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What is a Thermal Imaging Device?

A thermal imaging device gives the ability to see targets in darkness or smoke. During an interview at the International Robots & Vision Show, Dr. Austin Richards (Indigo Systems) stated that thermal imaging is a technology that creates a photographic image or video sequence of light emitted by an object at terrestrial temperatures. Infrared thermography is not the same as night vision. Night vision operates on the principle of light amplification, so in a totally dark environment light amplification would yield no image where as a thermal imager would.

Where Did Thermal Imaging Devices Originate From?

Thermal imaging devices were first developed for military purposes. According to Bullard Thermal Imaging, "In the late 1950s and 1960s, Texas Instruments, Hughes Aircraft, and Honeywell developed single element detectors that scanned scenes and produced line images. These basic detectors led to the development of modern thermal imaging."

Timeline
  • Sir William Herschel, an astronomer, discovered infrared in 1800
  • 1950-1960 Single Element Detectors (Line Images)
  • 1970 Philips and English Electronic Valve (EEV) developed Pyroelectric tube. First Naval Thermal Imager used by the Royal Navy for shipboard fire fighting.
  • 1978 Raytheon patented ferroelectric infrared detectors using on Barium Strontium Titanate (BST)
  • Late 1980's Micro bolometer technology developed.

Sources: Wikipedia, Independent Blog