A perfect example of great use of infrared light that not only makes life much more convenient but also a lot safer is the utilization of it in your garage door opener. Since the early ’90s, 1993 to be exact, safety sensors on garage door openers have been a mandatory regulation. Many don’t realize the actual weight of a garage door and the potential safety hazards the door can present should there be a malfunction. While some garage door openers are mechanical and use physical force to open and close the door, others are photoelectric and use infrared light to act as the physical force like that of mechanical doors, to maintain optimal opening and closing of your door. The photoelectric or automatic garage door openers are often the most used and come with a lifespan of between 10-15 years, depending on the number of open/close cycles and maintenance received.
How do automatic garage door openers use infrared light to operate?
Automatic garage door sensors work when electricity is transformed into infrared light and is moved between a sending and receiving unit. The sending unit is located on one side of the garage door about 4 inches above the floor and the infrared beams are sent across to the receiving unit located at the other side of the garage door. Once received by the receiving unit the door has the signal to open. However, if the sending or receiving unit is misaligned the sensors will notify the wall control that there is a problem. If a problem is detected the door will automatically reverse as to prevent serious injury should the door come crashing down?
What Causes Sensor Misalignment?
Most misalignment or sensor issues are caused by human error. If the sensors are hit in any way it can cause photocell system misalignment. Other causes of sensor or infrared beam misalignment include:
Dirt- Should dirt be on either the sending or receiving sensor the infrared beam can be broken, which in turn affects the operating system
Sunshine- Although rare sunlight can fool the mirror in the receiving sensor into reading that the infrared light beam has been broken
Repeated Use- Repeated use of the garage door along with mountings that are not adequately secured can cause the sensors to vibrate out of alignment
The great thing about misaligned sensors is that they can be fixed with a few simple tools. Although infrared sensors might not seem to be too difficult to fix they are often a part of operating systems for heavy items that need to be handled with care to prevent injury. It is best to speak with a professional before attempting to fix the sensors in your garage door opening system yourself.
The infrared light technology in a garage door opening system has continued to revolutionize as more insight into this technology is developed. As we can see from self-driving vehicles, the future of infrared light just keeps getting better.
While infrared light has plenty of civilian uses, infrared light has the greatest impact on the military. Ever since the conclusion of WWII, military technology has exploded with innovations. The military is becoming more and more technological, replacing pilots with drones and machine-gun bullets with lasers themselves. Here are all the things the military uses infrared light for.
Rangefinders- When a sniper needs an accurate distance to a target, it is a whole lot better to rely on a rangefinder than just guesstimating the distance. Especially during low light and no light situations, using infrared light can be a game-changer as it can help you spot and range targets that you never would have seen with even night vision.
Surveillance- Criminals and terrorists work when no one can see what they’re doing, but with infrared light sensors on drones, they can always see what someone is up to. Since humans are always emitting infrared light, it is relatively easy to pinpoint targets in the pitch black. However, we can’t always see what they are carrying so infrared light is often combined with standard night vision to give us a more clear picture as to what is going on.
Missile/Bomb Guidance- Once they decide to drop a bomb or send out a missile they need to make sure it doesn’t cause damage to civilians or any non-affiliated buildings. In order to be more precise, there are some missiles and bombs that use infrared light to guide its payload to the right spot. These are perfect, for example, when a missile is being aimed at the extremely hot exhaust of a jet engine. This is a great solution as it minimizes unwanted casualties/damage while maximizing accuracy to the specific target.
LaWS (Laser Weapon System) – This is perhaps the coolest weapon to come out of the 21st century. Used aboard some US Navy ships since 2014, this sci-fi weapon is something straight out of Star Wars. How it works is that it takes infrared light and shoots it at a certain target. This intense amount of energy will quickly heat up whatever it is pointed and will start to burn and destroy the target. The only con is that the laser generates a lot of heat, uses a lot of energy, and is costly. Therefore only 1 has been produced so far.
Infrared light is all around you, although you don’t see it because it is apart of the invisible wavelengths of light like much electromagnetic radiation is. However, you can feel infrared lasers as heat. That warm feeling when you step out into the sun or sit by a campfire is just infrared heat coming in contact with your skin. And scientists have many surprising uses for this type of light.
Infrared light Many Uses:
From your TV remote to your game controller, both use infrared light to send messages to the console so that your button pushes can be registered correctly. In fact, you can take your smartphone and aim it at the top of your remote and take a picture while you’re holding down a remote button. IN the picture you should see dots of light coming out, that’s infrared light!
While this is highly experimental and not fully proven, there have been promising studies that the heat from the infrared lights, when aimed at the tumor, heats the cancerous cells to a point that it kills them.
Law enforcement has mostly replaced their old radar systems with LIDAR systems. It stands for light detection and ranging. And it works on the same principles as radar. It sends out a beam of infrared light instead of radio waves to find the speed of the car. The benefit of LIDAR is that it is far more precise and accurate.
There are two main versions of night vision. The one we are concerned with is often referred to as thermal imaging. Humans and other mammals often emit infrared light due to the fact that they are warm-blooded. Thermal imaging is able to show anything that is emitting heat during the dark night.
The military also utilizes infrared light for many instruments they use within their field. In fact, Infrared light is used so much more than we realize in everyday life. With the use of infrared light in self-driving cars, we are gaining a better understanding of just what this light can do and how beneficial it is to life.
Self driving cars have become less a vision of the future and more so a phenomenon of the present. While there are still some issues, concerns and fine tuning to do on self driving cars, the fact that they will be a common element on our roads in the future especially, has never been more true. You may see different self driving cars on the roads in your town or city now and wonder exactly how these automobiles work and what some of the science is behind them. Afterall, trusting a car to operate and drive itself seems a bit scary and maybe something we could never imagine. So what makes these autonomous cars actually run in a safe and effective way? Lasers are a huge part id not the most important part of a self driving car and the success of its operation. Self Driving cars have various sensors that help to detect the obstacles and map its environment. That is where we introduce the Lidar sensor, which is a laser detection and ranging system that operates on light waves instead of radio waves. Developers have found that this kind of infrared sensor achieves the capabilities those most like the human eye!
There are 2 types of Lidar systems that play a part in self driving cars:
3D Flash Systems- these systems offer a wide angle and optic source that reflect light form their exposure onto the detector and mimics or models its surroundings based on the time of light calculations( Sounds a bit complicated doesn’t it?)
Scanning System- This system emits light systematically in every direction and helps to detect echos individually to help map your surroundings.
Still there are different metrics that are used to gauge the quality and operating systems of the 2 LiDAR systems. These metrics include:
Of all the different components of the LiDAR system the laser source is the MOST IMPORTANT of all. Not only that the quality of the laser system is critical as well. The quality of the laser source is measured by different pulse measurements. These measurements include high pulse repetition which allows for scanning leading to a better and higher quality of data output. Pulse duration which gives off short pulse measurements in picoseconds and is needed to achieve longitudinal resolutions.
While the actual physics and understanding of these infrared lasers in self driving cars may seem a bit daunting and a little out of most spectrums of comprehension, one thing is for sure. Scientits are revolutionizing the way we drive the automobiles on the roads and the safety of self driving cars as we speak. As the concept and operating systems of self driving cars are further fine tuned and established we will only continue to see improvement in the models and safety before autonomous cars are prevalent on our roads. Thanks to infrared lasers and the use of radio and light waves self driving cars are not a what if of the future and instead are becoming a thing of the present!
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