What is hyperspectral imaging?

More colours than people can see

Hyperspectral imaging is a technology that allows us to capture and analyze light in a way that is very different from traditional photography. Instead of just capturing the colors that we can see with our eyes, hyperspectral imaging captures a wide range of colors that are not visible to the human eye, called the “spectrum.” This spectrum is like a fingerprint for different materials and can tell us a lot about what something is made of and how it is behaving.


To understand how hyperspectral imaging works, it’s helpful to first understand a bit about light and color. Light is made up of tiny packets of energy called photons, which travel through space in waves. These waves can be different lengths, and the length of a wave determines its color. The colors that we can see with our eyes, such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple, are just a small part of the spectrum of light. There are also many other colors that we can’t see, such as ultraviolet and infrared.
Hyperspectral imaging captures a wide range of colors across the spectrum, from ultraviolet to infrared. It does this by using special cameras and sensors that can detect these different colors. The data that is captured is then analyzed by computer algorithms to identify the different materials and their properties.


One of the most important applications of hyperspectral imaging is in remote sensing. Remote sensing is the process of gathering information about the Earth’s surface and atmosphere from a distance. Hyperspectral imaging allows us to gather a lot of information about the Earth’s surface, including the types of vegetation, minerals, and even the presence of pollutants. This information is used to help manage natural resources, monitor the environment, and even detect and respond to natural disasters.
Hyperspectral imaging is also used in many other fields, such as agriculture, mining, and even healthcare. In agriculture, it can be used to monitor crop growth, identify pests and diseases, and measure the health of plants. In mining, it can be used to map mineral deposits and identify the best places to extract resources. In healthcare, it can be used to analyze tissue samples and identify cancerous cells. Our next post goes into more detail about various applications and how other organisations such as NASA are currently using this technology and approach.


Overall, hyperspectral imaging is a powerful technology that allows us to capture and analyze light in a way that is not possible with traditional photography. It can tell us a lot about the materials and properties of different things and is used in a wide range of fields to help us better understand and manage the world around us
23rd January 2023
Tom McNamara


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