Mass markets, including mobile phones and automotive sensors, drive rapid developments of imaging technologies toward high performance, low cost sensors, even for the thermal infrared. Good infrared calibration blackbody sources have remained relatively costly, however. Here we demonstrate how to make low-cost reference sources, making quantitative infrared radiometry more accessible to a wider community. Our approach uses ordinary construction materials combined with low cost microcontrollers, digital temperature sensors and foil heater elements from massmarket 3D printers. Blackbodies are constructed from a foil heater of some chosen size and shape, attached to the back of a similarly shaped aluminum plate coated with commercial black paint, which normally exhibits high emissivity. The emissivity can be readily checked by using a thermal imager to view the reflection of a hot object. A digital temperature sensor is attached to the back of the plate. Thermal isolation of the backside minimizes temperature gradients through the plate, ensuring correct readings of the front temperature. The isolation also serves to minimize convection gradients and keeps power consumption low, which is useful for battery powered operation in the field. We demonstrate surface blackbodies (200x200 mm2) with surface homogeneities as low as 0.1°C at 100°C. Homogeneous heating and low thermal mass provides for fast settling time and setup/pack-down time. The approach is scalable to larger sizes by tiling, enabling portable and foldable square-meter-size or larger devices.
Harald Hovland and Torbjørn Skauli, "Thermal infrared reference sources fabricated from low-cost components and materials," Proc. SPIE 10625, Infrared Imaging Systems: Design, Analysis, Modeling, and Testing XXIX, 1062507 (Presented at SPIE Defense + Security: April 17, 2018; Published: 26 April 2018); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2306330.
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