5 Myths About Infrared
If you’ve had a chance to download our Guide to the Science behind Infrared, you’ll know that infrared is a type of electromagnetic radiation. This means that infrared is a type of energy that travels and spreads out from its source – a characteristic that we can use in many different ways. We interact with infrared radiation every day, and it is used in just about everything, from the humble remote control to advanced medical therapies.
Most forms of radiation are invisible to the human eye (with the exception of visible light), and this means that our understanding of radiation and how it works is largely a result of scientific experimentation. As with anything that you cannot physically see, there is a certain amount of speculation around the concept, which results in inaccurate – and sometimes threatening – myths.
Fortunately, we know all about infrared and how it works, so we’ve decided to bust those myths wide open.
1. “Infrared radiation is harmful”
When you think of radiant energy, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the fatal effects of nuclear radiation. This association has turned the term ‘radiation’ into a negative-sounding phrase that people generally fear. In reality, there are many different forms of radiation. Some are harmful and others aren’t. We encounter radiation every day: microwaves cook our food, radio waves to transport audio messages, and visible light enables us to see.
Infrared radiation is naturally occurring and it originates from the sun. It travels through space to our planet, where it is then absorbed by all objects – including us humans! Infrared radiation is always being absorbed and emitted by every object on Earth; it’s a natural process and doesn’t cause any harm.
2. “Infrared is heat”
Infrared is often referred to as heat radiation, and this is because it is commonly experienced as heat energy. However, infrared is not simply heat; it is a form of electromagnetic energy that can be converted into heat. This is because heat – whether it be body heat, the heat from a fire, or heat from the sun – is transferred on the same wavelength as infrared radiation.
If you’re wondering why we feel heat when are exposed to the visible light of the sun, this is because the sun’s rays carry both visible light radiation and infrared (heat) radiation at the same time, and it is the combination of the two that creates the sensation that you feel when exposed to sunlight.
3. “Infrared isn’t affected by external factors”
Infrared radiation can be absorbed by objects and can penetrate them, it’s invisible to the human eye, and it travels 150,000 million kilometres through space to reach the planet – so it is commonly believed that it cannot be affected by external factors.
In fact, once infrared radiation enters Earth’s atmosphere, it begins to interact with objects. Many of the environmental conditions that can be found on the planet have an impact on how radiant heat is transferred. Weather conditions such as humidity can influence the heat transfer – for example, clouds can trap infrared radiation within the atmosphere, causing it to warm up.
4. “Infrared gives you a sun tan”
As we explained earlier, when you’re exposed to the sun’s rays, you’re also exposed to different types of radiation from the electromagnetic spectrum – including visible light and infrared. Pair this with the fact that infrared is a prominent method of heat transfer, and it would be logical to assume that this is how we get tanned (or burned) when we sit in the sun.
But that’s not how it works.
The sun’s raysdo carry infrared and visible light, but they also carry ultraviolet radiation, which is what causes our skin to change when we are exposed to sunlight. This is because ultraviolet rays are more penetrative than the other two types of radiation, and it enters our skin cells reacting with melanin to cause a change in colour.
5. “Infrared devices interfere with each other”
Electromagnetic radiation works on wavelengths and frequencies, and the different types of radiation functions on a different range of frequencies. Infrared, for example, works on different frequencies to microwaves. Radio waves operate on a range of frequencies that are different to any other type of radiation, and we can use these frequencies to transmit messages through transmitters and receivers.
If every radio station transmitted their messages on the same frequency, people listening to that frequency would be able to hear multiple stations at once, which is why each individual station has their own frequency that users can tune in to. Infrared works in the same way: different infrared devices work on different frequencies to others to avoid interference between the two – so your remote control will never have an impact on how your infrared heater works.
Infrared Myths Busted
Now you know that infrared technology is safe to use, won’t interfere with your television, and sitting in front of an infrared heater won’t give you sunburn, take a look at our range of infrared heating systems. If you want to learn more about infrared, we’ve got plenty of advice over on our blog.