What is temperature sensor and how it works

A temperature sensor is a device designed to measure temperature and convert it into a readable output, usually in the form of an electrical signal. Temperature sensors play a crucial role in various applications, from monitoring environmental conditions to controlling industrial processes. They provide valuable data for temperature regulation, safety, and automation.

Types of Temperature Sensors:

There are several types of temperature sensors, each using different principles to measure temperature:

  1. Thermocouples: Thermocouples are made of two different metals joined at one end. When there's a temperature difference between the two ends, it generates a voltage that corresponds to the temperature. The voltage is then measured to determine the temperature.

  2. Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs): RTDs are made of a metal with a predictable change in resistance as temperature changes. The resistance change is measured and used to calculate the temperature.

  3. Thermistors: Thermistors are semiconductor devices with resistance that changes significantly with temperature. They are often used for accurate temperature measurements in a limited temperature range.

  4. Infrared (IR) Temperature Sensors: These sensors detect infrared radiation emitted by objects to determine their temperature without direct contact. They are used in non-contact temperature measurements.

  5. Semiconductor Temperature Sensors: These sensors use the temperature-dependent characteristics of semiconductor materials to measure temperature. Examples include silicon diode temperature sensors and integrated circuit temperature sensors.

How Temperature Sensors Work:

1. Thermocouples:

  • Thermocouples work based on the Seebeck effect, which states that a voltage is generated when two different conductors are connected at two different temperatures.
  • The voltage generated is proportional to the temperature difference between the two ends of the thermocouple.
  • The voltage is measured using a voltmeter and is then converted into a temperature reading using a calibration table or equation specific to the thermocouple type.

2. RTDs:

  • RTDs rely on the principle that the electrical resistance of a metal changes predictably with temperature.
  • The RTD is connected to a circuit, and a known current is passed through it.
  • The voltage across the RTD is measured, and based on the change in resistance, the temperature is calculated using the resistance-temperature relationship for the specific metal.

3. Thermistors:

  • Thermistors have a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) or positive temperature coefficient (PTC) of resistance, which means their resistance decreases or increases with temperature.
  • The resistance of the thermistor is measured using a bridge circuit or other methods, and the temperature is calculated using calibration data or equations provided by the manufacturer.

4. Infrared Temperature Sensors:

  • Infrared temperature sensors detect the infrared radiation emitted by an object.
  • The sensor has a lens that focuses the infrared radiation onto a detector element, which converts the radiation into an electrical signal.
  • The sensor measures the intensity of the signal, and using calibration data, it calculates the temperature of the object.

5. Semiconductor Temperature Sensors:

  • Semiconductor temperature sensors, like diode-based sensors, use the temperature-dependent characteristics of semiconductors.
  • They exploit the fact that the forward voltage drop across a diode changes with temperature.
  • The voltage across the diode is measured, and based on the known temperature-voltage relationship, the temperature is determined.

Temperature sensors are used in various industries and applications, including weather monitoring, HVAC systems, industrial processes, medical devices, and more, to ensure accurate and reliable temperature measurements for effective control and safety.

Prasun Barua

Prasun Barua is an Engineer (Electrical & Electronic) and Member of the European Energy Centre (EEC). His first published book Green Planet is all about green technologies and science. His other published books are Solar PV System Design and Technology, Electricity from Renewable Energy, Tech Know Solar PV System, C Coding Practice, AI and Robotics Overview, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, Know How Solar PV System, Know The Product, Solar PV Technology Overview, Home Appliances Overview, Tech Know Solar PV System, C Programming Practice, etc. These books are available at Google Books, Google Play, Amazon and other platforms.


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