NEC's infrared cameras have a myriad of applications, from disaster relief to pandemic countermeasures
- SasakiThey are also used in pandemic countermeasures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. For example, installing thermography equipment at an airport enables you to measure the body temperatures of those passing through it, so you can identify which people have a fever. Have you heard about the Ebola hemorrhagic fever problem?
- MitaThe threat of it spreading in West African countries and other locations around the world is worrying, isn't it.
- SasakiNot long ago, NEC actually supplied infrared cameras (Nippon Avionics thermography devices) to West African nations through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to support measures for countering Ebola hemorrhagic fever in West Africa.
- MitaSo NEC's technology is also being used to stem the spread of Ebola hemorrhagic fever!
- SasakiInfrared cameras are also used to monitor key facilities. For example, at facilities located where lights can't be turned on at night, infrared cameras can monitor whether there are any intruders. This type of monitoring is also used to prevent poaching. Another thing infrared cameras are used for is facility diagnosis.
- MitaFacility diagnosis?
- SasakiPut simply, thermography is used to find areas that have deteriorated in aging buildings. For example, walls deteriorate when water builds up in cracks, often resulting in pieces of the wall coming loose. Thermography is used to find gaps and cracks that cause this.
- MitaHow do you find them?
- SasakiWhen there are gaps in a wall, the way heat passes through is different. This is what you look for. As you track changes in the temperature of wall throughout the course of a day, it is first warmed by the sun. Then, when the sun goes down, heat escapes from the wall. When a wall has gaps in it, heat doesn't travel further than the gaps even when the sun is shining on them. When heat is escaping, the change can be seen where there are gaps first. Viewing the transfer of heat using thermography helps identify whether there are gaps or cracks.
- MitaI had no idea infrared cameras could be used in that way!
- SasakiIn connection to this, there are currently issues with the deterioration of infrastructure such as highways in Japan. It isn't practical to check all of the facilities and buildings that have deteriorated. But if facilities were diagnosed using thermography, it would be possible to narrow down which buildings were at risk, and repair them more efficiently.
- MitaI think I'm starting to see just how helpful this technology is.
- SasakiIn addition to the examples I've given here, NEC's infrared cameras are also installed in the Hayabusa 2 Asteroid Explorer and Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter. As this demonstrates, NEC's infrared cameras are utilized in a wide range of fields.
Terahertz, the untapped infrared range that could be used to detect contamination!
- MitaWhat kind of infrared technology does NEC plan to develop in the future?
- SasakiWe are working on a variety of things, but today I'd like to talk about our development of products that use terahertz waves.
- MitaTerahertz waves?
- SasakiRemember the diagram showing electromagnetic waves that I used when explaining infrared rays? Terahertz waves are the infrared rays right on the border between light and radio waves. This is an untapped frequency range for which very little technological development has been carried out to date. It is thought of as the "ultimate infrared," which shows promise in a variety of areas. NEC is first out of the gate to use these terahertz waves in a commercial imaging device.
- MitaWhat sort of things can it do?
- SasakiIt is said to have a range of purposes, but one simple example is nondestructive inspection. This refers to inspecting contents without opening a bag or box. For example, a variety of companies have expressed interest in terahertz imaging devices for detecting contaminants in food products, such as to check whether hair has been mixed in with flour.
- MitaThere have been a range of issues related to contaminants in food products lately, so I'm sure there'll be a ton of demand for that!
- SasakiTerahertz-based devices are highly expected for applications such as introduction to product inspection lines by manufacturers or biomedical imaging in medical fields.
- MitaIt's exciting to think about how far-ranging the applications could be. It has been very enlightening learning how NEC's infrared cameras are assisting us today. Thank you for your time, Mr. Sasaki!
- SasakiThank you for listening!
In this installment, we heard about NEC's infrared technology. I had heard about infrared cameras before, but I wasn't aware that they were being put to use in such a wide range of situations. With their applications including things such as disaster relief and pandemic countermeasures, they clearly play an essential role in our lives. I was also thrilled to hear about the potential of new terahertz devices. I'd like to keep an eye on how things develop in the coming years. See you in the next installment of "MiTA TV"!