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# TEMPERATURE MEASUREMENT

## MECN 4600 Instrumentation

Prof. Amilcar A. Rincn Charris
INTRODUCTION
GLASS THERMOMETERS
BIMETALIC SENSORS
THERMOCOUPLES
RTD
THERMISTOR

INTRODUCTION

Temperature is a fundamental part of life. On the open ended temperature scales
(there appears to be no upper limit to temperature), biological life as we know it
functions over a very small environment range of about -30C to perhaps 120C.
The known temperature range occurring naturally in the universe is from -269C
to perhaps 40,000, 000C in a star. It is estimated that less than one billionth of
the matter in the universe in the biologically friendly temperature range.
Units of Temperature

The unit of the fundamental physical quantity known as thermodynamic
temperature, symbol T, is the Kelvin symbol K, defined as the fraction 1/273.16
of the thermodynamic temperature of the triple point of water.
Because of the way earlier temperature scales were defined, it remains common
practice to express a temperature in terms of its difference from 273.15 K, the ice
point. A thermodynamic temperature, T, expressed in this way is known as a
Celsius temperature, symbol t, defined by:
t / C = T / K - 273.15 (1)
The unit of Celsius temperature is the degree Celsius, symbol C, which is by
definition equal in magnitude to the Kelvin. A difference of temperature may be
expressed in Kelvin or degrees Celsius.
The International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90) defines both International
Kelvin Temperatures, symbol T
90
, and International Celsius Temperatures,
symbol T
90
. The relation between T
90
and T
90
is the same as that between T and
t, i.e.:
t
90
/ C = T
90
/ K - 273.15 (2)

The unit of the physical quantity T
90
is the Kelvin, symbol K, and the unit of the
physical quantity T
90
is the degree Celsius, symbol C, as is the case for the
thermodynamic temperature T and the Celsius temperature t.
Mercury-in-glass thermometer
Invented by German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, is a thermometer
consisting of mercury in a glass tube. Calibrated marks on the tube allow the
temperature to be read by the length of the mercury within the tube, which
varies according to the temperature. To increase the sensitivity, there is
usually a bulb of mercury at the end of the thermometer which contains most
of the mercury; expansion and contraction of this volume of mercury is then
amplified in the much narrower bore of the tube. The space above the
mercury may be filled with nitrogen or it may be a Mercury will solidify (freeze)
at -38.83 C (-37.89 F) and so may only be used at higher temperatures.
Mercury, unlike water, does not expand upon solidification and will not break
the glass tube, making it difficult to notice when frozen. If the thermometer
contains nitrogen the gas may flow down into the column and be trapped
there when the temperature rises. If this happens the thermometer will be
unusable until returned to the factory for reconditioning. To avoid this some
weather services require that all mercury thermometers be brought indoors
when the temperature falls to -37 C (-34.6 F). In areas where the maximum
temperature is not expected to rise above -38.83 C (-37.89 F) a
thermometer containing a mercury-thallium alloy may be used. This has a
solidification (freezing) point of -61.1 C (-78 F).
Bimetallic Temperature Sensors

The Bimetallic strip is a mechanical temperature sensor element. It converts
temperature to a mechanical displacement. This displacement may be coupled to
a switch for simple on-off function, to a needle of an indicator, or to a position
detector for electronic output.
By far the most common application of the bimetallic strip is as a thermostat
switch used for temperature and energy control.

Construction of the bimetallic strip

A bimetallic strip is simply constructed from two strips of different metals bonded
together. Typically a welding process is used for bonding, but rivets, bolts,
adhesive and other fasteners can also be used.
The operation of the bimetallic strip relies on the different expansions rates of the
two metals to temperature change (the different coefficients of thermal expansion
of the metals).
Note: There is no reason to confine the principal of the bimetallic strip to metals -
any two solids could in principal be used. The bimetallic strip may be coiled to
make it more compact and sensitive, with temperature changes causing the coil
to tighten or unwind.
Pressing a dimple into the bimetallic strip can produce a snap action with
hysteresis - a characteristic that is good for temperature control.
As a matter of interest, the bimetallic strip can be scaled up or down. On a large
scale, it can provide literally tones of force for mechanical control or other
purposes. On a smaller scale, it can provide the force and movement for micro
machine integrated circuits (MMIs).

Introduction to Thermocouples

The thermocouple is one of the simplest of all sensors. It consists of two wires of
dissimilar metals joined near the measurement point. The output is a small
voltage measured between the two wires.

While appealingly simple in concept, the theory behind the thermocouple is
subtle, the basics of which need to be understood for the most effective use of
the sensor.
Thermocouple theory

A thermocouple circuit has at least two junctions: the measurement junction and
a reference junction. Typically, the reference junction is created where the two
wires connect to the measuring device. This second junction it is really two
junctions: one for each of the two wires, but because they are assumed to be at
the same temperature (isothermal) they are considered as one (thermal) junction.
It is the point where the metals change - from the thermocouple metals to what
ever metals are used in the measuring device - typically copper.
The output voltage is related to the temperature difference between the
measurement and the reference junctions. This is phenomena is known as the
Seebeck effect. (See the Thermocouple Calculator to get a feel for the magnitude
of the Seebeck voltage). The Seebeck effect generates a small voltage along the
length of a wire, and is greatest where the temperature gradient is greatest. If the
circuit is of wire of identical material, then they will generate identical but opposite
Seebeck voltages which will cancel. However, if the wire metals are different the
Seebeck voltages will be different and will not cancel.
In practice the Seebeck voltage is made up of two components: the Peltier
voltage generated at the junctions, plus the Thomson voltage generated in the

The Peltier voltage is proportional to the temperature of each junction while the
Thomson voltage is proportional to the square of the temperature difference
between the two junctions. It is the Thomson voltage that accounts for most of
the observed voltage and non-linearity in thermocouple response.
Each thermocouple type has its characteristic Seebeck voltage curve. The curve
is dependent on the metals, their purity, their homogeneity and their crystal
structure. In the case of alloys, the ratio of constituents and their distribution in
the wire is also important. These potential inhomogeneous characteristics of
metal are why thick wire thermocouples can be more accurate in high
temperature applications, when the thermocouple metals and their impurities
become more mobile by diffusion.
The practical considerations of thermocouples
The above theory of thermocouple operation has important practical implications
that are well worth understanding:
1. A third metal may be introduced into a thermocouple circuit and have no
impact, provided that both ends are at the same temperature. This means that
the thermocouple measurement junction may be soldered, brazed or welded
without affecting the thermocouple's calibration, as long as there is no net
temperature gradient along the third metal.
Further, if the measuring circuit metal (usually copper) is different to that of the
thermocouple, then provided the temperature of the two connecting terminals is
the same and known, the reading will not be affected by the presence of copper.
2. The thermocouple's output is generated by the temperature gradient along the
wires and not at the junctions as is commonly believed. Therefore it is important
that the quality of the wire be maintained where temperature gradients exists.
Wire quality can be compromised by contamination from its operating
environment and the insulating material. For temperatures below 400C,
contamination of insulated wires is generally not a problem. At temperatures
above 1000C, the choice of insulation and sheath materials, as well as the wire
thickness, become critical to the calibration stability of the thermocouple.
The fact that a thermocouple's output is not generated at the junction should
redirect attention to other potential problem areas.
3. The voltage generated by a thermocouple is a function of the temperature
difference between the measurement and reference junctions. Traditionally the
reference junction was held at 0C by an ice bath:

The ice bath is now considered impractical and is replace by a reference junction
compensation arrangement. This can be accomplished by measuring the
reference junction temperature with an alternate temperature sensor (typically an
RTD or thermistor) and applying a correcting voltage to the measured
thermocouple voltage before scaling to temperature.

