Ir Thermometers

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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IR thermometers measure the amount of infrared radiation emitted by an object. Unlike traditional thermometers, IR thermometers do not have to come into physical contact with an object to measure its temperature. This makes them perfect for many applications that traditional thermometers cannot perform.

For example, IR thermometers can quickly measure the heat energy radiating from a piece of food, without touching the dish. This makes them ideal for use in restaurants as well as in many scientific experiments where touching the subject of the temperature reading may cause a disturbance. Infrared thermometers can also be used to see "through" thin walls, allowing firefighters to detect areas of high heat through barriers.

All that an infrared thermometer requires is an infrared sensor and a small chip to read the data. Some, like the ZyTemp/Metris TN9, are as small as a pushpin, which allows them to be integrated into machinery and appliance designs as a temperature measurement and control chip. One of the strengths of the TN9 is that it can compensate for ambient temperature changes as it measures the temperature of a specific object, such as a motor, gear, or chipset.

How IR Thermometers Work

All objects above minus 273° Celsius emit infrared radiation. The secret to the technology behind infrared thermometers lies in understanding the relationship between the amount of heat energy radiating from a source and the actual temperature of the source. Once the mathematical relationship is programmed into the thermometer (thanks to the Stefan-Boltzmann Law and the Wien Displacement Law), the thermometer can interpret the infrared radiation as accurate temperature data.

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