Seeing Through a Lens Darkly: New Applications for Infrared Vision
The original purpose of infrared (night) vision was to locate enemy targets at night. It is still used extensively by the military for that purpose, as well as for navigation, surveillance, and targeting. Civilian applications of infrared vision started in 1965 with the availability of the first commercial infrared camera. For years, it developed slowly due to the high cost of the equipment and the low quality of available images. Today, however, the availability of new generations of infrared cameras coupled with growing computer power is providing exciting new opportunities for enterprising scientists such as Dr. Xavier Maldague.
Canada Research Chair Dr. Maldague is a world-renowned expert in infrared thermography, the electronic technique that uses infrared vision to see thermal energy, to monitor temperatures and thermal patterns. In his research, Dr. Maldague tries to solve key problems limiting the use of infrared vision in civilian applications, such as how to enhance the "vision" of the subtle temperature changes of a surface that indicate the presence of a buried defect. In addition, he explores new aspects of infrared vision in numerical simulations of thermal phenomena in health sciences, law enforcement, the environment, and biofood sciences.
In biofood sciences, for example, infrared vision is used to study and model wholesomeness and preservation of refrigerated food that must not reach certain temperature levels or harmful bacteria will develop rapidly. In the case of "precision agriculture," portable systems with infrared imaging processing are being developed to help evaluate plant metabolism with respect to light, watering, and nitrogen supply. These systems will help preserve the environment by ensuring that the plants only get what they need, leading to a great deal less waste.