Monday, February 5, 2018

Temperature Sensor Basics: RTDs (Resistance Temperature Detectors)

RTD temperature sensor with
threaded connector (Duro-Sense)
Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTD’s) operate under the principle that the electrical resistance of certain metals increases or decreases in a repeatable and predictable manner with a temperature change. RTD’s may have a lower temperature range than some thermocouples and a slower response time, however, they are more stable and repeatable over long periods of time. RTD’s offer considerably higher accuracy and repeatability than thermocouples and can be used up to 600 Deg. Celsius. 

RTD diagram
Simple RTD diagram (courtesy of Wikipedia)
The RTD wire is usually a pure metal such as platinum, nickel or copper because these metals have a predictable change in resistance as the temperature changes. They are normally designed as a fine wire coiled around a bobbin (made of glass or ceramic), and inserted into a protective sheath. Because they are made of pure metals, they tend to more costly than thermocouples. RTD’s do need to be supplied an excitation voltage from the control circuitry as well. RTD’s higher signal output makes them easier to interface with computers and data loggers and reduces the effects of radio frequency interference.

RTD’s are used in many industries including the plastic processing industry, environmental test chambers, motor windings, pumps and bearings, ovens, kilns, waste treatment and the pulp and paper industry.  Because of their accuracy and repeatability, they are also commonly used in biomedical applications, aerospace, and semiconductor processing.