Infrared microscopy incorporates an infrared imager to allow the microscope to see or observe objects in the infrared wavelength. The use of infrared cameras with microscopes has opened a whole new world of interesting applications in science, medicine, forensics, education, and industrial microscopy. The unique characteristics of non-visible imaging sensors enable researchers to detect and observe objects in ways that visible imaging cannot.

Visible microscopes operate in wavelengths between 350-800 nanometers and this wavelength has limitations in certain instances. For example, a good near-infrared or shortwave infrared microscope can penetrate surfaces that are transparent to these wavelengths. This is the reason that a high quality SWIR microscope system will dramatically out-perform a visible imaging system in an application such as semiconductor wafer defect detection.

In order to better understand infrared microscopy applications let’s first define the infrared wavelengths. The wavelength of the infrared spectrum ranges from 1 – 15 microns and is invisible to the naked eye. You can feel the energy of heat in the infrared but you cannot see it without the aid of an infrared imaging system.

The near-infrared (NIR) extends from the edge of visible at 700 nanometers out to 1000 nanometers. Industrial and biometric applications match well with the NIR. Shortwave infrared (SWIR) imaging covers 900 – 1700 nanometers and is the ideal IR frequency for materials science, wafer inspection, forensics, and metrology. The mid-wave infrared (MWIR) ranges from 3-5 micron and long wave infrared (LWIR) from 8-12 micron are considered thermal bands because they capture an image based on an objects heat signature.

Different types of infrared microscopy applications require the right combination of optics, imaging equipment, and software. We can help you. McBain Systems has extensive experience in NIR and SWIR microscopy and has been supplying infrared microscopes for many years.