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People are unique creatures of nature. They can only achieve the same goals differently and then rack their brains to argue which is better. This is precisely what happens in the case of night optics. Some prove the effectiveness and benefits of night vision, while others prove thermal imaging. The debate about which is better will continue for a very long time. Despite this, both technologies are perfectly integrated into our daily lives, and we cannot imagine our existence without them. The only thing available to us in such a situation is the ability to compare the effectiveness of thermal imaging and night vision in each use case. This is precisely what we will do in our guide.
Before considering the effectiveness of night vision, you need to study this technology in more detail. It has a fascinating history, is distinguished by an easy-to-understand principle of operation, and finds many applications. On its basis, a considerable amount of high-quality night optics is created, which, in certain situations, can become an indispensable assistant to a person.
The first information about night vision appeared in the late 30s of the XX century. At this time, the best German engineers were developing devices to make it possible to see in the dark. As a basis, they took inventions that were used in medicine and helped people make scientific discoveries. They had nothing to do with night vision but allowed engineers to generate new ideas. Such work yielded results only in 1939 when German troops were already waging a bloody war in Europe. Hitler's army used the created devices for successful operations in conditions of lack of light. This gave them a significant advantage over opponents who needed to have such optics.
The first NVDs were actively used already 2-3 months after the start of the war. Initially, they were a secret development, but hiding their presence for a relatively short time was possible. This optics could have been better. It had limited capabilities and made it possible to amplify light only 1-2 hundred times. This was enough to ensure visibility at dusk and dawn. At the same time, the devices were practically useless at night. They could only be used for a clear night and a bright full moon in the sky. In such a situation, night vision made distinguishing objects' outlines possible.
The first German NVDs were based on using the infrared spectrum. During the modernization of equipment, it was slightly changed. We also improved the design and made the equipment more efficient. Such innovations made it possible to amplify light 5-10 times better than before, but more was needed to create a high-quality image. In this regard, the German army used the devices existing at that time only to search for large-scale military equipment and determine the approximate location of many enemy soldiers. The many drawbacks of the equipment entirely eclipsed the relatively small benefit. Chief among them was the sheer size of the device and the various add-ons needed to make it work (such as large-diameter infrared illuminators). All this made the structure so heavy that it was necessary to use special vehicles with increased payload to transport it to the battlefield. The vast size entailed another drawback – the increased vulnerability of the equipment. Any shot was enough to damage individual structural elements and turn NVDs into a useless pile of heavy parts.
Further modernization of the German NVDs made it possible to reduce the dimensions significantly. This allowed night vision to be used on tanks and other ground military equipment. At the same time, significant progress in its effectiveness has yet to be achieved. This and hundreds of other factors eventually led to the defeat of the German army. Naturally, developments in the field of night vision were also stopped.
The Americans gave a second chance to NV technology. They quickly appreciated its potential and began their development. For example, United States engineers took German equipment obtained during the war. They completely changed it and made it more like modern NVDs. It was possible to achieve positive results only 15 years after the end of the war. In the early 60s, new devices appeared, which were called Gen I generation models. They belonged to passive-type devices, for which a special IR brightener was needed. Its presence in the design slightly increased the dimensions, but the optics remained relatively compact and easy to use. The real test for her was the Vietnam War. The US military used the available NVDs for night offensives and gained a significant advantage. Also, these optics made it possible to navigate in areas darkened by dense vegetation. Positive feedback from the command and many good comments from ordinary soldiers made night vision one of the priority areas for development.
Second-generation devices were invented about ten years after the introduction of the Gen I models. They were of the highest quality and far ahead of their predecessors. Improvements touched on all key aspects, which made it possible to obtain optics that many use today. The main achievement of engineers was the invention of a plate with a photocathode, which supplemented the design of devices. This made it possible to obtain a significant increase in the brightness of the final image and eliminate most of the defects that prevented fine details from being seen. Gen II models also have increased resolution, range, and more. This made the optics effective even when working under a severe lack of light.
