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Thermal imaging assists sports and exercise science research

The Department of Sport and Exercise Science at Portsmouth University, UK reports on the advantages of using FLIR Systems thermal imaging cameras for measuring skin temperature at rest, during exercise, and recovery.

Skin temperature is an important physiological measure that can reflect the presence of illness and injury as well as provide insight into the localised interactions between the body and the environment. Historically, human skin temperature has been assessed using contact measurement devices including thermocouples and skin thermistors that have limitations.

Dr Joe Costello, a senior lecturer in exercise physiology commented “I have used FLIR Systems thermal cameras in Australia, Ireland and the UK as my measurement technology of choice to assess human skin temperature. My research group is currently using FLIR thermal imaging cameras to examine the effects of different stress factors including temperature, hypoxia, clothing and exercise on human skin temperature”.

Dr Costello added: “The greatest advantage of thermal imaging over traditional methods of assessing skin temperature is the fact that it is non-invasive and portable. Thermal imaging does not have to be in contact with the skin, an obvious advantage for measurement, especially in a clinical context. Contact devices such as skin thermistors and thermocouples often consist of a thin metallic foil which serves as a heat spreader backed by a foam insulation pad. This has the potential of creating a layer of insulation over the area of skin being assessed and therefore significantly degrades the accuracy of the measured temperature. This artefact of testing, recording, and reporting erroneous skin temperature data is therefore troublesome. Another advantage that our FLIR thermal cameras offer over thermistors is the wealth of data that they can collect. Using our FLIR cameras, temperature variation over large areas of skin can be quantified quickly and accurately”.

Published reviews describing the latest research by the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at Portsmouth University are available for download.

FLIR Systems specialises in technologies that enhance perception and awareness.  The company brings innovative sensing solutions into daily life through its thermal imaging and visible light imaging technology and systems for measurement, diagnosis, location and advanced threat detection.  Its products improve the way people interact with the world around them, enhance productivity, increase energy efficiency and make the workplace safer.

FLIR Systems has six operating segments – surveillance, instruments, OEM and emerging markets, maritime, security and finally, detection. Of these six, ‘instruments’ is of greatest interest to trade and industry and the second largest segment in the company’s portfolio. This division provides devices that image, measure and assess thermal energy, gases and other environmental elements for industrial, commercial and scientific applications.

These products are manufactured across five production sites, three in the USA and two in Europe; Sweden and Estonia.

A model to suit every application and budget
The options that FLIR Systems provides for measuring temperature and studying thermal performance have never been greater.  Not only does the company offer a huge range of models to suit all thermal application needs but the technology is also affordable and very easy to use.  Thermal cameras now come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of sophistication and FLIR continues to invest heavily in the development of new and complementary technologies to differentiate itself from competitors.

An important milestone in the development of thermal imaging has been the introduction of the FLIR Lepton® core, a micro longwave detector, the size of a mobile SIM.  This has allowed thermal imaging to be repackaged to meet the needs of an even wider audience and, in combination with another new technology called Infrared Guided Measurement – IGM™ – has led to the development of a range of test and measurement meters with imaging capability.

Another important growth area for FLIR thermal imaging is in continuous monitoring to assure quality and safety.  Through its introduction of discrete fixed mounted thermal cameras which are fully compliant industry standard plug-and-play protocols, FLIR Systems has provided industry with infrared machine vision which is instantly ready for quick and easy network installation.

Protecting assets and people from fire is an area for which thermal imaging is least known but, thanks to FLIR Systems’ development, it is now one of the most cost-effective methods available.  Its application flexibility and rapid return on investment present an attractive proposition for any site or safety manager.

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