The correction can be done electrically in hardware or mathematically in
software. The software method is preferred as it is universal to all thermocouple
types (provided the characteristics are known) and it allows for the correction of
the small non-linearity over the reference temperature range.
4. The low-level output from thermocouples (typically 50mV full scale) requires
that care be taken to avoid electrical interference from motors, power cable,
transformers and radio signal pickup. Twisting the thermocouple wire pair (say 1
twist per 10 cm) can greatly reduce magnetic field pickup. Using shielded cable
or running wires in metal conduit can reduce electric field pickup. The measuring
device should provide signal filtering, either in hardware or by software, with
strong rejection of the line frequency (50/60 Hz) and its harmonics.
5. The operating environment of the thermocouple needs to be considered.
Exposure to oxidizing or reducing atmospheres at high temperature can
significantly degrade some thermocouples. Thermocouples containing rhodium
(B, R and S types) are not suitable under neutron radiation.

Because of their physical characteristics, thermocouples are the preferred
method of temperature measurement in many applications. They can be very
rugged, are immune to shock and vibration, are useful over a wide temperature
range, are simple to manufactured, require no excitation power, there is no self
heating and they can be made very small. No other temperature sensor provides
this degree of versatility.
Thermocouples are wonderful sensors to experiment with because of their
robustness, wide temperature range and unique properties.
On the down side, the thermocouple produces a relative low output signal that is
non-linear. These characteristics require a sensitive and stable measuring device
that is able provide reference junction compensation and linearization. Also the
low signal level demands that a higher level of care be taken when installing to
minimize potential noise sources.
The measuring hardware requires good noise rejection capability. Ground loops
can be a problem with non-isolated systems, unless the common mode range
Types of thermocouple

About 13 'standard' thermocouple types are commonly used. Eight have been
given internationally recognized letter type designators. The letter type
designator refers to the emf table, not the composition of the metals - so any
thermocouple that matches the emf table within the defined tolerances may
Some of the non-recognized thermocouples may excel in particular niche
applications and have gained a degree of acceptance for this reason, as well as
due to effective marketing by the alloy manufacturer. Some of these have been
given letter type designators by their manufacturers that have been partially
accepted by industry.
Each thermocouple type has characteristics that can be matched to applications.
Industry generally prefers K and N types because of their suitability to high
temperatures, while others often prefer the T type due to its sensitivity, low cost
and ease of use.
A table of standard thermocouple types is presented below. The table also shows
the temperature range for extension grade wire in brackets.

Type
Positive
Material
Negative
Material
Accuracy***
Class 2
Range C
(extension)
B Pt, 30%Rh Pt, 6%Rh
0.5%
>800C
50 to 1820
(1 to 100)
Good at high
temperatures,
no reference
junction
compensation
required.
C** W, 5%Re W, 26%Re
1%
>425C
0 to 2315
(0 to 870)
Very high
temperature
use, brittle
D** W, 3%Re W, 25%Re
1%
>425C
0 to 2315
(0 to 260)
Very high
temperature
use, brittle
E Ni, 10%Cr Cu, 45%Ni 0.5% or 1.7C
-270 to 1000
(0 to 200)
General
purpose, low
and medium
temperatures
G** W W, 26%Re
1%
>425C
0 to 2315
(0 to 260)
Very high
temperature
use, brittle
J Fe Cu, 45%Ni 0.75% or 2.2C
-210 to 1200
(0 to 200)
High
temperature,
reducing
environment
K* Ni, 10%Cr
Ni, 2%Al
2%Mn
1%Si
0.75% or 2.2C
-270 to 1372
(0 to 80)
General
purpose high
temperature,
oxidizing
environment
L** Fe Cu, 45%Ni 0.4% or 1.5C 0 to 900
Similar to J
type.
Obsolete -
not for new
designs
M** Ni Ni, 18%Mo 0.75% or 2.2C -50 to 1410 .
N*
Ni, 14%Cr
1.5%Si
Ni,
4.5%Si
0.1%Mg
0.75% or 2.2C
-270 to 1300
(0 to 200)
Relatively
new type as a
superior
replacement
for K Type.
P** Platinel II Platinel II 1.0% 0 to 1395
A more stable
but expensive
substitute for
K & N types
R Pt, 13%Rh Pt 0.25% or 1.5C
-50 to 1768
(0 to 50)
Precision,
high
temperature
S Pt, 10%Rh Pt 0.25% or 1.5C
-50 to 1768
(0 to 50)
Precision,
high
temperature
T* Cu Cu, 45%Ni 0.75% or 1.0C
-270 to 400
(-60 to 100)
Good general
purpose, low
temperature,
tolerant to
moisture.
U** Cu Cu, 45%Ni 0.4% or 1.5C 0 to 600
Similar to T
type.
Obsolete -
not for new
designs
* Most commonly used thermocouple types, ** Not ANSI recognized types.
*** See IEC 584-2 for more details. Materials codes:- Al = Aluminum, Cr =
Chromium, Cu = Copper, Mg = Magnesium, Mo = Molybdenum, Ni = Nickel,
Pt = Platinum, Re = Rhenium, Rh = Rhodium, Si = Silicon, W = Tungsten
Accuracy of thermocouples
Thermocouples will function over a wide temperature range - from near absolute
zero to their melting point, however they are normally only characterized over
their stable range. Thermocouple accuracy is a difficult subject due to a range of
factors. In principal and in practice a thermocouple can achieve excellent results
(that is, significantly better than the above table indicates) if calibrated, used well
below its nominal upper temperature limit and if protected from harsh
atmospheres. At higher temperatures it is often better to use a heavier gauge of
wire in order to maintain stability (Wire Gauge below).
As mentioned previously, the temperature and voltage scales were redefined in
1990. The eight main thermocouple types - B, E, J, K, N, R, S and T - were re-
characterized in 1993 to reflect the scale changes. (See: NIST Monograph 175
for details). The remaining types: C, D, G, L, M, P and U appear to have been
informally re-characterized.
Try the thermocouple calculator. It allows you the determine the temperature by
knowing the measured voltage and the reference junction temperature.
There are different grades of thermocouple wire. The principal divisions are
has the highest purity and should be used where the temperature gradient is
significant. The standard measurement grade (Class 2) is most commonly used.
The extension thermocouple wire grades are designed for connecting the
thermocouple to the measuring device. The extension wire may be of different
metals to the measurement grade, but are chosen to have a matching response
over a much reduced temperature range - typically -40C to 120C. The reason
for using extension wire is reduced cost - they can be 20% to 30% of the cost of
equivalent measurement grades. Further cost savings are possible by using
thinner gauge extension wire and a lower temperature rated insulation.
Note: When temperatures within the extension wire's rating are being measured,
it is OK to use the extension wire for the entire circuit. This is frequently done
with T type extension wire, which is accurate over the -60 to 100C range.
Thermocouple wire gauge

