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What is infrared light? 


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Also called infrared (IR), it is electromagnetic radiation that was discovered in 1800 by William Herschel, an astronomer. 

Infrared light is not visible to us because its wavelength is longer than visible light and the human eye cannot view longer wavelengths. Lower wavelengths of infrared can be seen by humans. Infrared radiation is emitted because of energy states on the molecular level. Infrared that is found to emit from objects at room temperature are typically thermal radiation. 

What does the word infrared mean?

“Infrared” means below red, referring to the frequencies that are lower than the red light that can be seen by the human eye.

What gives off infrared light? 

The main source of infrared light is heat or thermal radiation, meaning anything that has a temperature emits infrared. The higher the temperature the more infrared radiation will be emitted. 

Any object with a temperature higher than absolute zero (-459.67 degrees Fahrenheit /-273.15 degrees Celsius) emits infrared radiation. Therefore, even objects that we perceive as cold, like frozen foods, emit infrared. 

A good example of infrared radiation is the heat we absorb from the sun.  Nearly 50% of Earth’s external heat is sourced in the sun’s infrared radiation. Due to the sun’s high temperature over half of its light is visible to us, but objects at lower temperatures will emit most of their energy at infrared wavelengths without emitting visible energy. 

IR radiation that you can feel even though it is invisible to the naked eye can be given off by certain heat sources such as furnaces, charcoal, electric heaters, and radiators.

An example of a powerful source of infrared light we can find on our planet is fire. Over 50% of the energy emitted by fire will be expressed in infrared. 

Is infrared radiation dangerous? 

Yes and no. Yes, infrared light can be dangerous at high levels of exposure for long periods of time. Infrared radiation can damage one’s cornea, lens, and skin. So, when working with infrared light for extensive amounts of time it is important to use protective gear. 

No, it is not so dangerous during short exposure periods and can even be very beneficial. It is used in multiple healing therapies and is a fundamental part of our ecosystem.

What is infrared light used for?

Infrared has become popular supporting different night vision devices as they function most effectively in various conditions by emitting invisible light and therefore allowing the user to have visibility of his surroundings while staying undetected. These features have made infrared very popular with different military organizations, secret service, police forces, and even hunters. 

Their thermal vision qualities are quite helpful in research when studying the body temperature patterns of humans and animals

Although this all may sound like advanced military technology, we encounter infrared technology on an almost daily basis. Many of our remote controls use IR waves working in pulses. A common example of this is a TV remote.

IR heating lamps are used to keep our food warm at many restaurants. They are efficient because they directly heat the food instead of the air around it. For that same reason IR saunas have become a common therapy, the special lamps can precisely raise the body’s core temperature. This is especially helpful to ease stress, sore muscles, detoxification, joint paint, weight loss, circulation, chronic fatigue, and generally improve one’s sleeping patterns. 

It can also be used to treat certain injuries by optimizing the IR wavelength and directing it at the site of the injury.

IR is also used for deep space telescope technology because it can pass through dense gas and dust more efficiently.

Optical fibers use IR LEDs to communicate.

Infrared sensors are used on satellites to study weather patterns and detect Earth’s radiation in order to forecast our planet’s weather. 

IR motion sensors are effective for both daytime and nighttime. Making them very useful in different security systems and or scientific research.

Why is infrared important?

IR plays a critical role in the Earth’s climate because the Earth must radiate infrared light equivalent to the sunlight absorbed in order to maintain its temperature. 

How does an infrared flashlight work?

Infrared light cannot be seen by the naked human eye. Therefore, infrared flashlights are paired with night vision devices, allowing the user to see in the dark undetected. The goggles and flashlight must be at similar frequencies to be able to work together. 

The main difference between an LED light and an IR light is the spectrums they emit.

Infrared technology is a very important subject today and worth learning about, especially how it can affect your health.  

Here is how to make your own Infrared light at home: 

Step 1 You will need to purchase the following items:  

  • Flashlight (the simpler it is, the easier it will be to take apart later) 
  • Infrared LED lights (We recommend 8mm LEDs, but it really depends on the size of your flashlight, and the number of LEDs you want to fit inside)
  • Soldering iron 
  • Solder 
  • Batteries that fit your flashlight of choice

Step 2 Disassemble the flashlight completely. Discarding the bulb. Keep only the body, lens, connecter, and reflector.

Step 3 Solder your LEDs together in a square (we recommend using four LEDs to keep the wiring simple). Make sure to keep the positive leads in the center and the negative leads on the outside. Leave two extra leads for wiring. You want to match your wire length to fit the positive and negative ports in your connecter.

Step 4 Separate the lamp from the housing and reassemble with infrared LEDs. 

Step 5 Solder through the lamp housing to the connecter using the two extra leads previously mentioned.

Step 6 Reassemble flashlight with the fitting batteries.

Alternatively, you can do something similar with an LED circuit board, a small plastic box, a battery connecter, and batteries.

Infrared and animals

Although the human eye is not designed to perceive IR light, there are many animals that genetically have infrared vision in order to survive. These animals include snakes, blood-sucking insects, as well as certain groups of fish and frogs.