Monday, September 29, 2014

TIPS: How do you measure temperature of an object with unknown emissivity?

Emissivity is the measure of effectiveness of a material in emitting thermal radiation. Objects or materials with high emissivity will produce a more accurate temperature measurement through thermal imager (with the right compensation and settings in the thermal camera). On the contrary, objects or materials with low emissivity have high reflectivity, making temperature measurement more challenging.
That said, it is very important to know the emissivity of the targeted object or material that we are measuring, to obtain an accurate temperature reading using thermal imagers. Most thermal imagers in the market today do come with a pre-defined emissivity table for common items that can be found around us.

Figure 1: Emissivity table found in U5855A TrueIR thermal imager
Together with this table, users also have the flexibility to input the emissivity values from 0.1 to 1.0. However, when the emissivity value or material of the object is not known, these steps can be taken to determine its emissivity

  1. Clean up the surface of the targeted object to remove dusts or foreign materials.
  2. Apply blackbody paint or electrical tape with known emissivity on the surface of the targeted object. See Figure 2.

  3. Figure 2: Object with unknown emissivity

  4. If the targeted object is radiating heat, do allow some time for the surface of blackbody paint or tape to reach equilibrium with the targeted object. 
  5. Perform the reflected temperature calibration (RT cal) and set the known emissivity (Ɛ) value of the blackbody paint or tape on your thermal imager. Measure the temperature of area (A) whereby the blackbody paint or tape was applied. Ensure the thermal imager is focused correctly and perpendicular to the targeted object to minimize emittance effect. Record the average temperature of that focused area.
  6. Measure the temperature of area (B) as shown in Figure 2. Manually lower the emissivity (Ɛ) value on the thermal imager until the temperature of area (B) is equal to the temperature measured at area (A). The emissivity reading indicated now will be the emissivity value of the targeted object.
All in all, by knowing the emissivity of the object or material we will be able to get the right temperature measurement, or better known as a quantitative measurement; measurement of data that can be put into numbers. However, another method is to do a qualitative measurement; where data is purely comparative and not numerical. For example, when checking a three-phase electrical system, it is merely comparing the hotspot among the three phases. 

Figure 3: IR image of a three-phase circuit breaker taken using U5855A TrueIR thermal imager

There are advantages and disadvantages to both qualitative and quantitative measurements, depending on whether or not further statistical analysis is needed or just a need to know the general feel of how the target object is.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Servicing a jumbo jet

Nowadays, very few of us get to see the controls of a wide body jet.  But for one of Keysight’s customers working in the aerospace industry as a design engineer, this is a common work space.  He would make changes at the control here and verify that the proper results followed.  Many times the results are simple and can be measured with a handheld multimeter.  The unfortunate challenge is that the test points mostly reside not on the flight deck, but in the lower electronics bay underneath.  However, getting there is not so simple or easy.

Here is a picture of a wide body jet.  One can see the passenger door on its left front.  There is a service door on its right, almost a mirror image of the passenger door.  One gets into the lower electronics bay from a smaller door, located below the service door.  Literally it is impossible to go back and forth between the controls on the flight deck and the test points in the electronics bay.  He must have a helper or rig up a close circuit TV to allow him to read the meter readings.  He did both, depending on the occasion.  Not a fun or efficient part of his work.

Keysight’s Remote Link Solution is ideally suited for this type of testing.  Using Bluetooth communication to his Android tablet, our engineer is now able to track his testing data on the flight deck.  The meter is left attached at the proper test points in the lower electronics bay.
Like all Keysight handheld multimeter, the U1272A he uses has an IR port in the back, besides the usual LCD display in front.  The Bluetooth adaptor, U1177A, snapped over the IR port converts the IR link into wireless RF signal.  Our engineer received the RF signal on his Android Bluetooth port.  He even has a choice of two different free apps to manage and process the measurement information.  The Mobile Meter app captures and displays up to three live meters on screen.  The more complex Mobile Logger app further logs all three meter readings over time and presents the results in either graphical or numeric format.  The entire process takes only a few clicks to set up.