University of Wisconsin–Madison engineers have made it possible to remotely determine the temperature beneath the surface of certain materials using a new technique they call depth thermography. The method may be useful in applications where traditional temperature probes won’t work, like monitoring semiconductor performance or next-generation nuclear reactors.
Many temperature sensors measure thermal radiation, most of which is in the infrared spectrum, coming off the surface of an object. The hotter the object, the more radiation it emits, which is the basis for gadgets like thermal imaging cameras.
Depth thermography, however, goes beyond the surface and works with a certain class of materials that are partially transparent to infrared radiation.
“We can measure the spectrum of thermal radiation emitted from the object and use a sophisticated algorithm to infer the temperature not just on the surface, but also underneath the surface, tens to hundreds of microns in,” says Mikhail Kats, a UW–Madison professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We’re able to do that precisely and accurately, at least in some instances.”