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Infrared Thermal Imaging Equipment

Screenshot of an Infrared image.

Infrared image of a damaged lead acid battery.

Infrared camera designed for high-performance thermal imaging and measurements. Check out these time-lapse battery thermal images (AVI 4.5 MB)! Use Windows Media Player 10 to view this file. Download Media Player.

How do infrared cameras work?

An infrared camera is a noncontact device that detects infrared energy (heat) and converts it into an electronic signal. The signal is then processed to produce a thermal image on a video monitor and perform temperature calculations. Heat sensed by an infrared camera can be precisely quantified, or measured, which allows the user to monitor thermal performance and identify and evaluate the relative severity of heat-related problems.

Why use an infrared camera?

Photo of a researcher taking a thermal image of a battery.

Thermal Imaging of a battery.

An infrared camera allows the user to identify areas of thermal concern within a battery or battery pack. The picture shows a defect in a lead-acid battery that would have gone unnoticed without the use of an infrared camera. However, finding a problem is sometimes not enough; the temperature also needs to be determined. In fact, an infrared camera image alone without accurate temperature measurements says very little about the condition of a battery. Many batteries operate properly at temperatures that are significantly above ambient. An infrared image without measurement can be misleading because it may falsely indicate a problem.

Photo of an infrared camera.

NREL's FLIR Systems ThermaCAM PM 390 Infrared camera.

Infrared cameras that incorporate temperature measurement allow predictive maintenance professionals to make well-informed judgments about the operating conditions of electrical and mechanical targets. Temperature measurements can be compared with historical operating temperatures, or with infrared readings of similar equipment at the same time, to determine whether a significant temperature rise will compromise component reliability.

NREL's infrared camera

NREL has a FLIR Systems ThermaCAM PM 390. The camera's cooled PtSi detector delivers short-wave (3.4 um to 5.0 um) response required for a wide range of basic and high-temperature industrial applications. The camera stores images captured in the field on an integral 40-MB ImageBank memory card, and the optional digital voice recorder captures in-field voice comments. NREL has also linked the camera with a computer to do time-lapse digital video on command.