How Does Thermal Imaging Work?

by Ted Marten


Thermal imaging is a kind of infrared imaging science that can detect radiation in a certain infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum and produce radiation images. Thermal imaging works because infrared radiation is produced by every object and it's based on its temperature. The higher the temperature, the higher the amount of radiation is emitted from the object. According to the blackbody radiation law, thermal imaging allows you to see your environment without any visible light or illumination. Thermal imaging has the ability to see warm objects against cooler background, and that allows you the ability to see warm-blooded animals and humans when they are out in the environment. This is called the second law of thermodynamics.


Thermal imaging works because it shows the amount of infrared energy emitted, transmitted and reflected by any object. Incident energy is when the profile of energy is viewed through a device, emitted energy is when it is intended to be measured, transmitted energy passes through a subject from the remote thermal source, and reflected energy is the amount of energy that will reflect off a surface of an object from the remote thermal source. This means that incident energy = emitted energy + transmitted energy + reflected energy.


Thermal imaging works for many different occupations and conveniences. Thermal imaging can be found in firefighting, power line maintenance, construction and it can even be found in cars. Firefighters use thermal imaging because it allows them to see through smoke and locate people by the radiation they are giving off of their body. Power line maintenance technicians use thermal imaging because when parts begin to overheat, thermal imaging can locate the problems and hazards. Thermal imaging can help in building construction because it can notice heat leaks and improve air-conditioning. Thermal imaging has been included in vehicles because of its ability to detect warm-blooded mammals on the road when you are driving.

About the Author

Ted Marten lives in New York City and began writing professionally in 2007, with articles appearing on various websites. Marten has a bachelor's degree in English and has also received a certificate in filmmaking from the Digital Film Academy.