The following critical stage in the history of night vision was the 90s. At this time, an improved version of Gen II, II +, appeared. The changes compared to the previous generation models were not so significant, but the quality of the resulting image improved. For this version of the devices, Operation Desert Storm became the test. The results met expectations and helped the Americans and their allies achieve their goals.
The heyday of night vision happened at the beginning of the new century. The apogee of the work of hundreds of engineers was the emergence of Gen III generation devices, which are the most popular in our time. The modernization affected the photocathode, which was replaced by a more modern structural element. This helped to increase the efficiency of the optics and achieve a record amplification of light. In addition, Gen III models have become more reliable and durable even when used in the most extreme conditions.
The desire of people for perfection made possible the emergence of fourth-generation optics. Her presentation was one of the most anticipated events, but only some things went as planned. Numerous tests of the new hardware showed only a slight improvement over the previous version. Because of this, they decided to abandon the formulation of Gen IV, and the created devices began to be called Gen III + models. Today they are the most advanced, and their application is in various fields of activity. At the same time, further modernization of night vision does not stop for a second, so shortly, there is every chance to see something new and unique.
Anyone who will use the capabilities of night vision needs to know the general principle of its operation. It is not as complicated as it initially seems, but you still have to strain your brain a little to understand all the critical nuances.
Operating principle, the standard for all NVDs:
The popularity of night vision is an undeniable fact. It is due to the many advantages that this technology is endowed with. Its use allows you to get many privileges and expand the boundaries of your capabilities.
Night vision consists not only of pluses but also of minuses. This technology has relatively few latter, but you still don’t need to forget about them. Having this information, it will be possible to find the correct application for NV devices, revealing all the strengths of the technology and reducing the negative effect of existing shortcomings.
Anyone can think of dozens of ways to use night vision. Putting them together, you can understand how important and valuable this technology is. It is in demand in almost all areas of activity and is indispensable when performing specific work.
Scope of Night Vision:
Having briefly studied night vision, you can proceed to consider thermal imaging. This technology is unique from all points of view. It works as simply as possible but is highly effective and significantly benefits people. Many manufacturers of modern optics use it as a basis, creating thousands of models for various purposes. This maximizes the scope of thermal imaging and makes it truly indispensable.
Thermal imaging is a unique technology with its history. The catalyst for its emergence was the discovery of many famous scientists who worked 100-200 years ago. Their developments were not related to thermal imaging, but they were able to lay the foundation for its emergence. The most important inventions were made between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th century. During this period, scientists from different countries conducted experiments with infrared rays, coming up with new options for their application. W. Herschel became the leader of this trend. He was a famous, at that time, astronomer who first discovered Uranus and made a considerable contribution to the study of the solar system. In addition, Herschel was engaged in the modernization of the telescope. He made it more efficient and capable of transmitting a high-quality image even in the presence of star clusters and other cosmic bodies in the observed part of the sky. He achieved this by suppressing the excessive luminosity of celestial bodies, which did not allow one to consider the planet or its satellites in detail. This invention did not become revolutionary, but after many decades made it possible to make thermal imaging technology available to mankind.
Herschel was an English scientist who conducted all his experiments in the United Kingdom. He took various materials and passed light through them. This simple action allowed him to find those samples that block entirely light or let it through with little or no distortion. In addition, the scientist saw an unusual pattern. It consisted of the ability of materials that poorly absorb light to pass heat well. This discovery explained the phenomenon of most telescopes of that time, which could not give a clear image when bright celestial bodies or their clusters hit the lens. To solve this problem, finding a material that would simultaneously retain light and absorb heat waves was necessary. To achieve this, Herschel repeatedly repeated the experiments of I. Newton and other great scientists tried to find specific patterns and interpret the results differently. Such monotonous work had its effect. Herschel coped with his main task and discovered the so-called thermometric spectrum. He called the radiation discovered by the scientist "invisible rays," which a few years later were renamed IR radiation. Herschel continued to work in this direction, and two decades later, he was able to show the world the first thermal image in history. He called it a thermogram and presented it as one of the most important discoveries in the history of mankind.
