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What is the purpose of thermal imaging cameras in environmental studies?

Thermal imaging technology allows for the detailed analysis of the thermal properties of a specific area, surface or object. This is done by detecting and measuring the infrared radiation being emitted from the target at which a thermal imaging camera is pointed. Thermal imaging is a quick and accurate way of detecting temperature variation, but another key benefit of thermal imaging is that it is non-invasive, ie. it is contactless and non-destructive because temperature variation can be detected from a distance. And this benefit makes it ideal for environmental studies because accurate monitoring and analysis can take place without any contact with, and therefore impact on, natural resources.


Understanding the role of thermal imaging cameras in environmental monitoringwhat is the purpose of the thermal imaging cameras in enviornmental studies?

Infrared radiation is emitted by any object or surface with a temperature above absolute zero, and this gives us the ability to detect temperature change in popular applications such as buildings and electrical wiring, but also in natural environments. Climate change is globally impacting on the world’s natural ecosystems and biodiversity, which means we need to monitor the natural environment, such as glaciers, forests and seas as well as animals and human behaviour and their natural habitats.

Climate change research programmes have commonly used thermal imaging technology for many years in order to measure and analyse climate change, and to use these figures to develop ideas in how to reduce the impact of climate change. The sensitive heat detection ability of thermal imaging cameras make them ideal to monitor climactic conditions over time, and their capability of doing this passively while also recording data over an extended time period, mean they play a critical role in observing environmental changes and enabling experts to predict possible consequences. 


How thermal imaging cameras are used in environmental & preventative breakdown applications

Using a thermal imaging camera – such as the THT600 thermal imaging camera supplied by Test Instrument Solutions – users can:

  • Electrical & mechanical hot spots - Thermal imaging can detect potentially dangerous over-heating of electrical installations likely to lead to fire, or inefficient bearings in mechanical systems causing breakdowns.
  • Solar PV - A camera can be used to pick out hot spots on the surface of the solar panel, which could mean that it is faulty or not working to maximum efficiency.
  • Building temperatures and energy usage – Surveyors and architects can use thermal imaging to monitor and evaluate energy usage in both residential and commercial buildings, which helps with recommendations for improvements in energy conservation, but also impacts on future building design.
  • Urban heat – Thermal imaging can also monitor how humans are affected by climate change, in terms of monitoring urban heat profiles, how towns and cities vary in average temperatures and how people will be affected.
  • Water resources – A thermal imaging camera can monitor how temperature changes affect natural water resources in both coastal and inland environments.
  • Volcanic behaviour – Thermal imaging can monitor temperature changes in known volcanic locations, can detect critical changes and predict action levels.
  • Crop health – Thermal imaging can analyse thermal patterns in farmland which can be used to assess crop health, detect pests and optimise irrigation.
  • Ecological research – Researchers can use thermal imaging to study temperature changes in natural environments such as oceans, forests and deserts to assess how changes are affecting both the natural environment and natural species living in them.

The ability to set-up thermal imaging equipment for long-term passive monitoring has helped environmental studies to develop new monitoring techniques, and base improvement works on trusted and reliable data, making thermal imaging one of the most important technologies in reducing global climate impacts, along with being able to make sure that any potential hidden problems from electrical & mechanical systems overheating will not cause unexpected danger, inefficiency or breakdowns

Please note that this section is for information purposes only. Anyone using equipment referred to in this section must be suitably qualified and/or experienced within the respective field. If in doubt before use, please consult a qualified electrician or engineer & thoroughly read all instruction booklets.

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