At high temperatures, thermocouple wire can under go irreversible changes in
the form of modified crystal structure, selective migration of alloy components
and chemical changes originating from the surface metal reacting to the
surrounding environment. With some types, mechanical stress and cycling can
also induce changes.
Increasing the diameter of the wire where it is exposed to the high temperatures
can reduce the impact of these effects.
The following table can be used as a very approximate guide to wire gauge:
Type
8
Gauge
4.06mm
16
Gauge
1.63mm
20
Gauge
0.91mm
24
Gauge
0.56mm
28
Gauge
0.38mm
30
Gauge
0.32mm
B 1820 - - 1700 1700 -
C 2315 2315 2315 2315 2315 -
D 2315 2315 2315 2315 2000 -
E 870 620 540 430 400 370
G 2315 2315 2315 2315 2315 -
J 760 560 480 370 370 320
K 1260* 1000* 980 870 820 760
M 1260* 1200* - - - -
N 1260* 1000* 980 870 820 760
P 1395 - 1250 1250 1250 -
R 1760 - - 1480 1480 -
S 1760 - - 1480 1480 -
T 400 370 260 200 200
150
* Upper temperature limits only apply in a protective sheath

At these higher temperatures, the thermocouple wire should be protected as
much as possible from hostile gases. Reducing or oxidizing gases can corrode
some thermocouple wire very quickly. Remember, the purity of the thermocouple
wire is most important where the temperature gradients are greatest. It is with
this part of the thermocouple wiring where the most care must be taken.
Other sources of wire contamination include the mineral packing material and the
protective metal sheath. Metallic vapour diffusion can be significant problem at
high temperatures. Platinum wires should only be used inside a nonmetallic
sheath, such as high-purity alumna.
Neutron radiation (as in a nuclear reactor) can have significant permanent impact
on the thermocouple calibration. This is due to the transformation of metals to
different elements.
High temperature measurement is very difficult in some situations. In preference,
use non-contact methods. However this is not always possible, as the site of
temperature measurement is not always visible to these types of sensors.
Colour coding of thermocouple wire
The colour coding of thermocouple wire is something of a nightmare! There are
at least seven different standards. There are some inconsistencies between
standards, which seem to have been designed to confuse. For example the
colour red in the USA standard is always used for the negative lead, while in
German and Japanese standards it is always the positive lead. The British,
French and International standards avoid the use of red entirely!
Thermocouple mounting
There are four common ways in which thermocouples are mounted with in a
stainless steel or Inconel sheath and electrically insulated with mineral oxides.

Sealed and Isolated from Sheath: Good relatively trouble-free arrangement.
The principal reason for not using this arrangement for all applications is its
sluggish response time - the typical time constant is 75 seconds
Sealed and Grounded to Sheath: Can cause ground loops and other noise
injection, but provides a reasonable time constant (40 seconds) and a sealed
enclosure.
Exposed Bead: Faster response time constant (typically 15 seconds), but lacks
mechanical and chemical protection, and electrical isolation from material being
measured. The porous insulating mineral oxides must be sealed
Exposed Fast Response: Fastest response time constant, typically 2 seconds
but with fine gauge of junction wire the time constant can be 10-100 ms. In
addition to problems of the exposed bead type, the protruding and light
construction makes the thermocouple more prone to physical damage.
Thermocouple compensation and linearization
As mentioned above, it is possible to provide reference junction compensation in
hardware or in software. The principal is the same in both cases: adding a
correction voltage to the thermocouple output voltage, proportional to the
reference junction temperature. To this end, the connection point of the
thermocouple wires to the measuring device (i.e. where the thermocouple
materials change to the copper of the circuit electronics) must be monitored by a
sensor. This area must be design to be isothermal, so that the sensor accurately
tracks both reference junction temperatures.
The hardware solution is simple but not always as easy to implement as one
might expect.

The circuit needs to be designed for a specific thermocouple type and hence
lacks the flexibility of the software approach.
The software compensation technique simplifies the hardware requirement, by
eliminating the reference sensor amplifier and summing circuit (although a
multiplexer may be required).

The software algorithm to process the signals needs to be carefully written. A
sample algorithm details the process.
A good resource for thermocouple emf tables and coefficients is at the US
Commerce Dept's NIST web site. It covers the B, E, J, K, N, R, S and T types.
The thermocouple as a heat pump
The thermocouple can function in reverse. If a current is passed through a
thermocouple circuit, one junction will cool and the other warm. This is known as
the Peltier Effect and is used in small cooling systems. The effect can be
demonstrated by alternately passing a current through a thermocouple circuit and
then quickly measuring the circuit's Seebeck voltage. This process has been
used, with very fine thermocouple wire (0.025 mm with about a 10 mA current),
to measure humidity by ensuring the cooled junction drops below the air's dew
point. This causes condensation to form on the cooled junction. The junction is
allowed to return to ambient, with the temperature curve showing an inflection at
the dew point caused by the latent heat of vaporization.
Measuring temperature differences
Thermocouples are excellent for measuring temperatures differences, such as
the wet bulb depression in measuring humidity. Sensitivity can be enhanced by
constructing a thermopile - a number of thermocouple circuits in series.

