Originally developed to augment the military capabilities, Infrared Imaging has found use in numerous industrial and medical applications apart from being a seasoned tool in military, astronomy and remote sensing. It offers an alternative for security officials from frisking the suspects manually for dangerous weapons. Aster Image data from satellites is primarily based on data from IR band. Meteorology departments have been able to develop eyes that can observe the earth’s atmosphere 24×7 without being dependent on the sun for illumination. Further, IR being related to the temperatures of the clouds offers more insight into the height of the cloud cover and moisture content in it and climatic changes.
Satellite Image in IR band
Spitzer Space telescope launched a few years back to take deep space images is based around the IR band. When used in night vision, infrared imaging helps see when there is no source of light even penetrating through layers of fog or smoke. Near Infrared Cameras using active illumination from an IR source have been used in photography and are becoming standard add on feature in the modern digital cameras. They also comprised the Generation-0 of Night Vision systems. Infrared photography is still a popular form of photography as it produces images with surreal colors and detail otherwise oblivious to the human eye.
Thermal Infrared has been the driving technology behind the first, second, third and fourth generation night vision devices. Firefighting departments have endorsed thermal vision gear as indispensible for any firefighter to locate survivors beneath rubble. In Medical field, Infrared Imaging has been successfully deployed for oncology, respiratory problems, vascular disorders, skeletal diseases and tissue viability, cancer detection etc. under the common name DITI. Forward Looking IR or FLIR helped detect the spread of H1N1 Swine Flu on airports in 2009. Infrared Imaging is an indispensible tool in the industry for Non Destructive Testing of faults in materials, weld verification, fault detection etc. Being a non-contact testing method, it is more desirable than any contact testing procedure.
Research has been going on in digital signal processing to produce defect free imagery from Uncooled sensor arrays. The inherent problems of production like the variation of properties with each unit need to be countered, which is being done by measuring the responsivity of each element and storing correction factors. Recently, nanotechnology based ‘microlens’ using gold to boost the strength of IR imaging has been developed in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which relies on the ability of nano-scale gold to squeeze light into tiny holes almost doubling the detectivity of quantum detectors.
The creator of the world’s darkest material, Lin, remarks that IR detection is a big priority because it will not only benefit homeland security through better surveillance, but also assist in taking precautionary measures for saving the environment through monitoring of climatic changes and deforestation trends. As the demands continues to rise, prices continue to dwindle and the technology penetrates more into everyday applications, a day might come when your local car mechanic would be imaging your car’s wheels to detect punctures or your plumber would be scanning the walls for a possible leak or the electrician inspecting insulation using infrared cameras.
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