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Thermal photography

20 Dec 17:09 59,242 views | Last edited by warren 7 months ago

South of France Forest monitoring

by DroneGo | 10 days ago | 3 | 199 views | 0

What I want to do Develop a tool with Drone (Quadcopter), InfraRed camera, in forestry theme My...

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Thermal Fishing Bob Presentation from the NE Barnraising

by Kaya9804 | about 1 month ago | 3 | 695 views | 1

For anyone interested, here is the presentation from the Thermal Fishing Bob demo that I led at t...

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Making Pedagogy: Reflections on Northeastern University Thermal Fishing Bob Workshops

by Sara | 2 months ago | 0 | 935 views | 4

Reflections on Northeastern University Thermal Fishing Bob Workshops A striking example of how s...

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Open-Lux:: REV-Q! (REV Q. Seriously?) Now with a UV sensor. That's useful for stuff, right?

by donblair | 3 months ago | 0 | 711 views | 1

What I want to do Jeff had asked: does the Open-Lux design allow for multiple configurations, s...

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Successful Thermal Fishing Bob Maps!

by Sara | 3 months ago | 0 | 1,343 views | 1

What I want to do I wanted to work with my undergrad courses at Northeastern this semester to fu...

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Open-Lux REV-N: Full Circle

by donblair | 3 months ago | 3 | 1,388 views | 1

(This is a quick note to post materials I've gathered after updating the Open-Lux design -- will ...

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thermal-photography thermal-flashlight

Open-Lux REV-F: "NeoPixel" Fiesta!

by donblair | 3 months ago | 3 | 989 views | 1

Previously .... The Open-Lux is a design that's intended to accommodate the thermal flashlight, ...

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thermal-photography thermal-flashlight

Thermal Flashlight REVA reading changes over distance

by sekjal | 4 months ago | 7 | 838 views | 1

What I want to do Roughly measure the rate of change in the reading from the MLX90614 as distanc...

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thermal-photography thermal-flashlight

More research on "thermal-camera" »

Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
Scanning thermal camera 6 months ago by warren 3 10,938 0
Thermal photography 7 months ago by warren 53 59,242 1


Thermal imaging can be used to document heat/AC leaks from insulation gaps on a building's facade, reveal warmer ground water inflows (either fresh or chemical-laden) or "thermal pollution" from industrial processes entering ocean-temperature waterbodies, as well as identify areas on the human body experiencing infection or stress (includes epidemiological applications).

Community applications so far include both a "heat-busters" program in East Harlem and a "forensic" water quality monitoring program in the Gowanus Canal.


There are three prototypes in development:

  • A Thermal Flashlight (described on this page): a RGB LED flashlight with a non-contact infrared sensor that "paints" the temperature of the surface directly on the wall for capture with a second timelapse camera.
  • Thermal Fishing: dragging a thermometer through the water, taking contact measurements mapped to a RGB light, also for capture with a second timelapse camera.
  • A scanning thermal camera on a lego turntable (software also in development) that sweeps back and forth across a scene, recording the temperature variation to build up an image.


"FLIR" cameras can produce images such as the one below, and are typically used to identify heat leaks, but even low-resolution FLIR cameras can cost thousands of dollars. Our goal is to make this kind of investigation (and the potential savings) cheap, easy, fun, and informative for those of us without $10k in our pockets.

FLIR house

Thermal Flashlight

The first approach results in a kind of "light painting" -- a color heatmap overlaid directly onto the scene. This is the simplest, cheapest, and to date, most effective way we have developed of measuring heat leaks or cool leaks indoors and outdoors. Simply put, the "flashlight" puts out red light if it's pointed at something hot (default 75 deg F or more) and blue light if it's pointed at something cold *(default 60 deg F or less):

Using a Thermal Flashlight

To capture the light painting over time, we have been using timelapse photography or the prototype Public Lab Thermographer website (or its inspiration, GlowDoodle), as seen in the top image on this page.

  • Within view of the camera or laptop, sweep the flashlight beam over the scene at a distance of about 12 inches.
  • Try to stay out of the way of the beam, and don't point it directly at the camera or it will create a "starburst" and may mess up your image.
  • It's helpful to wear dark clothing so you don't show up in the image as you're moving around.

Thermal flashlight diagram

Building your own

Parts list For a Thermal Flashlight with 3.6 V Melexis Sensor and Common Anode LED.

Alternative variations of the Flashlight can be made with a 5.5V Melexis Sensor and Common Cathode LED. For the 5.5 V sensor follow this diagram: For the common cathode circuit board follow this diagram:

Links to purchasing equipment:

Consumable Parts:

If you are starting an electronics kit from scratch:

  • a 40Watt soldering Iron (if you want it to be permanent otherwise duct tape or Velcro works temporarily)
  • hookup wire (solid not stranded- 22 or 24 gauge, you can get this at Radio Shack)
  • pliers called "wire strippers" to get the plastic wrap off the hookup wire (can get at Radio Shack)
  • solder for 40Watt iron, lead-free.
  • a breadboard (1 per flashlight). If you aren't soldering: If you are soldering:
  • a USB cable to connect the arduino to the computer via USB for power 5Volts (can get at Radio Shack)
  • household sponge for cleaning solder off tip
  • 9 volt battery with connector wires (can get at Radio Shack- 1 per flashlight)

Cost: ~$40-$60

These research notes will be integrated into this page to provide instructions on building and using your own thermal flashlight:

Several meetups have been organized to build and test thermal flashlights, at RISD (Providence, RI) and in Brooklyn, NY. We are organizing one now in Somerville, MA:

Thermal flashlight heatmaps

Tags: thermal-photography thermal-flashlight thermal-camera tabbed:notes tabbed:wikis tool