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By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

March 15, 2014

Technique with Thermal Camera Spots Nuclear Materials

Lumistar thermal hyper-spectral analysis

For two Brigham Young University professors, long wave infrared hyperspectral imaging holds the potential to spot from afar whether a site is being used to make nuclear weapons. Infrared cameras capture electromagnetic wavelengths beyond the color ‘rainbow red’ which is invisible to the human eye. Hyper-spectral infrared cameras capture this light in hundreds of narrow bands, as opposed to broadband which is a couple of bands or multispectral which is only 10s of bands. The human eye as well as traditional cameras see spectral broadbands of red-green-blue. Since different materials reflect or absorb infrared light, hyperspectral imaging divides the high-resolution spectra at each pixel. Materials in long-wave thermal infrared are emissive (rather than reflective) and therefore have a unique spectra. Certain objects leave ‘fingerprints’ across these imaging spectral divides known as spectral signatures, and enable the identification of materials that make up the scanned object. For example, a spectral signature of radioactive materials helps the CIA find illegal nuclear weapon production, as well as gases coming from factories or other banned chemicals. Identification of materials would be straightforward if those were the only signals bouncing back at the camera. But other incoming signals, such as the object’s temperature and the weather conditions, muddle the analysis and add noise to the material’s light signature. The novelty of the BYU study is that it directly separates the incoming signals to provide the material’s unique signature. The measured spectra are a convolution of the material spectra (emissivity), the black body temperature (Planck curve), other interacting environmental spectral sources, and measurement error.  One approach to material identification is temperature-emissivity separation (TES), which separates or deconvolves the material spectra from the temperature curve.  This algorithmic model is able to identify the material emissivity spectra, and cluster pixels into appropriate material groups. Imagine taking an infrared picture from above a city struck by an earthquake or tornado. In addition to spotting all the gas leaks, it could reveal the exact gases being leaked and their concentrations in different neighborhoods. There are also other classified areas this research could go.

Learn More Here

Filed under: Camera,Infrared,Lumistar,Technology,Thermal Imaging — Tags: — Lumistar @ 08:00


  1. Time to burry the lab. Oops, did I say that out loud?

    Comment by Oliver M. — March 16, 2014 @ 04:25


  3. Over land, over sea, over space, they can see you.

    Comment by ltdragon — March 16, 2014 @ 09:49


  5. Good for them. I thought there was a plan that needed foiling. When you think ‘secret lab’ of people in white shirts, err I mean coats, it just screams of Utah.

    Comment by ritualunion — March 18, 2014 @ 06:36


  7. I’m going to light a cigarette in a bar that has banned smoking… SIGNATURE THIS!

    Comment by Ramiro Casey — March 20, 2014 @ 11:50


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    Comment by Ellen Conway — March 28, 2014 @ 17:54


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    Comment by taller 4 — June 26, 2014 @ 20:36


  15. Infrared radar is a misnomer. Radar eqpumient is both an emitter AND collector of radiation. Radar typically uses very high frequencies and very short wavelengths in the gigahertz range. Infrared is very near the visible light spectrum and thus, much longer wavelengths. It typically falls in the range of 0.7 to 1000 microns wavelength. Visible light is 0.4 to 0.7 microns.When you see depictions of radar in the infrared such as weather radar, it is merely a computer enhanced false color image that artificially changes the color of the returned image for clarity and interpretation. An infrared camera does the same thing on it’s screen. I use this eqpumient often for my work and I can change the color pallet on the screen at will to better represent or accentuate what I’m looking at.

    Comment by Sipu — July 14, 2014 @ 22:17


  17. @Sipu, weather satellites can have sounder infrared, imaging infrared, or both. You could be referring to sounder infrared that has an instrument measuring temperature and water vapor as a function of height within the atmosphere, collecting spectral data via multiple sensors and separating infrared energy into wavelengths similar to a weather balloon, as opposed to imaging infrared using radiometric and infrared imaging thereby using a color pallet to ‘paint’ polarized heat images by assigning color to heat temperatures. Both these types of sensors record data continuously, using different infrared wavelengths to infer information about clouds on a global scale. They can determine cloud top height and thermodynamic phase (ice or water particles), and make estimates of microphysical and optical properties that indicate the amount of water and ice in the cloud layer. Sounder infrared is a spectrometer with spectral channels being separated and imaging infrared collects infrared light wavelengths and radiometric measurements which is the subject of this blog. Radiation is just another word for wavelength and gigahertz electromagnetic waves have no place on this blog.

    Comment by Lumistar — July 15, 2014 @ 09:54


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