In the above example, the thermopile output is proportional to the temperature
difference T
1
- T
2
, with a sensitivity three times that of a single junction pair. In
practice, thermopiles with two to hundreds of junctions are used in radiometers,
heat flux sensors, flow sensors and humidity sensors. The thermocouple
materials can be in wire form, but also printed or etched as foils and even
electroplated.
An excellent example of the thermopile is in the heat flux sensors manufactured
by Hukseflux Thermal Sensors. Also see RdF Corp.
The thermocouple is unique in its ability to directly measure a temperature
difference. Other sensor types require a pair of closely matched sensors to
ensure tracking over the entire operational temperature range.
The thermoelectric generator
While the Seebeck voltage is very small (in the order of 10-70V/C), if the
circuit's electrical resistance is low (thick, short wires), then large currents are
possible (e.g. many amperes). An efficiency trade-off of electrical resistance (as
small as possible) and thermal resistance (as large as possible) between the
junctions is the major issue. Generally, electrical and thermal resistances trend
together with different materials. The output voltage can be increased by wiring
as a thermopile.
The thermoelectric generator has found its best-known application as the power
source in some spacecraft. A radioactive material, such as plutonium, generates
heat and cooling is provided by heat radiation into space. Such an atomic power
source can reliably provide many tens of watts of power for years. The fact that
atomic generators are highly radioactive prevents their wider application.
NOTES:
1) "Chromel" and "Alumel" are trademarks of Hoskins Mfg
2) "Constantan" is a trademark of Wilbur B. Driver Co.
3) "Platinel" is a trademark of Englehard Industries

Introduction to RTDs

Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs) rely on the predictable and
repeatable phenomena of the electrical resistance of metals changing with
temperature.
The temperature coefficient for all pure metals is of the same order - 0.003 to
0.007 ohms/ohm/C. The most common metals used for temperature sensing are
platinum, nickel, copper and molybdenum. While the resistance - temperature
characteristics of certain semiconductor and ceramic materials are used for
temperature sensing (see sections on Semiconductor and Thermistor ), such
sensors are generally not classified as RTDs.
A precision RTD Temperature Calculator supporting four RTD types can provide
a "hands-on" understanding of RTD characteristics.
How are RTDs constructed?
RTDs are manufactured in two ways: using wire or film. Wire RTDs are a
stretched coil of fine wire placed in a ceramic tube that supports and protects the
wire. The wire may be bonded to the ceramic using a glaze. The wire types are
generally the more accurate, due to the tighter control over metal purity and less
strain related errors. They are also more expensive.

Film RTDs consist of a thin metal film that is silk-screened or vacuum spluttered
onto a ceramic or glassy substrate. A laser trimmer then trims the RTD to its
correct resistance value.
Film sensors are less accurate than wire types, but they are relatively
inexpensive, they are available in small sizes and they are more robust. Film
RTDs can also function as a strain gauge - so don't strain them! The alumina
element should be supported by grease or a light elastomer, but never
embedded in epoxy or mechanically clamped between hard surfaces.

RTDs cannot generally be used in their basic sensing element form, as they are
too delicate. They are usually built into some type of assembly, which will enable
them to withstand the various environmental conditions to which they will be
exposed when used. Most commonly this is a stainless steel tube with a heat
conducting grease (that also dampens vibration). Standard tube diameters
include 3, 4.5, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 15 mm and standard tube lengths include 250,
300, 500, 750 and 1000 mm.
Characteristics of RTDs
Metal RTDs have a response defined by a polynomial:
R(t) = R
0
( 1 + a.t + b.t
2
+ c.t
3
)
Where R
0
is the resistance at 0C, "t" in the temperature in Celsius, and "a", "b"
and "c" are constants dependent on the characteristics of the metal. In practice
this equation is a close but not perfect fit for most RTDs, so slight modifications
Commonly, the temperature characteristics of an RTD are specified as a single
number (the "alpha"), representing the average temperature coefficient over the
0 to 100C temperature range as calculated by:
alpha = ( R
100
- R
0
) / 100 . R
0
in ohms/ohm/C
Note: RTDs cover a sufficient temperature range that their response needs to be
calibrated in terms of the latest temperature scale ITS90. For assistance with
such calculations, see the RTD temperature calculator.
It is also of interest to note that the temperature coefficient of an alloy is
frequently very different from that of the constituent metals. Small traces of
impurities can greatly change the temperature coefficients. Sometimes trace
"impurities" are deliberately added so as to swamp the effects of undesired
impurities which are uneconomic to remove. Other alloys can be tailored for
particular temperature characteristics. For example, an alloy of 84% copper, 12%
Manganese and 4% Nickel has the property of having an almost zero response
to temperature. The alloy is used for the manufacture of precision resistors.
Types of RTDs
While almost any metal may be used for RTD manufacture, in practice the
number used is limited.
Metal
Temperature
Range
Copper Pt
-200C to
260C
0.00427 Low cost
Molybdenum Mo
-200C to
200C
0.00300
0.00385
Lower cost alternative to
platinum in the lower
temperature ranges
Nickel Ni
-80C to
260C
0.00672
Low cost, limited
temperature range
Nickel - Iron
Ni-
Fe
-200C to
200C
0.00518 Low cost
Platinum Pt
-240C to
660C
0.00385
0.00392
0.00377
Good precision. Extend
temperature range to
1000C available
Other materials are used for specialist applications. For example, cryogenic
temperature sensors.
Platinum RTDs
Platinum is by far the most common RTD material, primarily because of its long-
term stability in air. There are two standard Platinum sensor types, each with a
different doping level of 'impurities'. To a large extent there has been a
convergence in platinum RTD standards, with most national standards bodies
adopting the international IEC751-1983, with amendment 1 in 1986 and
amendment 2 in 1995. The USA continues to maintain its own standard.
All the platinum standards use a modified polynomial known as the Callendar -
Van Dusen equation:
R(t) = R
0
( 1 + a.t + b.t
2
+ c.(t - 100).t
3
)
Platinum RTDs are available with two temperature coefficients or alphas - the
choice is largely based on the national preference in you country, as indicated in
the following table:
Standard
Alpha
ohms/ohm/C
R
0

ohms
Polynomial
Coefficients
Countries
IEC751
(Pt100)
0.00385055 100
200C < t < 0C
a = 3.90830x10
-3

b = -5.77500x10
-7

c = -4.18301x10
-
12

0C < t < 850C
a & b as above,
but
c = 0.0
Australia,
Austria, Belgium,
Brazil, Bulgaria,
Rep, Denmark,
Egypt, Finland,
France,
Germany, Israel,
Italy, Japan,
Poland,
Rumania, Sth.
Africa, Turkey,
Russia, UK, USA
SAMA
RC-4
0.0039200 98.129
a = 3.97869x10
-3

b = -5.86863x10
-7

USA
c = -4.16696x10
-
12

The international IEC 751 standard specifies tolerance classes as indicated in
the following table. While only Classes A and B are defined in IEC 751, it has
become common practice to extended the Classes to C and D, which roughly
double the previous error tolerance. The tolerance classes are often applied to
other RTD types.
Tolerance
Class
Tolerance
Equation (C)
Class A
( 0.15 + 0.002.| t |
)
Class B
( 0.30 + 0.005. | t |
)
Class C
( 0.40 + 0.009. | t |
)
Class D
( 0.60 + 0.0018. | t
| )
Where | t | indicated the magnitude of the temperature in Celsius (that is sign is
dropped). Some manufacturers further subdivide their RTD Tolerance Classes
into Tolerance Bands for greater choice in price performance ratios.
Characteristics of Platinum RTDs
The IEC751 specifies a number of other characteristics - insulation resistance,
environmental protection, maximum thermoelectric effect, vibration tolerance,
lead marking and sensor marking. Some of these are discussed below:
Thermoelectric Effect: A platinum RTD generally employs two metals - the
platinum sensing element and copper lead wires, making it a good candidate for
a thermocouple. If a temperature gradient is allows to develop along the sensing
element, a thermoelectric voltage with a magnitude of about 7 V /C will be
generated. This is only likely to be a problem with very high-precision
measurements operating at low excitation currents.
Wiring Configurations and Lead Marking: There are three wiring
configurations that can be used for measuring resistance - 2, 3 and 4 wire
connections.

