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Thermal photography

Investigating Thermal Properties of Rooftops Using Aerial Mapping

by sdepolo 4 months ago | 0 | 85 | 1

Our group set out to collect data on the thermal properties of rooftops at the Thacher campus u...

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Analyzing Thacher Insulation: an Aerial Thermal Mapping Project

by NIKIBOPOLOUS 4 months ago | 0 | 68 | 1

Analyzing Thacher Insulation: an Aerial Thermal Mapping Project By Anthony, Reese, and Bob May ...

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Public Lab Community Newsletter: December 2016

by klie 9 months ago | 0 | 362 | 3

We've relaunched the newsletter and will be sending it out monthly, in addition to sharing it on...

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Signal To Noise Ratio data graphs on various slit width's

by dhaffnersr over 1 year ago | 3 | 1,037 | 0

Here is an excel spread sheet graph on the various slit width's that we use: [![

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Test results today using a .18mm slit

by dhaffnersr over 1 year ago | 0 | 1,093 | 0

Below are some of my test results for today, I replaced the slit that comes with the spectrometer...

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Pencil lead works well as an electrode material in lead analysis

by JSummers over 1 year ago | 0 | 1,732 | 7

This was a test to see if pencil lead can be used as an electrode material in electrochemical le...

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Fluorescence of tabasco sauce

by dhaffnersr over 1 year ago | 0 | 959 | 2

This is a test tube with ethyl alcohol 70% with 60 drops of Tabasco sauce and 1 drop of eosin Y ...

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by dhaffnersr over 1 year ago | 0 | 1,567 | 0

Today I was doing some calibrating for fluorescing gasoline and oil samples If you notice i...

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More research on "thermal-photography" »

Title Last edited Edits Likes
Thermal photography about 2 years ago by Sara 66 7
Posters over 3 years ago by Sara 31 6
Scanning thermal camera over 3 years ago by warren 3 2
Thermal Fishing Bob: PLOTS Boston Toolshed Raising almost 4 years ago by Sara 9 0
May 26th AS220 Thermal Flashlight Workshop over 5 years ago by Sara 5 0


Thermal imaging can be used to document heat/AC leaks from insulation gaps on a building's facade, reveal warmer ground water inflows (either fresh or chemical-laden) or "thermal pollution" from industrial processes entering ocean-temperature waterbodies, as well as identify areas on the human body experiencing infection or stress (includes epidemiological applications).

Community applications so far include both a "heat-busters" program in East Harlem and a "forensic" water quality monitoring program in the Gowanus Canal.


There are three prototypes in development:

  • A Thermal Flashlight (described on this page): a RGB LED flashlight with a non-contact infrared sensor that "paints" the temperature of the surface directly on the wall for capture with a second timelapse camera.
  • Thermal Fishing: dragging a thermometer through the water, taking contact measurements mapped to a RGB light, also for capture with a second timelapse camera.
  • A scanning thermal camera on a lego turntable (software also in development) that sweeps back and forth across a scene, recording the temperature variation to build up an image.


"FLIR" cameras can produce images such as the one below, and are typically used to identify heat leaks, but even low-resolution FLIR cameras can cost thousands of dollars. Our goal is to make this kind of investigation (and the potential savings) cheap, easy, fun, and informative for those of us without $10k in our pockets.

FLIR house

Thermal Flashlight

The first approach results in a kind of "light painting" -- a color heatmap overlaid directly onto the scene. This is the simplest, cheapest, and to date, most effective way we have developed of measuring heat leaks or cool leaks indoors and outdoors. Simply put, the "flashlight" puts out red light if it's pointed at something hot (default 75 deg F or more) and blue light if it's pointed at something cold *(default 60 deg F or less):

Using a Thermal Flashlight

To capture the light painting over time, we have been using timelapse photography or the prototype Public Lab Thermographer website (or its inspiration, GlowDoodle), as seen in the top image on this page.

  • Within view of the camera or laptop, sweep the flashlight beam over the scene at a distance of about 12 inches.
  • Try to stay out of the way of the beam, and don't point it directly at the camera or it will create a "starburst" and may mess up your image.
  • It's helpful to wear dark clothing so you don't show up in the image as you're moving around.

