On its most basic design an infrared thermometer consists of a lens to focus the infrared (IR) energy on to a detector, which converts the energy to an electrical signal that can be displayed in units of temperature after being compensated for ambient temperature variation. This configuration facilitates temperature measurement from a distance without contact with the object to be measured. As such, the infrared thermometer is useful for measuring temperature under circumstances where thermocouples or other probe type sensors cannot be used or do not produce accurate data for a variety of reasons. Some typical circumstances are where the object to be measured is moving; where the object is surrounded by an EM field, as in induction heating; where the object is contained in a vacuum or other controlled atmosphere; or in applications where a fast response is required.
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Why should I use an infrared thermometer to measure temperature in my application?
Infrared pyrometers allow users to measure temperature in applications where conventional sensors cannot be employed. Specifically, in cases dealing with moving objects ( i.e., rollers, moving machinery, or a conveyor belt), or where non-contact measurements are required because of contamination or hazardous reasons (such as high voltage), where distances are too great, or where the temperatures to be measured are too high for thermocouples or other contact sensors.
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Body temperature can be measured in a number of ways. Traditionally, body temperature has been measured using contact thermometers that are placed on the forehead or in the mouth, ear, armpit or rectum. For children in particular, rectal temperature measurement is often considered to be the gold standard. Non-contact thermometers allow a person’s temperature to be taken with minimal (tympanic) or no (Non-contact infrared thermometer [NCIT], thermal scanner) contact with the person. This means temperature can be measured without the discomfort of having to sit still with a thermometer in the mouth, armpit, or rectum long enough to obtain a correct temperature reading. The lack of contact also means the disinfection process between patients for the thermometers is minimal or unnecessary, allowing for easier and faster use when screening large numbers of people in settings like airports or border crossings.
The main types of non-contact thermometers are non-contact infrared thermometers, tympanic thermometers, and thermal scanners. Non-contact infrared thermometers are held three to 15 cm away from the patient and typically measure temperature on the forehead or temple. Tympanic thermometers measure the thermal radiation from the tympanic membrane and within the ear canal. Handheld thermal scanners can be used to take a person’s temperature from a greater distance than other non-contact thermometers, which may make them a good candidate for use in mass screening situations. The optimal cut-off temperature for determining fever differs for each device. However, not everyone who has an infection or is infectious will have a fever. Additionally, fevers can be lowered by using antipyretic medications.
An infrared thermometer is a thermometer which infers temperature from a portion of the thermal radiation sometimes called black-body radiation emitted by the object being measured. They are sometimes called laser thermometers as a laser is used to help aim the thermometer, or non-contact thermometers or temperature guns, to describe the device’s ability to measure temperature from a distance. By knowing the amount of infrared energy emitted by the object and its emissivity, the object’s temperature can often be determined within a certain range of its actual temperature. Infrared thermometers are a subset of devices known as “thermal radiation thermometers”.
Sometimes, especially near ambient temperatures, readings may be subject to error due to the reflection of radiation from a hotter body—even the person holding the instrument — rather than radiated by the object being measured, and to an incorrect assumed emissivity.
The design essentially consists of a lens to focus the infrared thermal radiation on to a detector, which converts the radiant power to an electrical signal that can be displayed in units of temperature after being compensated for ambient temperature. This permits temperature measurement from a distance without contact with the object to be measured. A non-contact infrared thermometer is useful for measuring temperature under circumstances where thermocouples or other probe-type sensors cannot be used or do not produce accurate data for a variety of reasons.
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