How to Build Your Own Thermal Image Camera

Updated February 21, 2017

A thermal image, or infra-red camera will allow you to take photographs even when it is dark out. It works by exposing the CCD (charge coupled device) to the infra-red part of the light spectrum, which isn't visible to the naked eye. You can easily convert an old digital camera or a cheap webcam into a thermal image camera simply by removing the infra-red filter.

Take apart your digital camera. Remove the screws with a Phillips-head screwdriver and gently pry the casing apart. If you are using a webcam, you will need to pry it open with a flat-edge screwdriver.

Cut the film negative into two pieces using the scissors. They should be roughly the size of a quarter. Set these aside.

Gently pull the CCD out from behind the lens of the camera. This is the piece of the camera that is responsible for taking photographs. It is square in shape and will have a red piece of glass sitting on top of it. This infra-red filter reduces the amount of light that is emitted into the camera.

Remove the infra-red filter from the CCD by prying it off gently with a flathead screwdriver. Use a slow rocking motion to avoid breakage.

Glue the film negatives together and glue them to the CCD using the super glue. Wait about 20 to 30 minutes for this to dry.

Put the digital camera back together by replacing the screws. If you are using a web camera, you may have to put it back together by using glue if it has no screws.

Wait until it is dark and take some photos. The pictures will appear washed out and colourless, but will produce clear photographs from thermal images, not light.

Things You'll Need

  • "Super" glue
  • Inexpensive digital camera or webcam
  • Screwdriver
  • Black film negative
  • Scissors
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About the Author

Palmer Owyoung holds a Master of Arts in international business from the University of California at San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a trained molecular biologist. He has been a freelance writer since 2006. In addition to writing, he is a full-time Forex trader and Internet marketer.