IEC751 requires that wires connected to the same end of the resistor be the
same colour - either red or white, and that the wires at each end be different. See
the measurement section for the merits of each of these wiring schemes.
Sensor Marking: IEC 751 stipulates that a sensor should be marked with its
nominal R0 value, tolerance class, the wiring configuration and the allowable
temperature range. An example marking is:
Pt100 / A / 3/ -100 / +200
corresponding to 100 Ohm platinum, class A, 3 wire configuration and with a
temperature range from -100C to +200C.
Measurement Current: Preferred measurement currents are specified as 1, 2
and 5 mA, although 5 mA is not allowed with class A sensors due to potential
self-heating errors.
Nickel RTDs
Nickel sensors are preferred in cost sensitive applications such as air
conditioning and consumer goods. Because cost is an issue, they are generally
manufactured in higher resistance values of 1k or 2k ohms so that a simple two-
wire connection can be used (rather than the 3 or 4 wire connections common
with platinum types).
There appears to be no international standard covering the nickel RTD, although
most manufacturers appear to follow IEC751 (which only deals with platinum
devices) where appropriate. A resulting problem is that there appears to be no
widely-accepted calibration for the nickel RTD.
One manufacturer of nickel RTDs recommends the following polynomial:
R(t) = R
0
(1 + a.t + b.t
2
+ d.t
4
+ f.t
6
)
where a = 5.485x10
-3
b = 6.650x10
-6
d = 2.805x10
-11
and f = -2.000x10
-17
. The
alpha for this part is 0.00672 ohms / ohm / C
More common for low to medium precision measurement the simplification of the
equation is used with a = alpha:
R(t) = R
0
(1 + a.t )
which is easily inverted for temperature:
t = (R
t
/ R
0
- 1) / a = (R
t
/ R
0
- 1) / 0.00672
where "a" is substituted for the alpha value.
Nickel is less chemically-inert that platinum and so is less stable at higher
temperatures. Glass passivation can extend the useful temperature range to
200C, but the nickel RTD is normally used for sensing in the environmental
temperature range and in clear air.
Nickel - Iron RTDs
Lower in cost than the pure Nickel RTD, the Nickel-Iron RTD finds application in
HVAC and other cost-sensitive applications. The alpha = 0.00518

Copper RTDs
Copper is rarely used specifically as a sensing element, but is often employed
when a copper coil exists for other purposes. For example in a vibrating wire
stain gauge a coil is required to "pluck" the wire and sense its vibration
frequency. The same coil can be used to sense the temperature of the sensor so
that its readings may be compensated for temperature induced drifts. Another
application is in measuring the temperature of electric motor and transformer
windings.
In these types of applications, where temperature sensing is a secondary
function, care should be taken in winding the coil so that thermal expansion of
the system does not induce significant strain gauge effects in the copper wire
which may add to the uncertainty of the measurement.
There appears to be no international standard for copper RTDs, however an
alpha = 0.00427 ohms / ohm / C is commonly used. When the temperature
range is small (say 0C to 180C) and the accuracy needs are not great, a simple
linear function can be used:
t = (R
t
/ R
0
- 1) / 0.00427
Molybdenum RTDs
Molybdenum has a temperature coefficient of expansion which almost perfectly
matches that of alumina, making it an ideal material for film type of construction.
The useful temperature range is typically -200C to +200C and the material's
alpha = 0.00300 ohms / ohm / C.
Molybdenum RTDs are also available with an alpha = 0.00385 ohms / ohm / C
(achieved by doping with other metals) which makes it compatible with the
standard Pt100 devices over a reduced temperature range and at a reduced
cost.
Proprietary types
A number of companies manufacture proprietary RTD sensor types and do not
necessarily publish details about the sensing material used. One such device is
the TD Series of temperature sensors from Honeywell. These appear to be
constructed by depositing a thin metal film on a silicon substrate and trimming by
laser. The benefits are a relatively low cost, simplicity and 0.7C
interchangeability at 20C. The response of the Honeywell parts is similar to a
platinum RTD:
R(t) = R
0
(1 +3.84x10
-3
.t + 4.94x10
-6
.t
2
)
The following table represents some of the proprietary RTD sensor types
manufactured by a variety of companies:
Sensor Manuf. Output
Tolerance
(range)
TD4A
TD5A
Honeywell
8 ohms/C
(1854 ohms
at 0C)
2.5C
(-40C to
150C)
TO-92 or
tube
Metal film on silicon
substrate
KTY81
KTY82
KTY83
KTY84
KTY85
Philips
1K or 2K at
25C,
+0.8%/C
See below
6C to
12C
(-55C to
+150C
some to
300C)
SOD-70,
SOT-23
SOD-68
SOD-80
Bulk resistance of
silicon. Keep
excitation current
>0.1mA and < 1mA
KYY10
KTY11
KTY13
Siemens
1K or 2K at
25C,
+0.8%/C
See below
1C &
3.5C
(-50C to
+150C)
TO-92
modified
Bulk resistance of
silicon.
32208243
32209115
Heraeus
as for Pt100
& Pt1000
1C
(-50C to
130C)
1206 SMD
SOT223
Surface mount
RTDs
HA421
HA2421
Heraeus
Pt200 at
25C
4.5 to
15C
(-70 to
1000C)
Automotive
applications
The Philips and Siemens parts are based on the bulk resistance characteristics
of silicon. This also allows the use of standard silicon semiconductor fabrication
equipment. This design can be more stable than other semiconductor sensor,
due to the greater tolerance to ion migration. However, other characteristics (see
below) require that care be taken in using these sensors.
The silicon temperature sensor's resistance is given by the equation:
R = R
r
( 1 + a.( T - T
r
) + b.( T - T
r
)
2
- c.(T - T
i
)
d
)
where R
r
is the resistance at temperature T
r
and a, b, c and d are constants. T
i
is
an inflection point temperature such that c = 0 for T < T
i
.
The resistance of some of bulk resistance sensors is dependent on the excitation
current (due to current density effects in the semiconductor) and, to a lesser
extent, on the polarity of the applied voltage. As with other non-passive
temperature sensors, self-heating can induce errors.
These proprietary sensors are well suited to HVAC (heating, ventilation and air
conditioning) and general use inside the allowable temperature range.

