We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

How does Infrared Work?

By Sofree
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At EasyTechJunkie, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Infrared (IR) light is a wavelength of energy that is invisible to the human eye. The most common source of this energy is heat; objects can have their relative temperatures measured by how much of this energy they give off. Lower wavelengths or "near infrared" — closest to the visible light color red — are not hot, and are often used to transmit data in electronics. A remote control, for example, may use a particular wavelength of near infrared to communicate with a receiver, sending pulses of light that transmit a signal to the device, telling it what to do.

Description and Measurement

A form of energy, IR is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. This spectrum is comprised of radio waves; microwaves; infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light; x-rays; and gamma rays. Each form of energy is ordered by wavelength; infrared falls between microwaves and visible light waves because its waves are shorter than microwaves but longer than those of visible light.

The prefix infra comes from the Latin word which means "below;" the term means "below red," indicating its position in the electromagnetic spectrum. Visible light has a range of wavelengths that are manifested in the seven colors of the rainbow; red has the longest wavelength and violet has the shortest. Infrared, with wavelengths longer than the color red, is invisible to the human eye.

Just like with visible light, there are a range of wavelengths of IR. The International Commission on Illumination has divided it into three general sections based on the length of the wave and density. These groups are commonly known as near, medium, and far infrared, with near infrared being nearest to the visible light side of the spectrum and far, or long-wave, being close to the microwave zone. There are uses for IR wavelengths in each group, from wireless communication to acting as heat source.

Applications

Nearly all objects emit heat or energy, and one of the most easily discernible forms of energy is infrared. When an object is not hot enough to give off visible light, it emits most of its energy in the IR spectrum. It is this heat that affords IR many applications in almost every sector of life, including health, science, industry, art, and entertainment.

Converting infrared energy, also known as radiant heat, into an image that the human eye can see and understand is done with a process called thermal imaging. An IR camera is used to accurately measure the temperature of an object, which is then translated into color. For example, infrared imaging typically shows the warmest areas in a human body as red, followed by yellow, green, blue, and violet as the temperature decreases. By studying how body heat is distributed, thermal imaging can health professionals to analyze body tissue and fluid to detect injury or disease.

Infrared light is used in night vision equipment, allowing the user to see in the dark. Two types of night vision both use IR: thermal and image-intensifying. Thermal night vision allows the user to recognize people and objects by the heat pattern they emit. Intensifiers amplify existing light — including infrared — to allow the user to see.

As a way to measure temperature, IR is used in many different types of applications. The military uses infrared sensors to locate and track targets or to detect hidden land mines or arms caches. Sensors on satellites are used for environmental monitoring, pinpointing areas of pollution, fire, or deforestation. Search and rescue operations use IR extensively to locate missing persons lost in the forest or jungle, as well as in collapsed buildings or at the site of other disasters.

Many remote control devices in homes use infrared. These remotes use this type of light to carry signals between a remote control transmitter and the device it's commanding. The transmitter sends out light in pulses, which are translated into binary codes that have corresponding commands. The receiver is positioned on the front of the device, where it receives these pulses of light and decodes them into binary data, which is understood by the microprocessor inside the apparatus.

Many different types of scientists use infrared in their work, from astronomers use it to learn more about galaxies light years away to archaeologists who use it when studying ancient settlements. Infrared is being used to preserve, restore, and conserve valuable historical and artistic works as well; the invisible details of ancient fragments and images painted under paintings are being brought to light through the use of IR technology. In industry, thermal imaging is invaluable in testing and monitoring mechanical systems.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Discussion Comments
By anon175234 — On May 12, 2011

i need to cure rubber on a metal shaft. how would i go about doing this with IF?

By anon171472 — On Apr 30, 2011

"Objects emit heat or energy." - Sorry for the question but, isn't heat a type of energy?

By anon80153 — On Apr 26, 2010

All in moderation; small amounts of radiation is not necessarily harmful. Taken in larger or in concentrated quantities, IR will act more like a laser(can you imagine the burning flesh?).

Depending on the application, IR-protected safety glasses should be a precaution.

By anon58882 — On Jan 05, 2010

Do eyes need protection from the heat effects of far infrared rays provided by a heat lamp on the facial area and if so, what is the best form of protection?

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.