How to See Infrared Light without a Camera: Ideas that work



The answer to the question ‘how to see infrared light without a camera’ isn’t as easy to answer as you may think. There are different parameters involved. Also, different devices handle infrared light illumination differently.

So, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to find the answer for you. Not only that, but we will also be shedding some light on other related topics as well.

This will not just help you understand the basics, but you’ll also get to know the relevant information connected to the question like the ir light spectrum range and more. 

So, let’s get started.

Why can’t we see infrared light?

We would need to talk a little bit about the wave spectrum in this matter.

You see, when it comes to visible light, we only see it because it’s within a certain range of the wave spectrum. We call this spectrum the ‘Visible light spectrum’ the wavelength range for which is 380 to 740 nanometer. If a wave propagates within this range, we’re able to see it.

But anything below or above that range, and it’s not visible anymore. It becomes invisible to the naked eye. That is the reason why we often take the help of an infrared camera

And the wavelength for infrared illumination starts from 700-nanometer to 1-millimeter. As the range is not within the visible light spectrum, we’re unable to decipher and see infrared light.

Detection of infrared light: how does it really work?

Now the question becomes- why can cameras see infrared light?

The detection of infrared light is highly dependent on the heat signature.

The heat energy often emits itself as a wave. Most of the emission isn’t within the visible range of normal humans (it’s not visible at all in many cases!). In short, the heat energy emission works in the infrared region of the wave spectrum. This is used for detecting infrared light

So, it’s invisible to the naked human eye.

And devices are mostly based on this phenomenon alone. Some devices take the infrared emission coming from the life-form and create a working image of the subject.

Also, there are devices that take the reflected infrared ray and process it to formulate an image. These devices are more common in commercial consumer space.  

How can cameras detect IR light?

The answer is pretty straight-forward. We believe you can already decipher the answer.

In most cases, the infrared heat emission signature is what triggers the image detection. The emission from the life form gets into the camera (the camera captures it) and the process is done via an integrated infrared sensor. At least this is what happens most of the time.

In other advanced applications, you will sometimes see active elements that can emit infrared radiation. Although it’s not really harmful to humans or any other life form. The thermal imaging sensor needs to be a lot stronger in this regard. Sometimes cooling is also a necessity for devices where you have an infrared color processor. 

How to see infrared light without a camera: the usual options

There are two ways you can easily detect infrared light. Both solutions have a relation to the manipulation of different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is what drives the process of detecting infrared light. 

If you’re asking the question-Is ir light visible? Then you may want to check out the following. 

Using your smartphone

As we mentioned earlier, the human mind can only see so much. As a matter of fact, besides the visible wave spectrum, the cells in our eyes cannot decipher anything else.

It basically comes down to a number of colors that our eyes can make out. And if you go beyond the range of visibility, there’s a lot to detect. But our eyes cannot make out the details.

But the sensors on the smartphones and other smart devices can make out the infrared rays. 

These devices have the ability to let a certain wavelength through their lenses and make a differentiation. These sensors can be called infrared sensors in a vague manner. This is what our first technique is all about. 

The process

All you have to do is have a remote control device lying around that has an IR emitting LED at the end. Now the thing with the remote control is that each button sends out a specified color-wave. Although the naked eye cannot see it, the sensors can easily detect it.

This is the final and fun part of the process.

Hold the remote control IR LED in front of the smartphone or smart device sensor and observe as you push each button. Now, you will be able to see the IR emission.

Now you will not have a device in-between your eyes. And that’s intentional.  

Our eyes really don’t work that way. Still, there is evidence of scientific researches that the naked human eye can detect infrared light.

You can certainly check it out if you’re interested.

Using stage lighting gels

If you want to see infrared without camera, then try out this method:

Stage lighting gels are very useful when it comes to eliminating waves of certain wavelengths. And that’s the characteristic we’re going to use here.

All you need is a pair of welding or lab goggles and two pairs of red and blue stage lighting gels. That’s all there is to it.

The process

All you have to do now is cut the stage light gels taking the goggle eye-piece as reference. Now cut out 4 pieces from each gel and place it on the google eye-piece.

Remember, this part of the process needs to be as accurate as possible. You’ll need to keep 2-red lenses between 2-blue lenses at one side and vice-versa on the other.

If you were to observe your hard work, then go to a bright sunny place. If you can see shades of pink and violet on different objects, you’ve successfully made a goggle to detect IR emission.

Final Thoughts

We do hope we’ve given you all the necessary information you need regarding the question- how to see infrared light without a camera?

Let’s be clear here. There are a lot of loopholes here that may catch your eye and not satisfy you. And that is to be expected.

Because this article is only designed to provide basic insights into the question at hand. We’re only offering a simple explanation, with some relevant topics that go with the context. And that’s it.

So, if you want to get a device that will help you better your lives in the dark, you can certainly give it a read. We believe it’s easy enough to understand.

We hope this makes you research interesting topics like-how would a human look in a thermal image

Alex Dantas

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