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Thermal photography

27 Aug 00:38 81,947 views | Last edited by Sara about 1 month ago | shortlink

Dock Test Data!

by lperovich about 1 month ago | 2 | 553 views | 2

Don Blair (@donblair), Joe Goldbeck and I deployed the waterproofed temperature sensors on the MI...

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Threshold single thermal fishing bob

by lperovich about 1 month ago | 0 | 506 views | 1

Sara (@sara) and I wanted a threshold single thermal fishing bob for upcoming work on the Mystic ...

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Dock Test!

by donblair about 1 month ago | 0 | 873 views | 3

Today Laura Perovich led Joe Goldbeck and me on an expedition to the Charles River to deploy a te...

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Long Thermistor Test

by kgrevera about 1 month ago | 0 | 382 views | 0

Long Thermistor Test Background This is a further continuation of the thermal fishing bob proje...

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in search of floating spheres...

by lperovich about 1 month ago | 7 | 443 views | 1

I'm searching for the best housing for a re-imagination of the thermal fishing bob. I'd like to ...

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Thermistor Test in Water of Different Temperatures

by kgrevera about 1 month ago | 1 | 444 views | 0

Thermistor Test in Water of Different Temperatures Background This is a continuation of the pro...

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Mare Liberum Fishing Bob Workshop

by kgrevera 3 months ago | 0 | 455 views | 0

Mare Liberum Fishing Bob Workshop Background We are looking to have a thermal fishing bob works...

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thermal-photography thermal-fishing-bob

3D Thermal Plume Fishing Bob

by kgrevera 3 months ago | 1 | 468 views | 0

3D Thermal Plume Fishing Bob Background Sara Wylie and I are collaborating on a project to furt...

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thermal-photography thermal-fishing-bob

More research on "thermal-camera" »

Title Last edited Edits Pageviews Likes
Thermal photography about 1 month ago by Sara 66 81,947 3
Scanning thermal camera over 1 year ago by warren 3 19,232 0


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.



_Note: The goal of this file is to be a place to download everything without pursuing other links. If there are changes or updates please feel free to add and re-upload. If the file is missing anything, please comment below. You might notice that this is for the 5v Melexis, but it will work for either without issues.

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

Thermal Fishing Bob

The thermal fishing bob project develops a DIY technology to visualize changes in water temperature, which can indicate water pollution via industrial sources or sewage

The fishing bob is designed simply enough that anyone can build it and its components can be easily obtained from Home Depot and Radio Shack.

Project Goals:

To produce a cheaply made, easy to use piece of technology to track temperature changes in water. And to produce a product that can be easily altered to suit many innovative needs.

Research URL’s:

First iteration of the Thermal Fishing Bob developed in Sara Wylie’s class at RISD:

Second iteration of the Thermal Fishing Bob developed at 2014 Barnraising:

First long exposure pictures with the fishing bob:

First Field test of the Fishing Bob

Research Notes on development workshops MIT


Northeastern University

Research notes on towing the tool

Next steps on developing the tool

Building Your Own:

How To Guide


The fishing bob’s tech is sealed within a waterproofed translucent container, a Koolaid mix container will do, with only the thermistor poking out the bottom (sealed around the edges with hot glue). The fishing bob is then wrapped in foam so that it floats, attached to a reel so it can be pulled, and dropped in the water. The thermistor reads changes in temperature and the LED within the fishing bob causes the fishing bob to change color in accordance with the temperature. The readings are recorded on the Arduino inside, which can then be read once it is plugged into a computer.

While the fishing bob is being dragged across the water long exposure photos are being taken to create a “light painting” of the temperature gradient. One neat way to make these long exposure images is to use glowdoodle from MIT.


Thermal Fishing Bob Arduino Sketch Can Be Found Here:

Next Steps:

I am currently working with Sara Wylie on a project to make the thermal fishing bob towable behind a kayak. In previous testing the fishing bobs tended to submerge and become water damaged so we are working on a prototype that would be set into a floatation device. One concept is to wrap two fishing bobs in foam and set them into the legholes of a child’s floatie, duct taping them into place. The first test was successful, the fishing bobs stayed in place above the water and there was no noticeable water damage. A second idea is to attach three fishing bobs to a foam sled/boogie board with thermistors of differing lengths to take a 3D image of the thermal gradient. This idea has yet to be tested. A third idea is to utilize ideas from the coqui to transform the thermal fishing bob into a conductivity fishing bob. This idea is still in the brainstorming stage, but we will be building a prototype soon.



Thermal plume along the Charles River


Fishing bob made at MIT workshop from a soda cup


Thermal fishing bob circuit


Fishing bobs ready to go


Fishing bob being lowered into the river



First prototype of towable fishing bob

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