Infrared Training Center

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

2200 m/s Neutron - How I Got Into Infrared Thermography

ron-lucier-croppedITC Senior Instructor Ron Lucier is back with another blog, this time reflecting on how he got started in infrared thermography.  Like many of us in the industry, he unexpectedly caught the “IR bug” while doing something completely different:

What do thermal neutrons and infrared thermography have in common? Not much of anything and that was the point! After punching cards for our FORTRAN programs to model the reactor at the Yankee Rowe Nuclear plant for several years I was quite bored. Often I would walk through the plant and wonder what a Mechanical Engineer is doing programming anyway? What’s all this equipment and why is it so hot? I understood the reactor side of the plant but not the steam side.

So I started asking questions…

The accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania happened on March 29, 1979 and the regulatory response after that created quite a demand for Mechanical Engineers so I transferred into a group at Yankee Atomic that designed and installed system fixes so this wouldn’t happen at our plants. As such I got to know Yankee Rowe, as well as Maine Yankee and Vermont Yankee, intimately.

Once you replace a valve or alter a piping system you naturally have to re-insulate it so I studied the available products. One magazine was chock full of such products – Insulation Outlook ( which is the trade publication for the National Insulation Association. Reading through a copy of the magazine somewhere around 1982 or 1983 there was an article about using an Inframetrics IR camera. It could see heat! Wow! Just what I needed and they were close to me, in Bedford, MA.

I scheduled a visit with a kind Salesman, Dr. Bob Madding, and met the Director of Marketing, Mary Fallon as well as some new guy she recently hired by the name of Andy Teich. Anyway, they had the names of all 40 or so employees on the wall in the break room if I remember correctly.

Well, $36,000 later I was the proud owner of a Liquid Nitrogen Inframetrics 525! Thermal images were easy to take, just use the Polaroid camera and take a snapshot of the B&W 5” diagonal TV screen.

The results with the camera were amazing! I found many loose electrical connections, heat losses and improved the overall efficiency of the plant tremendously. Unfortunately age caught up with it and the picture above is just prior to decommissioning.

My entry into teaching is another story. I’ve always said the best way to learn is to teach. I taught my first introduction to IR course to the electricians at Maine Yankee in 1986. No one told me what to teach and yes I’m sure I made mistakes but I remember it went well. After that I just continued teaching! The funny thing is that the only IR courses I have ever attended were the Inframetrics course and one five day class on infrared detectors at Tufts University sometime in the 1990’s.

So that’s my story! Over 30 years in infrared and it all started with punched cards. By the way, I wonder what ever happened to that new hire Andy who I met at the time?

- Ron

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