What is thermal imaging?

Thermal Imaging Building Survey

Thermal image of an overloaded component.

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 the temperature of objects ranging in size from a single component in an electrical circuit all the way up to a large commercial building, 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 component is overheating … or to show the owners of a commercial building exactly where the heat is escaping from.

Thermal Imaging Building Survey

Thermal image of a commercial building.

How does thermal imaging work?

Any object with a temperature above absolute zero is made up of atoms, and those atoms are always in motion.  The warmer the object, the more its atoms are moving … and the more electromagnetic radiation the object produces.

That radiation is at the infrared end of the colour spectrum. It’s the coloration a thermal imaging camera is set up to capture, so it can 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 then analyses the image produced to establish patterns and interruptions to those patterns.

How is thermal imaging applied?

Using the previous examples, images would identify which part of that electrical component is overheating, so the company could use that information to correct any design problem.

And the images of that commercial building would enable the owners to identify where it’s losing heat so they could install the appropriate insulation.

(Coincidentally, the most common surveys undertaken by thermographers just happen to be those involving electricity and buildings.)

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 a conclusion:  the hallmarks of a good professional thermographer are 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 effectively communicate that analysis to the client.

If you’re interested in a career in any kind of thermal imaging, you’ll need the right kind of training to gain the right qualifications and certifications.

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 to produce the right kind of image, how to analyse the image produced and how to explain that analysis in order to provide the client with a solution to their problem.

Talk to us about the kind of thermography career you’re interested in, and we’ll help get you started, get trained, and get qualified.

2018-09-17T13:27:53+00:00July, 2018|Knowledge Base|

About the Author:

iRed is the UK’s largest provider of thermal imaging courses and specialist drone operator training. In operation since 2002, before thermal imaging had been accepted as a mainstream inspection tool, iRed has always delivered industry-leading training that’s regularly updated to meet current commercial needs.
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