The thermocouple is a easy, broadly used factor for measuring temperature. This article offers a basic overview of thermocouples, describes common challenges encountered when designing with them, and shows signal conditioning answers. The first answer combines each reference-junction reimbursement and signal conditioning in a unmarried analog IC for convenience and ease of use; the second solution separates the reference-junction repayment from the signal conditioning to provide digital-output temperature sensing with extra flexibility and accuracy.
Thermocouple Theory

A thermocouple, proven in Figure 1, consists of wires of diverse metals joined collectively at one cease, referred to as the measurement (“hot”) junction. The other stop, where the wires aren’t joined, is hooked up to the sign conditioning circuitry lines, typically made from copper. This junction among the thermocouple sensor and the copper strains is known as the reference (“cold”) junction.*
We use the terms “size junction” and “reference junction” instead of the extra conventional “hot junction” and “cold junction.” The conventional naming device can be difficult because in many programs the dimension junction can be chillier than the reference junction.

The voltage produced on the reference junction relies upon at the temperatures at each the dimension junction and the reference junction. Since the thermocouple is a differential tool instead of an absolute temperature size device, the reference junction temperature have to be recognized to get an correct absolute temperature analyzing. This process is known as reference junction compensation (cold junction reimbursement.)

Thermocouples have turn out to be the industry-standard technique for cost-effective measurement of a huge variety of temperatures with affordable accuracy. They are used in an expansion of applications up to about +2500°C in boilers, water warmers, ovens, and plane engines—to name just a few. The maximum famous thermocouple is the kind K, such as Chromel® and Alumel® (trademarked nickel alloys containing chromium, and aluminum, manganese, and silicon, respectively), with a size variety of –2 hundred°C to +1250°C.
Why Use a Thermocouple?

Temperature variety: Most sensible temperature degrees, from cryogenics to jet-engine exhaust, may be served the use of thermocouples. Depending at the metallic wires used, a thermocouple is able to measuring temperature inside the range –200°C to +2500°C.
Robust: Thermocouples are rugged devices which can be resistant to surprise and vibration and are appropriate for use in dangerous environments.
Rapid response: Because they’re small and feature low thermal capacity, thermocouples reply unexpectedly to temperature modifications, particularly if the sensing junction is uncovered. They can reply to hastily converting temperatures within some hundred milliseconds.
No self heating: Because thermocouples require no excitation strength, they may be not vulnerable to self heating and are intrinsically safe.


Complex sign conditioning: Substantial sign conditioning is essential to convert the thermocouple voltage into a usable temperature reading. Traditionally, sign conditioning has required a huge investment in layout time to keep away from introducing mistakes that degrade accuracy.
Accuracy: In addition to the inherent inaccuracies in thermocouples because of their metallurgical properties, a thermocouple measurement is simplest as accurate as the reference junction temperature may be measured, traditionally inside 1°C to 2°C.
Susceptibility to corrosion: Because thermocouples include varied metals, in a few environments corrosion over the years might also bring about deteriorating accuracy. Hence, they may need safety; and care and protection are important.
Susceptibility to noise: When measuring microvolt-level sign adjustments, noise from stray electric and magnetic fields can be a trouble. Twisting the thermocouple wire pair can greatly lessen magnetic subject pickup. Using a shielded cable or jogging wires in metallic conduit and guarding can reduce electric area pickup. The measuring tool should provide sign filtering, both in hardware or with the aid of software program, with robust rejection of the line frequency (50 Hz/60 Hz) and its harmonics.

Difficulties Measuring with Thermocouples

It isn’t easy to convert the voltage generated via a thermocouple into an accurate temperature analyzing for many reasons: the voltage signal is small, the temperature-voltage dating is nonlinear, reference junction repayment is needed, and thermocouples may also pose grounding problems. Let’s consider those troubles one after the other.

Voltage sign is small: The most common thermocouple types are J, K, and T. At room temperature, their voltage varies at fifty two µV/°C, 41 µV/°C, and 41 µV/°C, respectively. Other less-common types have an even smaller voltage exchange with temperature. This small signal requires a excessive gain stage before analog-to-virtual conversion. Table 1 compares sensitivities of numerous thermocouple types

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