Infrared, or IR, is something that most people have heard of, but the majority of infrared radiation cannot be seen by the human eye without specialized equipment. Infrared falls into the categorization of electromagnetic radiation. It is a sibling to other types of electromagnetic radiation, such as microwaves, x rays, ultraviolet waves, and radio waves. While we may not be able to see it, we most certainly can feel infrared radiation because it is a medium for heat transfer from one point to the next point. Any object, person, animal, or thing with a temperature over -450 degrees Fahrenheit emits off infrared radiation.
A common example of infrared technology that you have most likely heard of or seen is called infrared sensing viewfinders. You may have seen this used in movies or video games where some kind of scope, glasses, or screen is used to look out of a helicopter to detect a missing human being who has disappeared when hiking or by other means. Regardless of the reason, a person is being sought out. Infrared equipment will pick up infrared heat waves and display different temperatures as separate colors. Often times, an animal like a bear or a human being will show up in yellow, orange and red hues, while the trees and landscape are darker colors. This makes it a feasible way to search large areas in the wilderness for signs of life. Many kinds of hunters use infrared to detect animals for a good idea of where the concentration of their desired catch is.
The electrical industry is also utilizing IR technology to meet some of their most imperative needs. Manufacturers, such as IRISS, make this technology available in the present day. Prior to the introduction of infrared window technology to the electrical inspection and survey sector, thousands of electrical workers died every year from electrocution or other complications during the inspection and survey process. The most laborious and dangerous part of the process is opening up the electrical panel in order to view and inspect the components inside. Infrared was previously unable to remedy this process because infrared waves have a limitation of being unable to penetrate through metal, which is what the panels are typically made of. After years of contemplating on how to allow infrared technology to penetrate or ‘see’ into these panels, the infrared window was introduced. Essentially, it is exactly what its name says. It is a window installed or built into the electrical panel door that allows for infrared equipment to penetrate and see inside virtually eliminating the tedious step of opening up the enclosure unnecessarily. Not only do infrared windows preserve the safety of electrical workers, but they also cut down on the time that the electrical inspection and survey process takes by 90 percent. This saves the workers time and saves a good amount of money for those who are paying them.
Another fairly new application in the realm of infrared technology is one used by healthcare providers in the medical field to find a patient’s veins prior to inserting the needle for an IV or blood draw. Some patients present a challenge to nurses and or doctors with veins that are hard to detect, which results in several painful needle pokes, or what some patients refer to as ‘digging’ to properly get the needle into a vein. The infrared vein finder delivers a viable solution to this challenge by allowing the healthcare provider to see the vein makeup in the arm or wrist in a high definition picture that is projected directly on the patient’s skin in the target area. Another advantage to the infrared vein finder is that the infrared waves are not harmful like other types of medical imaging waves and radiation, such as x rays.
The application of infrared technology to help remedy a myriad of challenges is booming. Infrared is found readily in military equipment to enhance defense capabilities and find enemies in structures prior to entry. It is so out of this world that even NASA is using it to see Nebulas all the way into outer space that they could not see before using standard equipment. Due to its impressive success and helpfulness thus far, infrared utilization is expected to continue growing and evolving in the coming decades.