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Figure 2 - The test rig will consist of a low lux video camera and small LCD monitor
Figure 2 - The test rig will consist of a low lux video camera and small LCD monitor

To view the invisible (to humans) infrared radiation, an ultra low light (lux) security camera will be used so that the infrared light can be viewed on a monitor as though the camera were looking at white light. These inexpensive camera modules run from 9 to 12 volts, and output a standard composite color or black and white video signal. There are many suppliers on the Internet. You can expect to pay between $10 and $100, depending on the quality of the camera. Standard camcorders will not work for viewing infrared light though as they contain infrared blocking filters in their optics in order to achieve a higher quality visible light reception. You can try a camcorder, but chances are that it will see only a tiny fraction of the infrared or ultraviolet light spectrum.

The camera I used is a model KPC-EX20H from the company KT&C in Japan. It's a very low lux and high resolution camera that has worked extremely well in my night vision experiments. This camera is also distributed by SuperCircuits.com under the model name of PC182XS, selling for around $100. Decent low lux monochrome cameras can often be purchased for much less, but this one has a very low lux rating and higher resolution CCD imager. The LCD monitor is one of those portable gaming screens, and can be connected to any composite video input.



Figure 3 - The camera can see right through any translucent infrared materials
Figure 3 - The camera can see right through any translucent infrared materials

Some of the more obvious materials that can be used to pass only infrared light (radiation) can be found in remote control devices that use infrared LEDs for communication. Older TV remotes often place the LEDs behind a small infrared filter window; the same is true for the receiver in the actual appliance. This plastic will look perfectly black to human eyes, but as you can see in Figure 3, the video camera sees right through it as if made of clear plastic!

The long plastic bezel that is shown perfectly clear to the camera in Figure 3 is the face plate taken from an older infrared wireless headphone set. To my eyes, the part looks perfectly black. I can only see a tiny amount of light through it if I hold it up to my room lighting. But to the camera, it looks like clear plastic, able to pass all of the infrared light to the CCD imager, which is then displayed on the LCD monitor as white light. To a color security camera, the infrared light would look slightly reddish, yet still appear to be lit from a visible light source. Interestingly, the Nikon camera I used to take this photo could see through the plastic just enough to make it look semi translucent. To my own eyes, thought, the plastic is almost completely black.

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