Introduction to Thermistors
Thermistor temperature sensors are constructed from sintered metal oxide in a
ceramic matrix that changes electrical resistance with temperature. They are
sensitive but highly non-linear. Their sensitivity, reliability, ruggedness and ease
of use, has made them popular in research application, but they are less
commonly applied to industrial applications, probably due to a lack on
interchangeability between manufactures.
Thermistors are available in large range of sizes and base resistance values
(resistance at 25C). Interchangeability is possible to 0.05C although 1C is
more common.
Thermistor construction
The most common form of the thermistor is a bead with two wires attached. The

Mechanically the thermistor is simple and strong, providing the basis for a high
reliability sensor. The most likely failure mode is for the lead to separate from the
body of the thermistor - an unlikely event if the sensor is mounted securely and
with regard to likely vibration. The sintered metal oxide material is prone to
damage by moisture, so are passivated by glass or epoxy encapsulation. If the
encapsulation is compromised and moisture penetrates, silver migration under
the dc bias can eventually cause shorting between the electrodes.
Like other temperature sensors, thermistors are often mounted in stainless steel
tubes, to protect them from the environment in which they are to operate. Grease
is typically used to improve the thermal contact between the sensor and the tube.
Thermistor characteristics
The following are typical characteristic for the popular 44004 thermistor from YSI:
Mechanically the thermistor is simple and strong, providing the basis for a high
reliability sensor. The most likely failure mode is for the lead to separate from the
body of the thermistor - an unlikely event if the sensor is mounted securely and
with regard to likely vibration. The sintered metal oxide material is prone to
damage by moisture, so are passivated by glass or epoxy encapsulation. If the
encapsulation is compromised and moisture penetrates, silver migration under
the dc bias can eventually cause shorting between the electrodes.
Like other temperature sensors, thermistors are often mounted in stainless steel
tubes, to protect them from the environment in which they are to operate. Grease
is typically used to improve the thermal contact between the sensor and the tube.
Thermistor characteristics
The following are typical characteristic for the popular 44004 thermistor from YSI:
Parameter Specification
Resistance at 25C 2252 ohms (100 to 1M available)
Measurement range
-80 to +120C typical (250C
max.)
Interchangeability (tolerance) 0.1 or 0.2C
Stability over 12 months < 0.02C at 25C, < 0.25C at
100C
Time constant < 1.0 seconds in oil, < 60
seconds in still air
self-heating 0.13 C/mW in oil, 1.0 C/mW in
air
Coefficients
(see Linearization below)
a = 1.4733 x 10
-3
, b = 2.372 x 10
-
3
, c = 1.074 x 10
-7

Dimensions ellipsoid bead 2.5mm x 4mm

To ensure the interchangeability specification, thermistors are laser trimmed in
the manufacturing process.
Linearization
The thermistor's resistance to temperature relationship to temperature is given by
the Steinhart & Hart equation:
T = 1 / ( a + b.ln(R) + c.ln(R)
3
)
where a, b and c are constants, ln() the natural logarithm, R is the thermistors
resistance in ohms and T is the absolute temperature in Kelvins. While the
Steinhart & Hart equation is a close fit to practical devices, it does not always
provide the precision required over the full temperature range. This can be
corrected by fitting the Steinhart & Hart equation over a series of narrow
temperature ranges and then 'splicing' these fits together to cover the required
range.
Manufacturers will normally supply the constants as part of the specification for
each part type, or alternatively will provide the resistance versus temperature
tables. For precision measurement, tight tolerance parts are available, but at a

It is possible to determine the three constants by calibrating at three different
temperatures and solving three simultaneous equations (based on the Steinhart
& Hart equation above). This is a tedious calculation, so use the multifunctional
Thermistor Calculator provided.
Hardware 'linearization'
A problem with the thermistor is the varying measured temperature resolution
that is achieved over the temperature range. Usually the resolution is good at
lower temperatures, but poor at higher temperatures. If the measuring device has
a single scale, this can be an irritating characteristic. One way to simply fix this
problem is to connect a resistor in parallel with the thermistor. The resistors value
should equal the thermistor's resistance at the mid-range temperature. The result
is a significant reduction in non-linearity, as the following diagram illustrates:

The plot in the above diagram shows the impact of a 2200 ohm resistor in
parallel with a 2252 ohm (at 25C) thermistor. Note the 5x scale factor difference
for the 'linearized curve'. This technique is recommended whenever thermistors
are used with simple measuring devices that have low ADC resolution
(i.e. <12 bit).
Thermistor Manufacturers
Manufacturers of the thermistor element include: Alpha Thermistors Inc,
BetaTHERM Corp, Cornerstone Sensors Inc, Murata Manufacturing Co Ltd,
Pyromation Inc, Quality Thermistor Inc, Therm-O-Disc Inc, Thermometrics Inc,
U.S. Sensor Corp, Victory Engineering Corp, and YSI Temperature Inc.
Related Devices
One form of the NTC thermistor is used in power circuits for in-rush current
protection. At low temperatures they exhibit high resistance, but as current flows
and self-heating warms the device, its resistance drops to allow the flow of
operating current.
Related to the thermistor temperature sensor is the "Posistor" or positive
temperature coefficient thermistor (PTC). These devices are useful in limiting
current to safe levels. In normal operation their resistance is low, causing
minimum impedance to current flow. Should the current exceed a certain level,
self-heating will begin to warm the device causing higher impedance and hence
more self-heating. This enters a 'thermal run away' state, with the device heating
to such temperature that the current is limited to a safe level. The higher the fault
current the faster the PTC thermistor will switch off.

What does a temperature sensor look like?
Temperature sensors can take many forms. In most industrial and commercial
applications, the actual sensing element is placed inside a sealed stainless steel
sheath, which is attached to a head assembly that contains screw terminals for
wiring the sensor to a measuring device. The sensor head may also contain
electronics to interface the sensor to the measuring system (e.g. a 4-20 mA
transmitter).

