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Edmund Optics® manufactures optical components used in thermal imaging devices. Inquiries about complete systems should be directed to thermal imaging manufacturers.

Case Study:
Fever Detection Using Optics

The future depends on quickly and safely detecting elevated body temperatures that may indicate the presence of contagious diseases, such as COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus.

Infrared Optics and Identifying
Elevated Body Temperature

Fever is one of the most common initial symptoms of COVID-19, which is caused by the novel coronavirus. Accurately identifying elevated body temperature while minimizing the risk of spreading the virus is critical for fighting this global health crisis. Optics enable a variety of highly-scalable fever detection technologies that eliminate the need for internal body measurements by traditional thermometers.

A fever itself does not necessarily indicate the presence of COVID-19, as elevated body temperatures can be caused by a number of factors and not all of those infected with COVID-19 exhibit a fever. However, recognizing elevated body temperatures identifies individuals who should proceed with more specific virus testing.  

Early Detection of Fever with Infrared Radiation Helps Prevent the Spread of COVID-19
Quick, Reliable, and Accurate COVID-19 Testing

Non-Contact Thermometers and Large-Area Temperature Scanners

The temperature of an object can be determined by the amount of infrared energy emitted by that object, if its emissivity is known. The infrared radiation emitted by the human body typically has a peak wavelength around 9µm.1 Variations in temperature result in changes in emitted infrared radiation, allowing thermal imaging systems to identify when a subject’s body temperature is outside a normal range (Figure 1).

SpectralMD’s wound imaging system in use
Figure 1: Thermal imaging systems, like non-contact thermometers, can measure infrared radiation to determine a subject’s body temperature.

Non-contact thermometers range from inexpensive handheld devices to large-area scanners that can analyze groups of people at a longer range. While handheld devices are easily accessible and useful for testing people one at a time, large-area scanners are highly-scalable and effective for screening in airports, hospitals, and densely-populated areas.

While target distance and ambient temperature can affect the exact value of a non-contact thermal reading, the reduced contamination risk of non-contact thermometers compared to contact thermometers makes them more suitable for combatting a contagious pandemic. 

What Kinds of Optics are Used in Fever Detection?

Infrared fever detection systems require optical components made from germanium, zinc selenide, and other substrates that can transmit wavelengths around 9µm (Figure 2). Details on specific infrared substrates can be found in our application note, The Correct Material for Infrared Applications. Many inexpensive, handheld non-contact thermometers use molded germanium optics, while large-area temperature scanners typically require higher-precision infrared components.

SpectralMD’s wound imaging system in use
Figure 2: Transmission ranges for common infrared substrates.

With five global manufacturing facilities, Edmund Optics® provides competitively priced state-of-the-art standard and custom infrared components for thermal imaging and other infrared applications. Our capabilities include windows, aspheric lenses, prisms, off-axis parabolic mirrors, and laser and imaging assemblies. Optical fever detection, along with countless other optics-enabled technologies, are helping create a safer and healthier future.  


  1. 1. Creagh, D. C., and D. A. Bradley. Radiation in Art and Archeometry. Elsevier Science, 2000.
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The Future Depends on Optics