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Temperature Sensors

ECE 371 JB
Prof. Bernhard
A Simple Thermal System

Work Load


Heat Source
Sensor Input

Resistance temperature devices (RTD)
Infrared sensors
Mostly widely used in
industry Measuring Junction
Range: sub-zero to
4000oF(2000oC) A
Formed by joining two
different metal alloy wires B
(A,B) at point called - Display
junction Device
Junction called the Reference
measuring or “hot” junction Junction
Lead ends attached to
temp indicator or controller
Connection point called
reference or “cold” junction
How does it work?
Measuring junction is heated, small DC voltage
(millivolts) generated in thermocouple wires
Thermocouple converts thermal energy into
electrical energy
Note: thermocouple only generates a
millivoltage signal when there is temperature
difference between “hot” and “cold” junctions
“cold” junction usually set to 32oF(0oC)
Thermocouple Types
Made up of two different metal
alloy wires.
Different alloys result in
different temperature ranges
Ex: Standard Metal Metal Temp.
Type Content Content Range
(Pos. Leg) (Neg. Leg)
B 70.4% (Pt) 93.9% (Pt) 1600-3100 oF
29.6% (Rh) 6.1% (Rh) 870-1700 oC

E 90% (Ni) 55% (Cu) 32-1650 oF

10% (Cr) 45% (Ni) 870-1700 oC
Each thermocouple type has advantages & disadvantages
– Cost:
Rare metals (i.e. noble metals)  $$$
– Types B, R, S
Common metals (i.e. base metals) $
– Types E, J, K, N, T
Rarer metals = high temperature range & better accuracy
– Temperature Range
– Accuracy a.k.a. tolerance
– Life Expectancy Type Max. Tolerances
Operating Temp. Temp.
Wire size
B 3100oF (+/-) 0.5%
Thermocouple protection
Environment 1700oC
Accuracy required E 1650oF (+/-) 1.7oC (+/-) 3.06oF
900oC or (+/-) 0.5%
Whichever greater
Life Expectancy
Failed = inaccuracy
- When wires are heated/cooled changes take place on
molecular level
Physically: molecular structure changes
Chemically: wires react with oxygen or other substances,
changing chemical composition
- Result: millivolt signal “drifts”

EMF Tolerance Band



- Recalibration: adjust controller to compensate for errors

Thermocouple Constructions
3 General constructions
– Insulated Wire
– Ceramic-beaded
– Metal-sheathed
Insulated Wire Thermocouples
Bare wires wrapped with insulation
– Insulations
Fibrous, woven material made of fiber-glass, mica,
or ceramic fiber
Plastics (Teflon)
Polyimides (Kapton)
– Purpose
Electrically isolate wires
Protects wires from contamination
Easier wire installation
Metal - Sheathed Thermocouples
Junction and wires are assembled in small
diameter metal tubes
– Insulation
– Purpose
Protects against contamination
Defends against chemical attack
Provides mechanical stability
Metal - Sheathed Thermocouples
Orientation of thermocouple junction during assembly
– Grounded
Weld junction directly to inside tip of sheath
Ensures rapid heat transfer from sheath to junction
Protects junction while minimizing heat transfer delays.
– Ungrounded
Similar to grounded except junction isolated from metal sheath
Electrically isolates junction from sheath
Prevents stray voltages from inducing measuring error
More shock resistant & better under rapid temperature changes
DISADVANTAGE: Slows down heat transfer to junction (2x-3x
– Exposed
Junction protrudes from end of sheath, but insulated from it
Due to direct exposure with heated material, very quick response to
temp. changes
No sheath to slow down heat transfer
DISADVANTAGE: Not protected from mechanical damage &
chemical attack
Resistance Temperature Devices
Precision Temperature Sensors
– More accurate than thermocouple elements
– Maintain accuracy over longer period of time
– Range up to 1200oF (650oC)
– Wire-Wound
– Thin film
– Kapton Insulated
How do RTDs work?
RTD’s resistance as temp.
– Controller measures resistance value and converts to
temp. reading, fairly linear relationship.
– Unlike thermocouple, no electrical signal generated
– Controller measures resistance by passing current
through RTD
– Use a base resistance value (ex: for Platinum, value
of 100 ohms at 0oC (32oF)

