“We protect what’s worth protecting,” proclaims our former managing director and Senior Consultant Holger Vogel.

“Some people say that fire is part of the life of a forest. That is certainly correct, but if fire becomes a danger to people, nature and animals, we really help to protect them with this system [IQ FireWatch].”

LASERWorldofPHOTONICS, on YouTube, explains:

It looks like a simple surveillance camera, but it is a laser-based high-tech system to detect forest fires at an early stage. State-of-the-art photonics, contributing to environmental protection – that’s what the Berlin-based company IQ Wireless is working on.

This system scans an area of at least 700 square kilometres, or 70 thousand hectares, within six minutes a day and twelve minutes a night, and that gives us an accuracy of approximately 100 meters at 10 kilometres distance.

Sustainability – it’s currently the key topic in the laser and photonics industry. Optical systems help to reduce greenhouse gases caused by forest fires, as well as the resulting global warming. Faster, and above all reliably than humans ever could.

Three sensors are used. One sensor works in the red range – it’s a bandpass filter for the detection of smoke during the day. Then we have a near-infrared sensor that is responsible for night detection. This sensor can still see what the human eye no longer can. And then we have an additional colour sensor that provides useful information for the short-distance range of up to eight kilometres.

The uncompressed data is processed by special image-recognition software. The images don’t look high-quality, but they’re suitable for the special field of application. The employees in forest fire centres automatically receive information about possible danger points and inform the fire brigade.

We protect what’s worth protecting. Some people say that fire is part of the life of the forest. That is certainly correct, but if fire then becomes a danger to people, nature and animals, we really help to protect them with this system.

Climate protection actually starts outside the earth’s atmosphere. The MERLIN project investigates the methane content on Earth from a distance of 500 kilometres. In addition to carbon dioxide, methane makes a decisive contribution to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Measuring it involves complex interplay of two laser pulses.

One pulse is spectrally accurate for methane, on a special line. It gets absorbed by methane while the other pulse,used as a reference, does not. And then the amount of light that comes back from both pulses is measured. If the pulses are the same, there was no methane, and if one was absorbed, there’s a lot of methane. And from that you can create a global methane map, and the system scans the whole earth about once a month.

Lasers ensure greater sustainability, even in the smallest details. The company Electrocycling from Goslar is currently testing the recovery of rare materials in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology. The laser identifies the valuable materials inside old electronics and expose them up precisely and without contact.

Over short and long distances, light contributes to a clean environment. Whether in climate research, recycling management or agriculture – photonics offers sustainable solutions for climate and environmental protection.