the principle behind it is very simple. In essence, the glass will allow visible light to pass through, but it will act just like a mirror for IR wavelengths.
It is the reason why lenses on infrared cams are usually made from zinc selenide or germanium, not glass. If you point thermal cams at windows, what you would see on the screen would not be a clear thermographic rendering of what is on the other side, but it may be a blurry mess or possibly a vague reflection of the person holding the camera.