What is thermal imaging?
Thermal imaging was originally developed for maritime use to detect icebergs, back in the early 1900s. It was adapted for military purposes and then in civilian life it was used for vision in total darkness, particularly for search and rescue operations.
Thermal imaging makes use of a heat-sensitive camera which detects the subtle differences in temperature of objects ranging in size from a single tiny component on a circuit board all the way up to an entire city, and beyond.
The camera then creates an image based on those variations in temperature for analysis purposes, for example to show an electronics company which part of that tiny component is overheating, and why … or to show an insulation supplier which buildings in that city are losing heat, and where from.
How does thermal imaging work?
Any object with a temperature above absolute zero is made up of atoms which are always in motion. The warmer the object, the more the atoms in it are moving … and the more electromagnetic radiation that object produces.
That radiation is at the infrared end of the colour spectrum. It’s the coloration a thermal imaging camera is set up for, to turn invisible radiation into visible images.
Once that camera has been correctly set up to create the required image, where the colouration appropriately corresponds to variations in temperature, the thermographer analyses that image to establish patterns and interruptions to those patterns.
How is thermal imaging applied?
Using the previous examples, images – analysed and explained by the thermographer – would identify which area of that tiny component is generating excess heat, enabling the electronics company to use that information to correct a design problem.
And in the case of the insulation supplier, the images would enable them to identify which buildings in that city are poorly insulated, so they could approach the owners to offer their services.
Of course there are many other aspects to thermal imaging: it’s widely used in the medical and veterinary fields to identify problems with bone, muscle tissue and internal organs which would otherwise have gone undetected – with potentially serious consequences.
Other uses for thermal imaging include surveillance, crime scene investigation, and, of course, search and rescue.
However, it’s not just a case of looking at a strangely-coloured image and instantly coming to some kind of conclusion: the mark of a good professional thermographer is careful thought about the situation, correct setup of the equipment to produce an image containing the appropriate information, accurate analysis of that information and the ability to communicate that analysis to the client to enable them to achieve their desired outcome.
If you’re interested in a career in any kind of thermal imaging, you’ll need the right kind of training to gain the qualifications and certifications necessary for that career.
And after taking any of the many specialist thermal imaging courses available from the iRed Academy, you’ll know how exactly to approach a problem situation, how to set up your thermal imaging equipment, how to analyse the image produced and how to explain that analysis to provide the solution to that problem.
Talk to us about the thermography career you’re interested in, and we’ll help get you started, get trained, and get qualified.