For Starters…What is Thermal ?

The simple definition?

Thermal is “something related to heat or temperature”.

Perhaps, this definition will take you back to your 8th grade science class when you first learned thermal is part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The electromagnetic spectrum is the term used by scientists to describe the entire range of energy that exists. 

Most energy is invisible to the naked eye. For instance, microwaves, radio waves, ultraviolet, and X-ray are examples of such energy.

In short, thermal (heat) is a form of energy that is invisible to your eyes. 

But thanks to advanced imaging technology (fancy cameras), “invisible” heat energy is now visible! Night vision devices enables you to see near infrared energy. And thermal imagers (FLIR) enables you to see mid and far infrared (heat) energy. Very cool! See chart below. 


How Thermal Film Maximizes Results 

First, you need to understand how a thermal imager transfers the scene to your eye. Regardless of the time of day, your camera will present a black and white scene without a lot of detail. You will see people, animals, cars, trees, buildings, roads, etc…. but you will find it  difficult to distinguish your subjects from one another. Think about looking at a black and white TV show with movement but minimal details. 

Here is why thermal film is so important.  

If you attach a thermal film marker to a person, animal, or vehicle, the marker reflects energy, creating a severe contrast seen by your FLIR device. Immediately, your eye determines who is who and where they are in the scene. 

Imagine how this bolsters your communication! 

And a boat load of other applications:

  • Identify soldiers and officers for friendly fire protection
  • Ambush prevention
  • Pinpoint landing zones
  • UAV surveillance mapping

As infrared technology continues to accelerate in every industry, the diversity and range of applications for thermal film markers, patches, and targets will continue to expand right along with it. 

Pictures below demonstrate thermal markers on an officer, building and car. The thermal patch on the officers chest indicates he is on your side. The numbers on the roof top and vehicle also ID your assets. 


Additional Benefits


  • Thermal film is effective 24/7. Day or night, the film identifies who is who and where they are. 
  • Where or when a thermal imager is on hand, an application for thermal film is likely.  It is excellent for your covert operations, search and rescue, specifying landing zones, target training,  and other applications.         
  • Eliminates confusion in city lights. Your night operations in bright areas is extremely difficult.  Thermal film gives your operation a strategic advantage. 
  • No batteries or electric needed!  Mother Nature is all the power you need!


The Challenges

While the benefits of thermal film is well worth the investment, there are some challenges to keep in mind.

First of all, the film is visible in sandstorms, smoke, fog, dark, and rain. But water on the film will create a barrier. Operators will need to wipe the water off.  Water will not damage the film but for a time it is less visible.

The other challenge is cost. The cost per square inch is in line with night vision IR films. But the amount of thermal film for equal detection is 2X – 10X greater. 


Can You Trust Thermal Film?

Yes you can!

The Military has confidently been implementing thermal film for 25 years. They introduced the film in 1990 for Operation Desert Storm. And continue to use markers and panels to protect military vehicles.  They are attached to the tanks, humvees etc… to protect against friendly casualties.  

Unfortunately, with the uptick of NVG’s in the hands of the enemy, the military is trusting the film as a viable alternative for personal ID protection.

Thermal patches for personal ID, in some units,  are becoming part of the required tactical gear.



Thermal Film is Making a Difference

While you may want to study the science behind infrared technology, one thing is for certain, thermal film is not the new kid in the class anymore.

Proven results in Military and Law Enforcement applications are moving the film quickly to the head of the class. The US Secret Service boasted of their results:

“The thermal letters impressed the bosses during the United Nations event. The helicopters could identify which country’s motorcade was which.”

High five!

Now what?

If your unit is using a FLIR device, your operations will get a serious boost by implementing thermal film along side it. 

We suggest you take some time to evaluate the advantages and challenges of the film and how your application will benefit. 

I am here to help, so don’t hesitate to give me a call or schedule an appointment.

Click here to schedule.

Tom Boyer: 292-443-8885 or   


Browse the Thermal Products available from IR.Tools™


Personal ID

Vehicle ID

Training Targets

 The Author

Tom Boyer profile picture

Tom founded IR.Tools™ in 2006. He has embraced manufacturing premium IR patches, panels, thermal markers, and thermal targets to better protect and train the military and law enforcement communities. Always the innovator, he is always thinking out of the box. Currently he has 21 awarded patents, and 14 patents pending. Tom received his BS and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the Univ. of MD, College Park and his MBA from Regents Univ.