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Infrared cameras help stop SARS

30 Apr 2003

A UK company unveils a miniature infrared imager that can detect fevers and help prevent SARS spreading.

Halting the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has become a hot topic of discussion around the world. As airports across the globe begin installing thermal imaging cameras to help restrict the spread of the virus, makers of these devices have received countless enquires regarding their technology.

Singapore's Changi airport was one of the first to deploy thermal imagers. The cameras provide thermal maps of the body temperature of each passenger and helps authorities spot travellers who may have a fever.

One camera maker whose phone hasn't stopped ringing is UK-based Land Instruments International. It has developed two miniature thermal imagers that it says are ideal for spotting the fever associated with SARS. Tom McDougall from Land Instruments says the benefits of its FTI Mini and FTI Mv cameras are twofold: firstly, the systems are radiometric so give a true measure of temperature and secondly, they are compact.

The company says its cameras provide an unparalleled level of accuracy thanks to the use of a black body reference calibration source. "The cameras can measure within the -20°C and 100°C range and have a temperature resolution less than 0.12°C," said McDougall.

The device also boasts miniature dimensions measuring just 150-mm long, 73-mm wide and 94-mm high. Based on state-of-the-art uncooled microbolometer technology, the detector has 160 x 120 pixels and a spectral response between 7 to 14 microns. McDougall says this waveband is used to detect low ambient temperatures accurately because it is unaffected by atmospheric absorption.

Operating 30 frames per second, the camera can be plugged into a PC or a screen. Land Instruments has also developed an image-processing package to pinpoint the slight increases in temperature that indicate a fever and potentially SARS. The software package provides continuous and still image display and comes with tools such as profiles, histograms and isotherms.

McDougall says that the company has been inundated with enquiries regarding its cameras. "We had interest from countries including Singapore, Canada, China, Hong Kong, France, Germany and India," he said. "This will lead to other applications for thermal imagers in the future, particularly at air and sea ports."

Land Instruments will be displaying the cameras at the following shows in Germany in May: ACHEMA in Frankfurt, Thermprocess in Dusseldorf and Sensor in Nurnburg.

Author
Jacqueline Hewett is news reporter on Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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