Inspired by the Public Laboratory
and having just finished a round of college applications, I decided to experiment with thermal imaging on the cheap.
Thermal cameras are expensive. Even at low resolutions, it is not uncommon for a decent thermal camera to cost over $10,000. However, for only $20, you can buy an infrared thermometer
that reads the average temperature over a small area. If we could turn that single area into a color and use a long exposure photography to "paint" the scene with that color, we could create something very similar to a proper thermal image.
This is not a new idea. The Public Laboratory
has come out with a design for something that does this, but I have yet to see one make its way off of a breadboard. I decided to take the project to the next level and make a real, bona fide thermal flashlight. Here's how I did it.