Better safety with infrared thermography training


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Dr Bagus Nugroho is a Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on fundamental fluid mechanics and its applications, including drag reduction in the shipping industry and aerodynamics in defence applications.

Dr Nugroho is one of the few practising Infrared Training Centre (ITC) Category 2 Thermographers in Australia and a member of our professional thermography training team. The University of Melbourne is one of only two ITC licensed training providers in Australia.

Since I was in high school, I have always loved physics and maths. I came to Melbourne in 2002. That was my first time seeing the Australian International Airshow and Formula 1 live. Straight away, that was it. Anything that goes pretty fast and makes some funky noise – it’s just quite fun.

Research gives me the opportunity to work with other industries. My current research with Professors Jason Monty and Nick Hutchins involves an international shipping company. We try to make ships more efficient by understanding the influence of hull imperfections on their performance.

Bagus Nugroho, a brown-skinned Asian man wearing a University of Melbourne hoodie concentrates on a handheld thermal camera
Dr Bagus Nugroho checks for thermal leaks in the wall of a building using infrared thermography.
I think it's really important to work with industry. We found that there is a disparity in the knowledge between the shipping community and the fluid mechanics research community on understanding and predicting how drag affects ships.  Dr Bagus Nugroho

We know something that they don't know or vice versa. That's why now there's a lot of joint work in this field. It's critical for the shipping industry because sometimes they work on a thin margin for fuel, and the less fuel you use, the less carbon dioxide you produce – and less fuel cost. It's also attracting attention in defence. Whenever I go to a conference, we always see people from the Royal Australian Navy or the US Navy talking about this issue.

Another area I specialise in is infrared thermography. Thermography is a method used to collect and analyse thermal information. Every object on this planet or in this universe will generate some sort of infrared radiation. Why? Because inside our bodies or objects like your phone, there are particles and there are atoms. Those particles and atoms, they're all vibrating and this vibration causes the emission of infrared radiation. The only time that they’re not vibrating is at absolute zero: −273°C. This infrared radiation can be detected by our thermography camera.

Most things are generating infrared. We can use a camera to be able to detect this radiation, so we can see the profile of the shape. And when an object is hotter than another one, we can tell. If you want to see people at night, using a thermographic camera you can see them. And when people say ‘heat-seeker missile’, that's actually a thermography application. The sensors are similar.

Infrared thermography is useful for electricians, or in defence, manufacturing, factories, power generators – anything where the amount of heat is critical. Dr Bagus Nugroho
A power pole lights up warm yellow-red on a sea of black by thermal imaging

Breweries are a good example, or even chocolate factories. If the temperature in a brewery or chocolate factory is wrong, their product will be ruined. Building inspectors also use infrared thermography to detect moisture build-up due to leakage or imperfect insulation. Electricians also use thermography cameras to detect faults in electrical connections.

Being a certified thermographer allows one to translate what they see through the camera. Anyone can buy a thermography camera to look at things. But they don’t have sufficient knowledge to translate what they’re seeing. And you must know how to set the correct inputs, because if you don’t, you will see the wrong temperature. Each industry has different standards, but they might have a temperature threshold for safety. If you make a mistake and measure the wrong temperature, the consequences can be fatal. It can cause an entire factory to be shut down, and mistakes like this cost a lot of money.

Learn more about infrared thermography training

First published on 27 September 2023.

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