Thermocouples – An Introduction

July 26, 2011

What is a thermocouple sensor?

A thermocouple is a sensor for measuring temperature. It consists of two dissimilar metals, joined together at one end. When the junction of the two metals is heated or cooled a voltage is produced that can be correlated back to the temperature. The thermocouple alloys are commonly available as wire.

What are the different thermocouple types?

A thermocouple is available in different combinations of metals or calibrations. The four most common calibrations are J, K, T and E. There are high temperature calibrations R, S, C and GB. Each calibration has a different temperature range and environment, although the maximum temperature varies with the diameter of the wire used in the thermocouple. Although the thermocouple calibration dictates the temperature range, the maximum range is also limited by the diameter of the thermocouple wire. That is, a very thin thermocouple may not reach the full temperature range. Click here to view a complete reference table for each thermocouple. The table includes international color codes for thermocouple alloys, temperature range and limits of error for almost every kind of thermocouple.

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