Thermal flashlight diagram

Building your own

Parts list For a Thermal Flashlight with 3.6 V Melexis Sensor and Common Anode LED.



_Note: The goal of this file is to be a place to download everything without pursuing other links. If there are changes or updates please feel free to add and re-upload. If the file is missing anything, please comment below. You might notice that this is for the 5v Melexis, but it will work for either without issues.

Alternative variations of the Flashlight can be made with a 5.5V Melexis Sensor and Common Cathode LED. For the 5.5 V sensor follow this diagram: For the common cathode circuit board follow this diagram:

Links to purchasing equipment:

Consumable Parts:

If you are starting an electronics kit from scratch:

  • a 40Watt soldering Iron (if you want it to be permanent otherwise duct tape or Velcro works temporarily)
  • hookup wire (solid not stranded- 22 or 24 gauge, you can get this at Radio Shack)
  • pliers called "wire strippers" to get the plastic wrap off the hookup wire (can get at Radio Shack)
  • solder for 40Watt iron, lead-free.
  • a breadboard (1 per flashlight). If you aren't soldering: If you are soldering:
  • a USB cable to connect the arduino to the computer via USB for power 5Volts (can get at Radio Shack)
  • household sponge for cleaning solder off tip
  • 9 volt battery with connector wires (can get at Radio Shack- 1 per flashlight)

Cost: ~$40-$60

These research notes will be integrated into this page to provide instructions on building and using your own thermal flashlight:

Several meetups have been organized to build and test thermal flashlights, at RISD (Providence, RI) and in Brooklyn, NY. We are organizing one now in Somerville, MA:

Thermal flashlight heatmaps

Thermal Fishing Bob

The thermal fishing bob project develops a DIY technology to visualize changes in water temperature, which can indicate water pollution via industrial sources or sewage

The fishing bob is designed simply enough that anyone can build it and its components can be easily obtained from Home Depot and Radio Shack.

Project Goals:

To produce a cheaply made, easy to use piece of technology to track temperature changes in water. And to produce a product that can be easily altered to suit many innovative needs.

Research URL’s:

First iteration of the Thermal Fishing Bob developed in Sara Wylie’s class at RISD:

Second iteration of the Thermal Fishing Bob developed at 2014 Barnraising:

First long exposure pictures with the fishing bob:

First Field test of the Fishing Bob

Research Notes on development workshops MIT


Northeastern University

Research notes on towing the tool

Next steps on developing the tool

Building Your Own:

How To Guide


The fishing bob’s tech is sealed within a waterproofed translucent container, a Koolaid mix container will do, with only the thermistor poking out the bottom (sealed around the edges with hot glue). The fishing bob is then wrapped in foam so that it floats, attached to a reel so it can be pulled, and dropped in the water. The thermistor reads changes in temperature and the LED within the fishing bob causes the fishing bob to change color in accordance with the temperature. The readings are recorded on the Arduino inside, which can then be read once it is plugged into a computer.

While the fishing bob is being dragged across the water long exposure photos are being taken to create a “light painting” of the temperature gradient. One neat way to make these long exposure images is to use glowdoodle from MIT.


Thermal Fishing Bob Arduino Sketch Can Be Found Here:

Next Steps:

I am currently working with Sara Wylie on a project to make the thermal fishing bob towable behind a kayak. In previous testing the fishing bobs tended to submerge and become water damaged so we are working on a prototype that would be set into a floatation device. One concept is to wrap two fishing bobs in foam and set them into the legholes of a child’s floatie, duct taping them into place. The first test was successful, the fishing bobs stayed in place above the water and there was no noticeable water damage. A second idea is to attach three fishing bobs to a foam sled/boogie board with thermistors of differing lengths to take a 3D image of the thermal gradient. This idea has yet to be tested. A third idea is to utilize ideas from the coqui to transform the thermal fishing bob into a conductivity fishing bob. This idea is still in the brainstorming stage, but we will be building a prototype soon.



Thermal plume along the Charles River


Fishing bob made at MIT workshop from a soda cup


Thermal fishing bob circuit


Fishing bobs ready to go


Fishing bob being lowered into the river



First prototype of towable fishing bob

thermal-photography thermal-flashlight urban-planning thermal-camera thermal-fishing-bob indiawaterportal tool method

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