RTD Resistance Vs. Temp. (TCR) Curve

(Ohms) TCR = Temperature coefficient of resistance

Temperature (oC)
RTD Vs. Thermocouples
Advantages of RTDs
– Stability
– Repeatability
– Accuracy
Disadvantages of RTDs
– Cost: Platinum = $$$, 2x more expensive
– Temp. Range limited
– Response Time slower, 2x-4x times slower
Heat must transfer through epoxy or glass coating
Entire RTD element must reach uniform temp. before
accurate measurement taken.
Lead Wire Effect
Alters reading due to lead wire resistance
Two approaches
– Determine lead wire resistance and have controller
– Attach additional lead wire to one end of RTD
– Connect a transmitter, converts resistance to low amp
signal and sent to temperature controller
1 2 3 3 4
1 2

3-wire RTD 4-wire RTD

Effect of Lead Resistance: Platinum
Wire RTD
Most Common: DIN 43760
– Standard temp. coefficient (alpha=0.00385)
For 100 ohm wire  +0.385 ohms/OC @ 0oC
alpha = average slope from 0oC – 100oC
– A 10 ohm lead impedance implies 10/3.85 =
26oC error in measurement
R=5 

100  RTD


R=5 
How to correct this problem?
Wheatstone: 3-Wire Bridge
– Wires A & B are perfectly matched in length, respective
impedances effects will cancel out due to being on opposite legs
– Wire C acts as sense lead & carries no current



– Non-linear relationship between resistance change and bridge

output voltage change
– Additional equation required to convert bridge output voltage to
equivalent RTD impedance
3-Wire Bridge Calculations
If Vs & Vo known, Rg can be found.
Unbalanced Vo of bridge with R1=R2
 R3 
Vo  Vs    Vs (1 / 2)
R R 
 3 g 

If Rg=R3  Vo=0 & bridge is balanced

To determine Rg assuming lead resistance is
zero  
Vs  2Vo
Rg  R3  
 Vs  2Vo 
3-Wire Bridge Calculations
If Rg located some distance from 3-wire configuration 
RL appears in series with Rg & R3

 Vs  2Vo   4Vo 
Rg  R3    RL  
 Vs  2Vo   Vs  2Vo 

+ - + Rg
V3/2 -
Another Approach
4-Wire Ohms
– DVM is directly proportional to RTD resistance  1 conversion
equation required
– Insensitive to length of lead wires
– Accuracy better than 3-wire
– Disadvantage: One more extension wire required.

Current i=0


Vs - +
- Vo
Resistance to Temperature
RTD more linear than thermocouple, curve-
fitting still required
Callendar-Van Dusen Equation
  T 
 T   T  T  

RT  Ro T      1      1  

  100  100)   100  100  

RT = Resistance at Temperature T
Ro = Resistance at T=0oC
 = Temperature coefficient at T=0oC

 = 1.49 (typical value for 0.00392 platinum)

 = 0 T>0, 0.11 (typical) T<0

2-wire RTD uses same color lead wire for
both leads
3-wire has 2 red leads & 1 white lead
4-wire has 2 red leads & 2 white leads
1 2 3 4
Lead-to-lead Distance at Room
Measurement Temperature
1 to 2; 3 to 4 Less than 1ohm to a
few ohms max.

4-wire RTD 1 to 3; 1 to 4 107 to 110 ohms

2 to 3; 2 to 4
RTD Assembly
Wire Wound
– For 500oF (260oC), element welded to copper or
nickel lead wires
– Sub-assembly placed in closed-end tube
– Powder, cement or thermal grease fills tube
– Epoxy seal seals out moisture & locks RTD/leads to
Thin Film
– For 1200oF (650oC), element fitted into cavity of MgO
metal-sheathed cable
– Wires in cable welded to RTD element
– Cap filled with MgO and placed on element end &
What are Thermistors?
Semiconductor used as temperature sensor
Made from mixture of metal oxides pressed to bead or wafer form
Bead heated under pressure at high temp & encapsulated with
RESULT: Distinct non-linear resistance vs. temp. relationship

Non-linear decrease in resistance

as temperature increases.

