Message Board Thread - "IR for steam leaks"

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IR for steam leaks micjk 11/5/2004
Yesterday I walked by one of our flash tanks and heard a hissing noise. I had a feeling that we had a leaking sight glass gasket so I took our Flir e-4 camera and scanned around the sight glass. Couldn't see anything, so I took a piece of plastic laminate and lo and behold found the leak. I scanned the laminate and could see the leak. My question is; Why could I not see the leak area without putting the laminate there to "catch" the steam? Is it possibly because the leak was minute and ambient conditions were higher than the leak area, or am I totaly "off base" here. Could I use the manual settings instead of auto and see it?
kind regards,
Roy Gariepy
Re:IR for steam leaks micjk 11/5/2004
By the way this was our high pressure flash tank 450# condensate to 90# steam.
Re:IR for steam leaks Gary Orlove 11/5/2004
IR cameras are designed so they look through most gases to look at target surfaces. So IR cameras don't really see dry steam very well. If the moisture in the steam condenses into small droplets (the typical cloud of steam), it is easier for the IR camera to see.

By carefully reducing the thermal span and adjusting the level manually, you can improve your chances of detecting the steam directly.

The technique you described is called transference thermography. You transferred the thermal energy of a gas flow (steam leak) to a surface that radiates well in the infrared. Hence the camera picked it up readily. This same technique has been used to visualize air flows for years.

Gary Orlove
Infrared Training Center

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