You probably have watched an action movie wherein a character would look through vision goggles or through scopes or cameras, and instead of seeing normal views, he / she would see reddish / yellowish moving figures. If so, then you have seen infrared thermography in action.
So, what is infrared thermography, anyway? Before I answer that question, let’s talk about Thermal energy first.
Matter consists of atoms and molecules and these components move around almost constantly. The energy that comes from this movement is called thermal energy. The more these atoms and molecules move, the more thermal energy it generates. This must not be confused with heat energy, which is an energy type that can be transferred from one matter to another. With that being said, you should be aware that the movement of atoms and molecules, also results to emission of radiation.
This is where infrared thermography comes in. This is a branch of science that deals with the visualization of radiation. Specialized thermographic scopes and cameras are used to detect infrared radiation that is emitted from all objects. These images can easily be seen during daytime or even when there is little to no visibility.
Infrared thermography has been used in various fields. Most of the time, you’d come to associate infrared cameras and scopes with surveillance cameras. Thermography is also very beneficial to numerous military tactics and operations.
However, those are not the only applications where thermography is used. Since it can help detect or “see” things that cannot be seen easily by the naked eye, technicians have used this technology to determine possible line problems by finding overheating areas in power lines. They also use thermography to detect heat leaks when trying to install a thermal insulation system. Firefighters have also used this method as a visualizing aid when going through smoke, helping them locate people, as well as determine the root of the fire.
Medicine has also benefitted with the use of thermography, especially when it comes to detecting and diagnosing early signs of diseases. Medical thermography aids physicians and researchers in diagnosing and treating patients and this technology is very beneficial in detecting imbalances or diseases that are not easily “seen” by other diagnostic tests.
The Short Version
In conclusion, infrared thermography is the method of using specialized tools to detect radiation being emitted from objects, allowing the user to visualize images without the need of light. There are plenty of uses for thermography such as in the field of surveillance and medicine, and as the technology improves, more and more thermography uses can be added to the list.