A new thermal imaging system being developed for the US Army Laboratory by physicist Dr Kristan Gurton and electronics engineer Sean Hu uses polarized infrared light to reveal details like facial features. The technology will allow soldiers to pick out details such as tripwires, booby traps, buried landmines, mortars and UAVs in flight – even in total darkness.
Night vision technology has revolutionized warfare by enhancing the ability of soldiers to carry out their missions beyond daylight hours. Thermal imaging is particularly useful because it works in complete darkness and needs no external illumination.
Where photomultiplier systems rely on reflected infrared light and require an outside source – often a lamp on the night vision scope itself – thermal imaging uses the infrared radiation emitted by any object that has a temperature above absolute zero. This radiation varies in intensity with the temperature of the object, allowing a thermal camera to build up false color images of people, landscapes, and objects in both day and night conditions.
The problem is that thermal imaging is prone to ghosting effects, which blur details and make faces look like blank masks. But when polarized infrared light is added using facial recognition algorithms, the details return with surprising clarity.