, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 429-439

Infrared imaging technology and biological applications


Temperature is the most frequently measured physical quantity, second only to time. Infrared (IR) technology has been utilized successfully in astronomy (for a summary, see Hermans-Killam, 2002b) and in industrial and research settings (Gruner, 2002; Madding, 1982, 1989; Wolfe & Zissis, 1993) for decades. However, fairly recent innovations have reduced costs, increased reliability, and resulted in noncontact IR sensors offering mobile, smaller units of measurement (EOI, 2002; Flir, 2000, 2001, 2002). The advantages of using IR imaging are (1) rapidity in the millisecond range, facilitating measurement of moving targets, (2) noncontact procedures, allowing measurements of hazardous or physically inaccessible objects, (3) no interference and no energy lost from the target, (4) no risk of contamination, and (5) no mechanical effect on the surface of the object. All these factors have led to IR technology’s becoming an area of interest for new kinds of applications and users. In both manufacturing and quality control, temperature plays an important role as an indicator of the condition of a product or a piece of machinery (EOI, 2002; Flir, 2000, 2001, 2002; Raytek, 2002). In medical and veterinary applications, IR thermometry is increasingly used in organ diagnostics, in the evaluation of sports injuries and the progression of therapy, in disease evaluation (e.g., breast cancer, arthritis, and SARS; Flir, 2003), and in injury and inflammation examinations in horses, livestock (Tivey & Banhazi, 2002), and zoo animals (Hermans-Killam, 2002a; Thiesbrummel, 2002). Lastly, physiological expressions of life processes in animals (Kastberger, Winder, & Steindl, 2001; Stabentheiner, Kovac, & Hagmüller, 1995; Stabentheiner, Kovac, & Schmaranzer, 2002; Stabentheiner & Schmaranzer, 1987) and plants (Bermadinger-Stabentheiner & Stabentheiner, 1995) can be monitored. The most recent field in which IR technology has been applied is animal behavior. This article focuses on the practical options for noncontact IR thermometry— in particular, in biological applications.