Temperature (oC)
So Sensitive…
Very large resistance change = small
temp. change
3 – 5% per oC (vs. 0.4% per oC for RTDs)
Temp. changes as small as 0.1oC
Significantly smaller in size
Temp range: -100oC – 300oC (-120oF –
Thermistor Standards
No Industrial Standards
Base resistance range: 103 – 106 ohms
– Typically measured at 25oC vs. 0oC for RTDs
TCRs vary widely
Thermistor’s accuracy limited to small
temp. range
Thermistor Lead Wire Effects
Lead wire does add overall resistance
NOTE: base resistance of thermistor very
large (>103 ohms), added lead wire
resistance insignificant.
RESULT: No resistance compensation
Infrared Sensors
Intercepts portion of infrared energy radiated by
object (  = 8 - 14 microns).
Waves focused through lens on infrared
detector, converting to an electric output signal
Heat Source Non-Contact Temp. Sensor
Temp. Indicator

Infrared Detector
Def: The ability of a material to radiate or absorb
electromagnetic waves. Higher = Better!
– Ex: Given values below & emissivity varies by 0.05, what is
measuring error?
Ans: IR Sensor A 5.5% (0.05/0.9)
IR Sensor B 10% (0.05/0.5)

IR Sensor A IR Sensor B

e = 0.9 e = 0.5
Field of View
All infrared radiation in this filed of view will be
detected by the sensor
4.5 in
2.5 in (114 mm)
1.4 in (64 mm)
1.0 in (36 mm)
0.75 in (25 mm)
0.60 in (19 mm)
(15 mm)


25 mm

76 mm

152 mm
Good vs. Bad Radiation
Position 1, IR sensor sees both target object & background objects
Position 2, IR sensor only sees target object. True target
temperature can now be measured.
RULE: target size should be at least 1.5 to 2 times the “spot size.”

Infrared 2 1

Correct Incorrect
Target Target
Placement Placement
Scenarios to Avoid
Figure 1: Thin film materials & background radiation
enter sensor
Figure 2: Polished metals will not function well with
infrared sensing due to the reflecting radiation.

Infrared Infrared
Sensor Sensor

Figure 1 Figure 2
Sensor to Target Distance
To reduce reflected radiant energy, set IR sensor at right
angle with respect to target
If space limitation, mount IR up to a maximum of 45O



Operating Environment
Smoke, dust vapors absorb or reflect infrared
radiation before getting to sensor lens.
Causes controller to maintain target at wrong


Smoke or Vapors
So which one is better? Advantages
Simple, rugged
High temp. operation
Low Cost
Thermocouple No resistance lead wire problems
Point temp. sensing
Fastest response to temperature changes
Most stable over time
Most accurate
RTD Most repeatable temp. measurement
Very resistant to contamination/corrosion of the
RTD element
High sensitivity to small temperature changes
Temperature measurements become more
Thermistor stable with use
Copper or nickel extension wires can be used

No contact with the product required

Response times as fast or faster than
Infrared No corrosion or oxidation to affect sensor
High repeatability
So which one is better? Disadvantages
Least stable, least repeatable
Low sensitivity to small temperature
Extension wire must be of the same
Thermocouple thermocouple type
Wire may pick up radiated electrical noise
of not shielded
Lowest accuracy
High Cost
Slowest response time
Low sensitivity to small temperature
RTD Sensitive to vibration
Decalibration if used beyond sensor’s
temperature ratings
Somewhat fragile
So which one is better? Disadvantages
Limited temperature range
Some initial accuracy “drift”
Thermistor Decalibration if used beyond the sensor’s
temperature rating
Lack of standards for replacement

High initial cost

More complex – support electronics
Emissivity variations affect temperature
Infrared measurement accuracy
Field of view and spot size may restrict
sensor application
Measuring accuracy affected by dust,
smoke, background radiation etc.