A Quick Introduction to Infrared Technology

Infrared Thermography is a technology that looks at the heat signature of objects to monitor the object's state or condition. All objects emit heat (energy) waves. If an object is cold, its molecules vibrate more slowly and energy of longer wavelengths is emitted. When the temperature of the object rises, its molecules vibrate faster and the wavelength becomes shorter.

Every particular energy wavelength has a temperature associated with it. The lowest temperature that the human eye can visually detect is approx. 500 deg. Celsius. At temperatures cooler than that, the heat waves emitted are invisible and are called infrared waves.

Infrared light comprises the lower frequency energy emissions which are undetectable by the human eye. Our eyes are not sensitive to such low-energy radiation, but IR can reveal useful information about our environment.

An infrared camera can see the "invisible" light and convert it to a video signal, which can be seen on a television or on the eyepiece of the camera, and can display the temperature associated with of any part of that image. The image can be stored on a flash card for viewing on a computer screen, or on videotape.

Performing an infrared thermographic survey is a technique for monitoring the condition of equipment. This includes electrical systems, mechanical systems, roofs, and buildings for energy loss. Examining the images from the IR camera one can determine the condition of components, and discover any exceptional temperatures which might indicate that the component is approaching some stage of failure.

IR images are examined using analysis software, and priorities are set as to how soon repairs are needed. This could be a failing motor bearing, a loose electrical connection, or a bad door seal. Each of these produces a heat signature, and when they are out of parameter a problem is indicated.

Accurate data is gathered at the inspection site by a qualified thermographer. It is then analyzed and a report is generated. The report is delivered to the person responsible for maintaining the equipment or facility so that timely repairs can be implemented.

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