Insane Covert IR Illumination

[Onironaut] over at lucidscience sent us a link to his latest project, some IR illumination panels. At first, we were mildly enticed by his usual high standard of photography and description. It was just an array of LEDs though. Still, we kept hitting the “next page” button because he goes into such great detail. Then we saw version two. Instead of simply being an array of IR LEDs mounted outside for his security camera, he has mounted 1536 IR LEDs inside an old flat panel monitor. That’s a fake monitor producing 180 watts of IR light, and we think that’s even at half power!  He replaced the screen of the display with one way mirror, so you would have no idea that it isn’t just a normal screen sitting on his desk.  Great job as usual [Onironaut].

37 thoughts on “Insane Covert IR Illumination

  1. and nobody did the math???
    “if every LED needed 90mA” then LED 1
    gets 40x90mA = SMOKE !
    led string 31 trough 40 = 13 (led 1 led 11 LED 21 in series with the rest) which means NO LIGHT! in that string Uf = 1,2×14 = 16.8V

    10in series // 10 in series //10 in series
    works and then you still have to be carfull that all 1,2 volt Uf are the same

  2. It’s invisible, but it’s still energy. Say, looking at a 180W lightbulb is not a pleasant experience. Here, you’re still looking at 180W light source but your reflexes fail you, leaving you unprotected. Can’t it have some undesired effect on eyes?

  3. Thanks again for posting some of my projects. I often build these spy devices for people that need a custom solution, and the massive array was one of those.

    Let’s just say that there is one computer stock room that will no longer have things stolen from it at night!


  4. Brad,

    I’m troubled by the lack of current limiting resistors or a fault detecting constant current driver for your LED array. Speaking as an engineer, I feel comfortable stating that you’ve very nicely executed a poor design. According to the schematic posted on the linked sight, I would expect the “rows” of series wired LEDs to fail one by one over time. I confess to not having read the entire writeup so perhaps I am missing something.


  5. Did anyone else notice the IR pictures were of light from a different source? The one looked like a street lamp, and the other from a flashlight off to the right, note the shadows.

  6. If anyone is considering building something like this, I urge you to use current limiting resistors on EACH line of series-connected LEDs. This will work as shown, but there’s nothing protecting the LEDs from being blown up. In fact, the current limiting resistor in this case is there, as part of the power supply, however there should be one per series string.

    If you don’t understand what I’m saying, do some more research about diodes/LEDs.

  7. @mike (the most recent mike, not Mike from the first post)
    You clearly didn’t read the pages with images attached. For the monitor, he used a separate light source to capture the image because you won’t get a clear image of a light shining at your camera in the dark. In the street, I’m sure the streetlight is on, but the foreground of the image is all floodlight.

    I agree with others that you should use separate current-limiting resistors, but still awesome project. I’d consider building one with visible LED’s for a nice even macro photography light.

  8. Also, to clarify about IR…

    IR is on the opposite spectrum from UV, it has a longer wavelength than visible light. It won’t give you a sunburn, but it is warming. You might have seen an infrared lamp if you’ve ever turned on the heat lamp in a bathroom.

    Also don’t make the mistake I once made. There are 2 types of IR leds with different wavelengths. I believe the shorter wavelength ones (850nm), closer to visible light, are picked up better by most cameras. The others (940nm) are great for remote controls, but not as good for illumination (except for some specialty cameras)

  9. To complete the covert surveillance setup, I would expect you to put the near-infrared surveillance camera this would work with into the case of a cheap desktop or monitor-mounted webcam.

    And I definitely agree with everyone on here about the current-limiting resistors. That array would not last long; it’s the larger equivalent of these $2 9-led flashlights I’m working on changing into full-spectrum light sources right now.

  10. Thanks for the comments.

    @ Robot…

    Yes, I agree about the current limiting resistors, and normally i would use them. I have them in my other illuminator projects (, but this one was a gorilla hack and has worked fine for many weeks running non stop.

    @ johnsmith

    I am not sure who Kipay is, LucidScience is just me! The site is just for fun, and I build recumbent bikes in the summer
    ( and do projects on LucidScience during the cold months.

    & IsotopeJ

    Yes, 850nm is a bit better for the older CCD chipsets, but newer ones like the Sony SuperHAD see 940nm radiation just as well. In fact, there is no difference at all.


  11. My bad! I updated the schematic to show the current limiting resistors, which I too would normally use. The larger array was being powered by an AVR controlled PWM power supply, and driven by nanosecond pulses at much higher voltages.

    I totally agree as well -> If you are driving LEDs from constant current, use current limiting resistors on each LED or on all chains in a series/parallel configuration.

    The large array has many hundreds of hours on it now and I hear it is still working just fine.


  12. Schematic is still wrong
    led 1 still gets the current of ALL leds

    (+12V)—led string—-(GND)
    (+12V)—led string—-(GND)
    (+12V)—led string—-(GND)
    This is the correct way

  13. Indeed, I did not even notice the left side. I used the cut and paste function in Eagle to duplicate the chain and linked it incorrectly!

    Fixed (yet again), and put your name at the end of the page for credit.

    Lesson learned… do not draw schematics on 2 hours of sleep.


  14. I never would have the patience.

    I probably would have gone with a cheaper source of IR like the 3 and 10 watt IR led. About $25 gets you 9 watts with a driver board and total output over around 1200 lumens. About equal to a 75 watt light bulb.

  15. The details of the builds on that site are far too intricate for a KipKay hack, his method is a “I put this and this in that, and this is the result” without showing how he put this and this in that, leaving out the finer details of the build so you can’t always copy it directly and have to go searching elsewhere for help.

    Of the lucidscience builds I’ve seen, I very much approve of how much detail is put into every description of the build, they’re nice to read and inspiring.

    Having made a bike light with 300 3mm LEDs I know how time consuming it can be to solder so many, even when you have printed circuit boards to solder them onto. But 1500+ on a single board? impressive!

  16. Is anyone else troubled by the thought of eye-damage of this beast? If once can feel the heat coming off it I would hate to think what that heat is like focused on a small point in your eye.

    A typical IR laser doesn’t produce heat you can feel but can instantly blind you due to a lack of blink reflex to IR light. Granted that a laser is an tight collimated and coherent beam, but if you get 180watt just by IR wouldn’t that be the same as practically looking right at 300watt floodlight to your eyes?

    I’m just cautious as burning a retina is not something you can feel, and without visible light is it not something you can protect yourself against.

    Anyone want to stare into this thing in the name of science?

  17. @ Haku : Don’t lnow anyone by the name of Kipkay

    @ MG : I plead the 5th!

    @ Garbz : The infrared light is not focused, nor is it at a level that could cause eye damage. The unit ws deigned for a long range covert security job as well, and did what it had to. A campfire or fireplace gives of FAR more infrared radiation, and you can stare into one for hours without risk.

    Brad from LucidScience

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