How Does Shortwave Infrared Imaging Work?

How Does Shortwave Infrared Imaging WorkShortwave infrared (SWIR) imaging introduces a broad range of possibilities in industrial and scientific applications. Traditional machine vision systems using CCD and CMOS image sensors can effectively capture images within the visible spectrum of light. But vision systems leveraging SWIR technology can capture images in wavelengths deeper within the infrared spectrum, allowing these systems to see details outside of the visible spectrum.

How shortwave infrared imaging works

Shortwave infrared is typically defined as light in the 0.9 - 1.7 μm wavelength range. In order to detect infrared, SWIR uses sensors made of Indium Gallium Arsenide (InGaAs), which is an alloy that is used in the manufacturing of certain semiconductors for photonics use. InGaAs is the most commonly used material in SWIR because it is affordable and practical - it does not need extensive cooling (such as cryogenics).

Wavelengths within the SWIR band interact with objects just as they do with visible light. Photons in this wavelength are reflected or absorbed by objects, allowing for high resolution imaging with strong contrast. Although SWIR images have properties similar to those captured in visible light, such as contrast and reflection, that are only in black and white, not in color.

SWIR applications

SWIR technology is used in a variety of industries, such as automotive, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and security, to name a few. It is frequently used for inspection, quality control and surveillance applications. For example, because the SWIR bandwidth can render opaque items transparent, it can examine the contents of a pharmaceutical bottle containing powder or pills.

A few common applications of SWIR imaging include:

  • Anti-counterfeiting
  • Damages/bruised fruit
  • Moisture detection/Dryness of coatings/paint
  • Process quality control
  • Sorting / classifying
  • Surveillance
  • Water level in plants

Due to its affordability and practical applications, it can be used both day and night. SWIR imaging introduces many different opportunities for advanced image processing.

To learn more about short-wave infrared technology in real-world use cases, browse advanced machine vision cameras from Phase 1 Technology and find SWIR cameras that work for your application.