For some applications it is more practical to use unsheathed sensors. This
particularly applies to the more robust sensors, such as thermocouples.
Advantages include a more rapid response, smaller size and lower cost.
When measuring very high temperatures, above 600C, the sheathing material
often becomes critical. It is chosen for its chemical tolerance to the medium being
measured and its contamination effects on the sensing element. Atomic diffusion
is greatly accelerated at elevated temperatures.
Measuring Temperature
Check out the Temperature Measurement page for hints on practical temperature
measurement.
Selecting a temperature sensor
There are many sensors that are able to measure temperature. The choice
depends on a number of factors, including: the accuracy, the temperature range,
the access to the point of interest, the speed of response, the environment
(chemical, physical, electrical) and cost effectiveness. Selecting the appropriate
sensor is not always easy. One method is to follow the lead of others in the field.
Particular sensor types almost become traditions in a field (although not always
the most appropriate). The following table may provide a guide:
Agricultural Research
Thermistor, Type T
thermocouple, Semiconductor
Automotive Thermistor, Pt100, Bimetallic
Chemical & Materials
Processing
Pt100, Thermocouples
Cryogenics Metal oxide resistor
Environment Research
Thermistor, Type T
thermocouple, Pt100,
Semiconductor
General Industry Pt100
Hobby, Education
Semiconductor, Thermistor,
Type T thermocouple, Paint
HVAC
Ni1000, Thermistor, Pt100,
Paint
In Manufactured Goods
Semiconductor, Thermistor,
Pt100
Metallurgy Type K or Type N thermocouple
The table in the introductory section of this article may also help in making a
decision.
A good starting point is to define the following requirements:
The accuracy and resolution required
The temperature range
The measuring equipment capability
The cost
Whether individual calibration is practical
Media compatibility and other environment issues that might impact
the sensors reliability and survivability.
The following table provides a rough comparison between the temperature
sensor types:

Sensor Type Output RangeC AccuracyC Robustness Cost
Thermocouple 40V/C
-270 to
2300
1.5 high low
Platinum RTD 0.4%/C
-200 to
600
0.2 medium medium
Nickel RTD 0.4%/C
-200 to
600
0.3 medium low
Thermistor 5%/C -50 to 200 0.2 high medium
Semiconductor
10mV/C or
1A/C
-40 to 125 1.5 medium low
Non-Contact millivolts
0 to
6000+
2 low high
Fiber Optic various
-100 to
200
1 medium very high
Cryogenic various
-273.15 to
-200
various, to
0.001
various various
Bimetallic displacement
-100 to
300
2 high low
Paint
colour
change
-30 to
1200
1 to 20 medium low
The above table is general in its summary and should not be taken as the
definitive statement on temperature sensors. This particularly applies to the
accuracy column, which shows the 'off the shelf' or inter-changeability accuracy.
Generally the accuracy of all sensor types can be greatly improved by individual
calibration. For more information, refer to the appropriate page on each sensor
type (in the left-hand menu) and the Selecting a Sensor section below.
Temperature Sensor Manufacturers
There are many manufacturers of temperature sensors. There are three to five
steps to producing a useable temperature sensor:
1. Starting from raw materials and produce the sensing material such as
high purity metals or semiconductors
2. Fashioning the sensing material into a useable form such as a wire, foil
or powder
3. Producing the sensing element
4. Assembling the sensing element into a protective case and wiring
5. Provision of signal conditioning, buffering or translating, depending on
sensor type
Few manufacturers are involved in all steps, the majority deal only with the last
two. The quality and performance of a sensor is dependent on all process steps.

Introduction to Cryogenic Temeperature Sensors
Cryogenic, or very low temperature sensors, are in a class of their own. Mainly
used in low temperature physics research and in space applications, these
sensors employ the same principals as standard temperature sensors but may
use different materials.
The electrical properties of many materials changes rapidly, and even abruptly,
as their temperature approaches absolute zero. In low temperature physics, the
experimental set-ups can force special operating requirements on the sensors.
For example, there may be strong magnetic fields or ionizing radiation associated
with an experiment. Also, there may be significant temperature gradients, so the
sensor must be small, and its wiring must not conduct heat into the system.
Types of cryogenic temperature sensors
A detailed coverage of cryogenic temperature sensors is beyond the scope of
this document, however, the following table provides an outline of some available
sensors:
Sensor Type
Temperature
Range
Tolerance
to
Magnetic
Fields
Tolerance
to
Nuclear
Gallium-
Aluminum-
Arsenide Diode
1.4K to
325K
good poor? 10A excitation
Silicon Diode 1K to 475K ok poor 10A excitation
Capacitive
Sensor
- good good Prone to drift
Thermocouple >5K ok ok
Poor over all
performance
Carbon-Glass
RTD
1.4K to
325K
ok good
Popular, good
sensitivity
Cernox RTD - good excellent Good performer
Platinum RTD 30K to 800K
poor below
40K
ok
Ok above 70K,
useless below 14K
Germanium
RTD
0.05K to
300K
poor ok
Good performer
below 30K where it
is a secondary
standard
Rhodium-Iron
RTD
1.4K to
>325K
ok excellent
Thin film types, very
fast
Ruthenium
Oxide RTD
<50mK to
300K
good good
Good
interchangeability
Thermox
thermistor
70K to 300K - - Sensitive
The number of suppliers of cryogenic temperature sensors is limited. Try
Lakeshore Cryogenic - their web site provides a reasonably complete coverage
in this specialist area.

Introduction to Temperature Sensitive Paints and Labels
While temperature sensitive paint is not a sensor in the sense that this site
accepts, it can provide an effective solution to some temperature measurement
problems. The category includes Labels, inks, paints and pigments.

Liquid Crystal Based
Those based on liquid crystals, and reversibly cover the range of
approximately -30C to 120C, with a measurement "bandwidth" of
10C with 1C accuracy.
Paint Based
Other materials are used to manufacture nonreversible indicators,
labels and strips. These are available for temperatures up to
1270C. Typically these rely on material crystal lattice or phase
changes at a particular temperature. They are particularly good in
recording if a device has exceeded its designed temperature limit.
Tempil, Inc
A leading manufacturer of chemical temperature indicators
especially for the metal fabrication and medical product
sterilization industries
Thermographic Measurement Ltd
for thermal strips and spots
Lakfbriek Korthals BV
Therm-O-Signal coatings and indicating paints
TIP TEMPerature Products Inc
A US supplier of a wide range of temperature measuring
products including paints and strips
B+H Colour Change Ltd
A UK based company specializing in custom color change
products that incorporate temperature sensitive inks and
plastics
Hallcrest Inc
Manufacturers of thermochromic products with an interesting
product range from consumer to industrial and medical.

Introduction to Thermocouple Compensation
When a thermocouple is used with a microprocessor based measuring device, it
is possible to provide linearization and reference junction compensation in
software. The measuring procedure is to take two readings: the thermocouple
voltage e and the reference junction temperature T, using an alternative
temperature sensor (not a thermocouple).
The most common method of linearization is to use one or more polynomials. In
the example below, the T type thermocouple is linearized using ten polynomials,
each covering a small temperature range. A polynomial is a mathematical
expression of the form:
y = c
0
+ c
1
.x + c
2
.x
2
+ c
3
.x
3
.... + c
n
.x
n

