Infrared LED Usage: From Remote Controls to Military Tools

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LED lights have so many interesting applications. One you may not have heard of is infrared lighting. Find out what infrared LED lights are used for — some of their applications may surprise you!

What is an Infrared LED?

Infrared LEDs emit infrared light, which is not visible to the human eye.

Infrared LED bulbs appear similar to other LED bulbs, even though you cannot see the light they put out. Infrared light has electromagnetic properties, which is why it’s traditionally been used with electronics. As technologies change, there are new applications for infrared bulbs within Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

How are Infrared LEDs Used?

Common applications for infrared LEDs include:

  • Security cameras – If you’ve ever wondered how a security camera can see when it’s dark you, you have infrared lights to thank. These bulbs pick up on infrared light waves emitted by vehicles, people, or animals. Infrared LEDs have replaced traditional bulbs in security cameras. Most security cameras have a light-detecting sensor, which calculates how much (if any) infrared light is needed based on ambient light levels.
  • Remote controls – Anywhere you use a remote control, you are really relying on infrared light to power the device. The invisible beam of light sends binary instructions to the device, which makes your remote control car run or changes the channel on your television.
  • Toll booths – Automatic highway toll booths rely on infrared light to scan cards or vehicle hang tags and deduct tolls from passenger accounts.
  • Pain relief – Infrared particles of light can penetrate the skin to decrease inflammation in cells, for natural pain relief. Infrared light particles stimulate the body’s innate healing capabilities for faster return to wellness.
  • Skin care – Estheticians may promote infrared light to reduce wrinkles and promote skin health. Infrared lights stimulate the production of collagen, which keeps skin smooth and supple.
  • Traffic control – Infrared lights can help police monitor traffic and protect public safety. These lights may be used in high-occupancy vehicle lanes, for instance, to catch drivers who are cheating the multi-passenger requirement. This use case is still in its infancy, as existing systems are cost-prohibitive for most highways; however, municipalities are interested in finding ways to enforce high-occupancy vehicle lane requirements.
  • Military operationsThe military makes use of infrared LEDs to identify targets, hidden bombs or weaponized devices. With the help of infrared devices, soldiers can see whether someone is holding a weapon or something harmless, and take action only where there is a corresponding threat. Infrared light also boosts target visibility in challenging weather circumstances, for instance, when there are clouds, fog, or dust.
  • Machine-to-machine environmentsMachine-to-machine environments designate any situation where machines interface with one another without human assistance. You will often find machine-to-machine environments in logistics and warehousing, for instance with inventory management and restocking. Telemedicine, robotics, and fleet management are other areas where machine-to-machine communication exists. Infrared LED enables seamless communication between machines.

LEDs make infrared light efficient and inexpensive to produce, which means going forward there may be many more uses for the infrared LED light.