Friday, September 28, 2018

Advantage and Disadvantages of Common Temperature Sensors

THERMOCOUPLE

thermocouple
Thermocouple
Due to their simplicity, reliability, and relatively low cost, thermocouples are widely used. They are self-powered, eliminating the need for a separate power supply to the sensor. Thermocouples are fairly durable when they are appropriately chosen for a given application. Thermocouples also can be used in high-temperature applications.

Thermocouple Advantages:
  • Self-powered
  • Simple
  • Rugged
  • Inexpensive
  • Many applications
  • Wide temperature range
  • Fast response
Thermocouple Disadvantages:
  • Nonlinear output signal
  • Low voltage
  • Reference required
  • Accuracy is function of two separate measurements
  • Least sensitive
  • Sensor cannot be recalibrated
  • Least stable

RTD

RTD
RTD
Resistance temperature detectors are attractive alternatives to thermocouples when high accuracy, stability, and linearity (i.e., how closely the calibration curve resembles a straight line) of output are desired. The superior linearity of relative resistance response to temperature allows simpler signal processing devices to be used with RTD’s than with thermocouples. Resistance Temperature Detector’s can withstand temperatures up to approximately 800 C (~1500 F).

RTD Advantages:
  • More stable at moderate temperatures
  • High levels of accuracy
  • Relatively linear output signal
RTD Disadvantages:
  • Expensive
  • Self-heating
  • Lower temperature range

THERMISTOR

Thermistor
Thermistor
Thermistors work similarly to RTD’s in that they are a resistance measuring device, but instead of using pure metal, thermistors use a very inexpensive polymer or ceramic material as the element.

Thermistor Advantages:
  • High output
  • Fast
  • Two-wire ohms measurement
Thermistor Disadvantages:
  • Nonlinear
  • Limited temperature range
  • Fragile
  • Current source required
  • Self-heating

Monday, September 10, 2018

Thermowells

Thermowell
Thermowell (Duro-Sense)
One of the most important accessories for any temperature-sensing element is a pressure-tight sheath known as a thermowell. This may be thought of as a thermally conductive protrusion into a process vessel or pipe allowing a temperature-sensitive instrument to detect process temperature without opening a hole in the vessel or pipe. Thermowells are critically important for installations where the temperature element (RTD, thermocouple, etc.) must be replaceable without de-pressurizing the process.

Thermowells may be made out of any material that is thermally conductive, pressure-tight, and not chemically reactive with the process. Most thermowells are formed out of either metal (stainless steel or other alloy) or ceramic materials. A simple diagram showing a thermowell in use with a temperature sensor (RTD) is shown here:
Thermowell

As useful as thermowells are, they are not without their caveats. All thermowells, no matter how well they may be installed, increase the first-order time lag of the temperature sensor by virtue of their mass and specific heat value. It should be intuitively obvious that a few pounds of metal will not heat up and cool down as fast as a few ounces’ worth of RTD or thermocouple, and therefore the addition of a thermowell to the sensing element will decrease the responsiveness of any temperature- sensing element. What is not so obvious is that such time lags, if severe enough, may compromise the stability of feedback control. A control system receiving a “delayed” temperature measurement will not see the live temperature of the process in real time due to this lag.

Thermowell
RTD with Thermowell 
A potential problem with thermowells is incorrect installation of the temperature-sensing element. The element must be inserted with full contact at the bottom of the thermowell’s blind hole. If any air gap is allowed to exist between the end of the temperature element and the bottom of the thermowell’s hole, this will add a second time lag to the measurement system26. Some thermowells include a spring clip in the bottom of the blind hole to help maintain constant metal-to-metal contact between the sensing element and the thermowell wall.

Reprinted from Lessons In Industrial Instrumentation by Tony R. Kuphaldt – under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.