Archive for May 2011

FLIR infrared cameras now priced below $900 for educational use!

May 31st, 2011 by Charles Xie
I just got a quote from a FLIR sale representative that they now offer 25% educational discount for their products. This means for an I3 camera that is listed as $1,195, the educational price is now $896.25. For an I5 camera, the educational price is now $1196.25.

These prices may be even lower if a school purchases ten cameras, or perhaps through a Groupon deal? :-) Given the power of IR imaging, it seems to me that IR cameras now have higher cost effectiveness compared with sensors, which cost $50-100 each (already discounted prices from major vendors such as Vernier and Pasco). Note that an I3 camera can be considered as 3,600 temperature sensors bundled in just one camera. And the measurement is reduced to a camera shot, saving all the work needed to connect the dots and color-map them.

The educational potential of IR imaging stems from two aspects: First, its usefulness has been demonstrated by many commercial applications. Second, it is a tool that greatly literates students from laborious, tedious data acquisition work and allows them to focus on science concepts.






A virtual heliodon from Energy3D

May 24th, 2011 by Charles Xie
The virtual heliodon of Energy3D
in action.
According to Wikipedia, "a heliodon is a device for adjusting the angle between a flat surface and a beam of light to match the angle between a horizontal plane at a specific latitude and the solar beam. Heliodons are used primarily by architects and students of architecture. By placing a model building on the heliodon’s flat surface and making adjustments to the light/surface angle, the investigator can see how the building would look in the three dimensional solar beam at various dates and times of day."

Nowadays, few architects would construct a model building and put it under a heliodon. Computer software can do a far better job in simulating the physical situations than electric light of a mechanical heliodon. A number of companies have developed virtual heliodons for daylighting design. Some of these are part of integrated CAD systems such as Autodesk's Ecotect, which are quite pricy. Now, there is a free version we just developed, which is equally good. Even better, it runs on the Web as a Java applet. And it comes with a design studio for you to create your own buildings. Imagine designing your houses online and use the virtual heliodon to check how the sun shines on them at different days and times at different locations.

You can try our heliodon applet out at this URL. Unfortunately, this applet only works on Windows at this point.

ACS-Hach High School Chemistry Grants for infrared cameras?

May 23rd, 2011 by Charles Xie
As the 18th century British chemist Sir Humphry Davy put it, “nothing tends so much to the advancement of knowledge as the application of a new instrument.” True for infrared imaging, especially when it is used as an educational tool to advance students' science knowledge with first-hand experiences.

Erica K. Jacobsen, an Associate Editor of the Journal of Chemical Education (JCE), had an interesting idea about where to get funds to buy an infrared camera. 

Interested in my work recently published on JCE online, she wrote in the editorial of the July 2011 issue of Journal of Chemical Education: "Xie's article Visualizing Chemistry with Infrared Imaging describes the use of infrared (IR) cameras for inquiry-based experiments. The cost is still somewhat prohibitive ($1,500-2,500), but Xie states that the price continues to drop. He provides several experiments that allow students to 'see' phenomena such as evaporation, condensation, and latent heat, heat of solution, and vapor pressure lowering. The IR images of the experiments are captivating, intriguing, and thought provoking. What if a summer science course were to offer an experience with IR cameras and such real-world processes as illustrated in this article? Or, perhaps a high school educator might find this a useful focus for an application for one of next year's ACS-Hach High School Chemistry Grants."

True to form, infrared cameras are becoming more affordable. For $1,195, you can now buy a brand new FLIR I3 (60x60 pixels) from Amazon. If you want to try one and happen to be in Massachusetts, rent one from Home Depot! The price of an I3 may fall below $1,000 next year, or an educational discount will make it do so.

The ACS-Hach High School Chemistry Grants provide up to $1,500 for teachers "seeking funds to support ideas that transform classroom learning, foster student development, and reveal the wonders of chemistry." Each year, ACS awards a few dozens grants. If you are interested in applying for one based on the infrared imaging idea and need some help, please do not hesitate to contact me.  

I will showcase this technology at the 2011 Gordon Conference for Chemistry Education and the 2011 Gordon Conference for Visualization in Science and Education. Hope to see you there!


Disclaimer: Although I was probably responsible for the purchase of 10+ IR cameras through my active presentations, publications, and blog articles, I am an independent researcher who has no link to FLIR, FLUKE, or any other IR camera manufacturers.