NASA Spinnoffs

Ear Thermometers

What it is Why it was invented

Diatek Corporation and Nasa developed a thermometer that weighs 8 ounces and uses infrared astronomy technology to measure energy emitted by the eardrum. This is the same way the temperature of stars and planets is measured. The method used avoids contact with mucous membranes, virtually eliminating the possibility of cross infection. Also permits rapid temperature measurement of newborn.



In1991, Diatek Corporation of San Diego put a new infrared thermometer which is known also as the model 7000 on the market. Early electronic thermometers had been used in a few hospitals before it was on the market. It was a pioneering effort to modify space-based infrared sensors for a medical infrared thermometer.


The underlying technology was developed by NASA's jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California for missions that includes the Infrared Astronomical Satellite or for short, IRAS. It measured the temperature of stars and planets by reading the infrared radiation emitted from them, While the thermometer almost instantly determined the body temperature by measuring the energy emitted from the eardrum.




NASA developed a way to measure the temperature of stars using infrared technology. known as an infrared sensor. It eventually was adapted to earth so we can use it as an ear thermometer.

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How we use this today

We use ear thermometers in clinical settings to measure the infrared energy emitted from the patient's eardrum in a calibrated length of time. A short tube is inserted into the ear, and a shutter is opened to allow radiation from the tympanic membrane to fall on an infrared detector for a period which is typically from 0.1 to 0.3 seconds in the varieties surveyed.



The device beeps when the data collection is done and a readout of temperature is produced on a liquid crystal display. This kind of temperature from the eardrum is found to clinically reliable indicator of body core temperature.



Today we use the ear thermometer to measure our ear temperature.

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