The turning point in the history of thermal imaging was the year 1880. At this time, the American scientist S. Langley designed an unusual device called a bolometer. Outwardly, it looked like a well-known thermometer. However, this device had a higher sensitivity, thanks to which Langley could easily measure thermal and infrared radiation, being at a distance of more than three hundred meters from the object. This discovery was revolutionary and gave people the ability to detect thermal radiation. Based on Langley's invention, the first thermal imaging devices were designed. They appeared in the late 20s of the last century thanks to the unique solutions of K. Tihanyi. This Hungarian-born British scientist created equipment that the soldiers of the United Kingdom army could test in action. Tihanyi's device was a TI camera with an increased sensitivity rating. It was enough to point it at an invisible, due to darkness, territory to determine the presence or absence of objects that exude heat (for example, violators of borders, soldiers of the enemy army, etc.). The effectiveness of this invention amazed everyone, so the military leadership decided to classify Tihanyi's device. Thanks to this, it helped to successfully defend the borders of the United Kingdom for a long time.
In 1956, military thermal imaging equipment was demonstrated at the status exhibition of inventions. After that, the development of Tihany was known not only in Europe but also far beyond its borders. Thanks to this, work on the modernization of TI devices began in many countries worldwide. At the same time, all developments were secret and intended exclusively for use by military personnel. The following two decades became a correspondence competition in which different armies competed in the effectiveness of their thermal imaging equipment. At the same time, ordinary people knew practically nothing about the new products being produced. The situation changed in the late 70s when several private companies in the USA took up the development of TI optics. They had long-term contracts with the country's armed forces but were independent of them. This circumstance moved TI equipment from secret inventions to publicly available ones. The main innovation of such models was the appearance of single-element sensors in the design. Thanks to them, it was possible to create thermal images of a linear type, which are suitable for use in a wide variety of purposes (not only in the military).
The general availability of TI devices did not please the leadership of the US Army. It gave the order to classify all developments and close down private companies that made thermal imaging open to study. This was done because of the desire to deprive competitors of the opportunity to create something similar and the unwillingness to disclose the actual financial costs of manufacturing and upgrading such optics.
In the 70s, thermal imaging became seriously interesting in Europe. In the Netherlands, a pyroelectric sensor was invented, with which it was possible to capture IR radiation. Based on this development, equipment designed to extinguish fires was created. With its help, rescuers could quickly find fires, thereby speeding up the process of getting rid of the fire. New inventions were most often used in ports. Its capabilities made it possible to quickly eliminate fires on ships, thereby saving existing and preparing to-launch ships.
In 1979, a well-known US military-industrial company introduced ferroelectric IR sensors. They were a revolutionary discovery that significantly improved the efficiency of TI equipment. These sensors were made from expensive components, which increased their reliability and accuracy. This development interested the military, so they began actively using it for their purposes. In the early 80s, another American company began producing thermal imaging devices adapted to the needs of ordinary people. They were widely used in industry to find heat loss points, and also brought many benefits during search and rescue operations and helped protect various infrastructures.
The following ten years of the history of thermal imaging passed quite calmly. At that time, nothing interesting was presented except for microbolometers, which were introduced into the design of TI devices by almost all manufacturers. Thanks to this element, it was possible to increase the range indicator. Naturally, this development also became the “booty” of the military. They began actively using the updated optics, giving her compliments. The period from 1990 to 2000 became one of the key ones. The growth in popularity of TI devices has led to an increase in demand and the subsequent increase in production volumes. Of all the models produced then, only half belonged to military optics. The rest was integrated into dozens of industries and made it possible to increase the productivity of various production processes. At the beginning of the new century, thermal imaging became even more intertwined with the daily life of people. It turned into an indispensable assistant when performing hundreds of types of work.