where x is the input variable, y is the linearized and scaled result. The c
n
terms
are constants referred to as the polynomial coefficients. The value of n is the
order of the polynomial. Each polynomial has its set of coefficients and each
thermocouple has its own set of polynomials.
A regression process calculates the polynomial coefficients . The choice of
polynomial order is important. The higher the order, the greater the temperature
range over which it can apply, but the longer it takes to evaluate because of the
extra maths involved. The lower the order, the more polynomials are required,
again taking more time to decide which polynomial to use. A typical compromise
is for the order to be in the range of 2 to 4.
With some thermocouples, a set of polynomial coefficients is defined by the
standard. In most cases the order is too high (up to 15) for precision high speed
systems.
A polynomial must only be used over its valid input variable range, otherwise
significant errors will occur. The point where polynomials change should be
carefully chosen to avoid significant discontinuities.
This whole process can take a great deal of time if all thermocouples are to be
supported.
Capgo uses a six step process to linearize a thermocouple reading.
Step 1
Measure the thermocouple voltage e (scaled to micro-volts) and the reference
junction temperature T (scaled to degrees Celsius) using an alternative
temperature sensor such as Pt100. The reference junction temperature is
typically close to the ambient temperature of the measuring instrument.
Note: It may not be necessary to read the reference temperature for every
thermocouple reading, if it is known to change much slower than the
thermocouple scan rate.
Step 2
To calculate the reference junction temperature compensation voltage, the
appropriate polynomial must be selected. To do so, compare the reference
temperature to a number of threshold temperatures. Also check for out-of-range
inputs. The following pseudo code illustrates the process.

if T > 80.0C then Error = "Reference junction over range"
else if T > 2.236C then poly = 0
else if T > -40.0C then poly = 1
else Error = "Reference junction under range"
end if
The range of temperature for which some thermocouples are defined does not
always cover the desired range of the measuring equipment.
Step 3
Calculate the correction voltage using a second order polynomial equation:
e
c
= c
0
+ c
1
.T + c
2
.T
2

where the polynomial coefficients are drawn from the following table, based on
the value of "poly" from step 2:
Polynomial
" poly"
c
0
c
1
c
2

Temperature
Range
C
0 0.435 38.605428 0.042233 80 to 2.236
1 0.051 38.769854 0.045276 2.236 to -40
Note: There has been no attempt made to optimise the efficiency of the pseudo
code - it is for illustrative purposes only. Programmers will see the opportunities!
Step 4
Correct the measured thermocouple voltage by adding the compensation voltage
e = e + e
c

Step 5
To convert the voltage e to a temperature, the correct polynomial must be
selected. Compare the corrected input voltage to a number of threshold voltages
(in micro-volts) to identify the appropriate polynomial to use:

if e > 2.087E+4 then Error = "Thermocouple over range" !400C
else if e > 1.170E+4 then poly = 0 ! 242C
else if e > 4.827E+3 then poly = 1 ! 109C
else if e > 4.827E+3 then poly = 2 ! -35C
else if e > -1.336E+3 then poly = 3 ! -135C
else if e > -4.233E+3 then poly = 4 ! -183C
else if e > -5.291E+3 then poly = 5 ! -215C
else if e > -5.814E+3 then poly = 6 ! -235C
else if e > -6.053E+3 then poly = 7 ! -250.3C
else if e > -6.211E+3 then poly = 8 ! -255.6C
else if e > -6.232E+3 then poly = 9 ! -260.2C
else Error = "Thermocouple under range"
end if
Note: The lower limit of this linearization is -260.2C which is about 10C short of
the range over which the T type thermocouple is specified. This is an area of
diminishing returns for this method of linearization. It will be noted that at lower
temperatures, the polynomial input range becomes increasingly narrow. This is
because the simple polynomial becomes less able to represent the thermocouple
curve at lower temperatures. It is possible to employ methods to help reduce this
effect by applying offsets to the polynomial input.
Step 6
Calculate the temperature using a third order polynomial equation:
T = c
0
+ c
1
.e + c
2
.e
2
+ c
3
.e
3

where the polynomial coefficients are drawn from the following table, based on
the value of "poly" from step 5:
Polynomial
"poly"
c
0
c
1
c
2
c
3

Temperature
Range C
0
4.87029E-
6
0.02443
-
3.677266E-
7
5.545721E-
12
400 to 242
1
1.02808E-
5
0.02542
-
5.395475E-
7
1.298740E-
11
242 to 109
2
5.19555E-
3
0.025962
-
7.523751E-
7
3.381665E-
11
109 to -35
3 1.237035 0.028015
4.566110E-
7
3.054319E-
10
-35 to -135
4
-
2.29820E-
5
0.036497
4.557068E-
6
7.841078E-
10
-135 to -183
5
-
4.27171E-
5
0.079109
2.057296E-
5
2.288945E-
9
-183 to -215
6
-
1.39897E-
4
0.2768
8.839557E-
5
8.105962E-
9
-215 to -235
7
-
5.91619E-
4
1.206391
3.950282E-
4
3.339216E-
8
-235 to -
250.3
8
6.93170E-
13
-
2.86373E-
8.873338E-
6
2.494293E-
9
-250.3 to -
255.6
9
9
1.25783E-
12
-
5.21765E-
9
1.623264E-
5
3.678988E-
9
-255.6 to -
260.2
The end of linearization
The above T type linearization has an accuracy of about 0.1C over the entire
temperature range, as illustrated by the following error plot:

It is possible to reduce the number of polynomials by increasing the allowed error
bounds at the temperature extremes. Due to impurities in the thermocouple
materials, errors are typically 1C or 0.75%, which ever is greater. For the T
type thermocouple at 400 C, this error can be 3C. (See ASTM Standard E230-
87, 1992 for details

Below is the Capgo RTD Calculator. To use it you need a browser that supports
Java applets.
select a predefined RTD type (e.g. Pt385)
enter the RTD's resistance at 0C
enter the RTD's resistance at the temperature of interest in the same
resistance units as the Ro field
click calculate

RTD CALCULATOR

Thermocouple Calculator
The calculator will compute the temperature to 0.1C given the reference junction
temperature, the measured thermocouple voltage and the thermocouple type.
To use the calculator you need a browser that supports Java applets

All thermocouples are specified over a limited temperature range. If you
set the reference junction temperature or the measured thermocouple
voltage outside the range limits, the status line will indicate the type of
error and its limit.
If your inputs are OK the status line will say "OK". It may also comment on
the tolerance of the thermocouple at the calculated temperature. Not all
thermocouple types have 'official' tolerance specification, but for those that
do the specification tends to be somewhat conservative around room
temperatures.
Thermocouple may be individually calibrated for significantly improved
accuracy, but remember the calibration is likely to drift with exposure to
high temperatures, reactive gases and mechanical stress.
The B Type is Strange!
The calculator computes most thermocouples types sensibly, however the B
Type thermocouple will appear to behave strangely below about 100C. This is
because the B Type thermocouple is strange! At temperatures below 50C it has
a near zero temperature sensitivity (the calculator bottoms out at about 36C).
This characteristic is often turned to an advantage because, it eliminates the
need for a reference junction.
How is the Temperature Calculated?
Refer to the Compensation page to see an example of how the thermocouple
calculations are done for the T Type thermocouple.