What Is Infrared Array?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An infrared array is a collective of detectors sensitive to energy in the infrared range of the spectrum. Such devices can be used in a variety of activities where the ability to collect data from infrared sources may be important. These include infrared imaging to help law enforcement officers, telescopes for astronomical observations, and security systems. Manufacturers of these products may have a range of options available to meet different consumer needs.

Firefighters can use thermal cameras to examine the site of a fire before going in to look for hot spots.
Firefighters can use thermal cameras to examine the site of a fire before going in to look for hot spots.

In the design of an infrared array, detectors sensitive to a range of wavelengths can be mounted together to operate simultaneously. When the user activates the system, it takes multiple images at the same time, generating a range of information. The high degree of sensitivity can allow for crisp resolution and detailed information. Operators can separate out the results, if necessary, to take a look at a narrower band of the spectrum.

Many combat aircraft, including the Russian Su-25, are fitted with infrared arrays for the detection and tracking of enemy targets.
Many combat aircraft, including the Russian Su-25, are fitted with infrared arrays for the detection and tracking of enemy targets.

Imaging equipment with infrared arrays is used by people like firefighters and police officers to identify sources of infrared energy on a scene. In a fire, for instance, a camera pointed at a home can show whether living beings are still inside. Likewise, police responding to a scene who want to collect more information about what is happening can point an infrared array to count the number of people present and see what they are doing. This can help them identify hostages, innocent people, armed individuals, and other people of interest who may be present, but hidden.

Astronomers use this technology to make observations in the infrared area of the spectrum, which can provide useful data about both near and distant objects. Stars and other bodies in space emit energy in a variety of wavelengths. Sensitized devices that look for different areas of the spectrum can help people learn about the properties of the objects they observe. Researchers can find out about the location, size, shape, and composition of distant stars and other phenomena of interest with an infrared array.

The sensitivity of detectors in the array can vary. When it is necessary to make an observation across the entire infrared spectrum, more detectors may be used to get the best resolution, rather than attempting to build a single detector to meet that need. Some designs can be modified and retrofitted to add or replace detectors if it becomes necessary to take observations in a different range. Companies that work on infrared array technology also constantly refine their products to meet evolving customer needs.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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