Thermal imaging is a technology that raises many questions among TI users. To answer them, you need to consider its principle of operation in detail. Initially, it seems difficult to understand, but this is a severe misconception. Just one reading of the description of thermal imaging is enough to understand all the details of this process.
Operating principle, the standard for all TI devices:
Daily use of thermal imaging will allow you to appreciate this technology's advantages fully. It brings many benefits to people and gradually becomes indispensable. So that everyone can learn about all the positive qualities of thermal imaging, it is enough to read the list of technology advantages carefully.
The almost complete absence of shortcomings puts thermal imaging technology in demand. However, if you study it in more detail, you can find a couple of negative points that should be eliminated in the future.
Having mastered thermal imaging, people discovered new opportunities they had only dreamed of. Nowadays, this technology is called indispensable by representatives of many professions. It allows you to cope with hundreds of simple and complex tasks that users set themselves daily.
Scope of thermal imaging:
The combination of the words "soldier" and "night vision" has long become familiar. The same applies to thermal imaging. Both of these technologies were created specifically for military purposes, and therefore, in our time, they are widely used in this area. The debate about what is best for the military does not subside for a minute, so everyone takes one of the sides, depending on personal needs and the tasks set by the command. However, it is still possible to identify technology more adapted for military purposes. It would be best if you did this by comparing them.
Aspects that the military needs to pay attention to when choosing one of the technologies:
Based on the preceding, it is easy to conclude that thermal imaging is more suitable for the military than night vision. At the same time, the latter can be helpful in certain situations, so it is still recommended to abandon it altogether. Using TI equipment, soldiers of various units can effectively cope with most tasks, even in extreme conditions. This gives a certain freedom of action and does not drive users into a strict framework.
Hunting is a unique occupation that people have paid particular attention to for many millennia. Initially, it was used as the only possible way to find food. However, today hunting has become an exciting entertainment that millions of people love. Night hunting is considered especially interesting. For her, hunters need to choose special equipment and equipment and use the capabilities of night vision and thermal imaging. It is rather challenging to understand which of these technologies is more effective. However, if we compare them with each other, we will be able to answer this difficult question.
Aspects that hunters need to pay attention to when choosing one of the technologies:
All these aspects and many other essential points indicate that thermal imaging is the best choice for hunters. It allows you to quickly find animals even in abysmal visibility and determine the location of their vital organs (for example, the heart). This increases hunting efficiency and makes it possible to kill prey from the first shot, relieving it of the torment experienced in case of injury. At the same time, night vision also does not need to be forced to gather dust on a shelf. It can be used as an accessory to increase the hunter's chances of getting the desired trophy.
Animals living in natural conditions have always attracted the attention of fauna lovers. To observe them, people use various optics, making it possible to examine living beings in detail and not interfere with their daily activities. Wildlife lovers can only watch with thermal imaging and night vision if such a statement is planned at night. These technologies provide a chance to find animals in the dark, enjoy their beauty and see various activities. To understand which is best suited for wildlife watching, you must compare them on several important aspects.
Aspects that wildlife enthusiasts need to pay attention to when choosing one of the technologies:
The best way to observe wildlife is with NV devices. They can be used to achieve various goals, so they are a priority option in this case. With the help of NV technology, you can view animals in detail, move safely through unfamiliar terrain, and perform many other tasks. Despite this, thermal imaging can also be helpful to the wildlife lover. Therefore, it should be used as an addition to the leading NV equipment.
The confrontation between the supporters of thermal imaging and night vision does not stop for a second. They all demonstrate the attractiveness of each technology and its benefits to humanity. At the same time, one should stay focused on all options. In some cases, thermal imaging will show itself better, and in others, night vision. In this regard, you need to choose based solely on your needs and goals. If you avoid mistakes in this matter, you can fully experience all the positive aspects of both technologies and find a worthy application for each.
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