What is A Infrared Thermometer? In an increasingly digital and accurate world, the use of infrared thermometers is becoming as commonplace as the use of light bulbs. From heavy industry, to baking, to the medical field, infrared thermometers are everywhere. Despite their prevalence, few people---even those who use them on a daily basis---understand what they are or how they work. Understanding how thermometers eschewed mercury in favor of infrared detection can give you an idea of the direction our technology, and our society, is going.
How Do Infrared Thermometers Work?
- Infrared thermometers work based on a phenomenon called black body radiation. Anything at a temperature above absolute zero has molecules inside of it moving around. The higher the temperature, the faster the molecules move. As they move, the molecules emit infrared radiation--a type of electromagnetic radiation below the visible spectrum of light. As they get hotter, they emit more infrared, and even start to emit visible light. That is why heated metal can glow red or even white. Infrared thermometers detect and measure this radiation.
- Infrared light works like visible light--it can be focused, reflected or absorbed. Infrared thermometers usually use a lens to focus infrared light from one object onto a detector called a thermopile. The thermopile absorbs the infrared radiation and turns it into heat. The more infrared energy, the hotter the thermopile gets. This heat is turned into electricity. The electricity is sent to a detector, which uses it to determine the temperature of whatever the thermometer is pointed at. The more electricity, the hotter the object is.
Infrared Thermometers Uses
Infrared thermometers can help assess the quality of insulation in construction works such as walls, pipes, and windows. They can also be used to ascertain room temperatures or thermostat settings in heating and cooling systems. In greenhouses and outdoor gardens, infrared thermometers may be used to inspect the soil temperatures. In the kitchen, infrared thermometers can be used to check pantry, refrigerator, and freezer temperatures. While cooking food, they can be used for verification of cooking and serving temperatures. Another use of these thermometers is to accurately measure temperatures during preparation and storage stages of wine and beer making, since these processes are temperature sensitive. Infrared thermometers can also be useful while inspecting problems in household electrical or mechanical appliances. By measuring temperatures of typical heating points and ascertaining abnormal sources of heating, a quick diagnosis can be made. Infrared thermometers can also find uses in hobbies such as photography, because developing prints requires a control over the temperature.
Applications in Automotive and Transportation Industries
- Engine and exhaust troubleshooting in automobiles can be effectively carried out using infrared thermometers. For instance, low compression and ignition problems can be identified by scanning the manifold temperature. Incorrect fuel/air mixture leads to inefficient combustion, which can be determined by measuring the temperature of exhaust system components.
Diagnostics of cooling systems, radiators, climate control sensors, and other devices that operate on temperature gradient can be carried out using infrared thermometers. Similarly, in brake systems of automobiles, very high temperatures of rotors, drums, or bearings indicate excessive wear and can be measured using an infrared thermometer.
Applications in Electrical and Electronics Industries
- In electrical devices and components such as connectors, motors, bearings, transformers, and batteries, any abnormal heating is indicative of malfunctioning. Since infrared thermometers measure the surface temperature of an object from a distance, they can be extremely useful in preventive maintenance operation
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