In astronomy, infrared light allows scientists to “see” celestial objects that are too faint to be viewed in the regular light spectrum. Infrared provides information about those bodies, but it’s not just used by scientists. Here are four ways infrared is used for everyday activities.
1. Remote Controls
Although some remotes now rely on Bluetooth to control your television or another device, plenty of them still use IR, which was the standard for decades. Infrared light cannot travel through walls or other physical obstructions, which is why you need to line up your remote with the sensor on your TV for it to work. You can tell if a remote is IR by looking for the lens on the end that points at your device. While human eyes cannot see infrared light, some cameras are able to pick it up.
2. Thermal Imaging
If you’ve ever viewed a heatmap image, you’ve witnessed the power of the infrared. IR is used on TV to help law enforcement detect a human presence because infrared can be sensed as heat. Humans, animals, and some machines give off heat, so they show up in thermal scans. This is similar to how snakes and some predators sense prey. The same technology powers night-vision goggles. Once infrared is detected, technology creates an image with false colors, allowing the human eye to “see” infrared light.
Because infrared gives off heat, it can be used as a heat source, often a portable space heater. IR heaters, also known as radiant heaters, don’t have the risk of older space heaters and are safe to use around pets and children, which makes them a good option for families. However, you will only feel warmth if you’re within line of sight of the machine. Some modern designs are quite attractive. They look more like an end table or nightstand than a machine!
An infrared sauna is another take on IR as heat. Unlike traditional saunas, which would rely on a fire or stove, IR saunas use infrared to provide dry heat to the room. While a traditional sauna would rely on stones heated by the stove or fire to heat the room, IR skips a step by transferring heat directly to your body. Fans of infrared saunas point out that IR penetrates deeper into your bones and muscles to provider longer lasting results.
Of course, you might not sweat it out in a sauna every day or regularly use night-vision goggles. However, these examples show that you don’t have to be an astronomer to be familiar with the applications of infrared light.