Thermocouple Device: A Quick Guide to Using Thermocouples

by | Oct 27, 2021 | Military Technology

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A thermocouple device is used in a wide range of electronics. They’re used to measure temperature, and they’re also used in some laboratory equipment.

We’ll break down how to use them, what they can do, and what they can’t do.

To get started, check out our quick guide to find the best thermocouple device on the market.

How to Use Thermocouple Devices

Thermocouples are made of two different types of metals that are welded together. The metal that produces the electrical charge is called positive, while the other is called negative. When these two metals come in contact, they create an electric current that sends a reading to the device’s controller board or motherboard for processing.

How Does a Thermocouple Work?

When the thermocouple is heated, the temperature of one wire changes with respect to the other. The temperature change will cause a slight voltage difference across the two wires, which in turn causes a very low-level electric current in an electrical circuit.

When using a thermocouple, you’ll need to provide power and ground. We recommend checking out some introductory tutorials online before connecting your circuit’s components if you’re new to electronics.

What Can You Do with a Thermocouple?

A thermocouple can be used in many applications. Some examples include:

  • Temperature Measurement: A thermocouple works by measuring voltage (in millivolts, mV). If you’re looking for a simple way to measure temperature, the device you need is called a thermocouple adapter. It converts millivolt signals into degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.
  • Control: Thermocouples are used in some PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to control large machines like factory assembly lines, robotic arms, and machine tools.
  • Data Logging: A thermocouple can be used to record the temperature of one environment over time, like inside an oven.
  • Energy: Thermocouples can be used to measure the energy of fire (by measuring the difference in temperature between its base and apex) or to record how much electricity is being used by certain appliances at any given time.

A Quick Guide to the Best Thermocouple Devices in the Market

Thermocouple Adapter (T/C Adapter)

A T/C adapter has built-in signal conditioning electronics, which means that it can take the millivolt output of a thermocouple and display its temperature through degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Thermoelectric Cooler (Peltier Element)

A thermoelectric cooler, or Peltier element, is a device that works by transmitting heat from one side to another. It’s commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioners to transfer heat from inside the machine to outside of it. You can also use a Peltier element by itself to cool a specific object (usually something like a computer processor or lab equipment) down to a particular temperature.

Thermocouple Wire and Calculator

Thermocouple wire is made of different types of metals, and they can be used for more than just measuring temperature. A couple of examples include:

  • Fridge Magnet: Use a thermocouple wire to make a fridge magnet that can be measured in Celsius or Fahrenheit.
  • DIY Cold Air Conditioner: A thermocouple wire can help you measure air temperature outside your home and then blow cold air from inside based on what you find.

Thermocouple Probe

Thermocouple probes can be used to measure things that aren’t fixed in place, like the temperature of a room over time. Make sure you get the right probe for your application (long-term or short-term).

  • Food Probe: Use a small thermocouple probe to monitor the internal temperature of the food, like roasts and baked items as they cook in the oven.
  • DIY Temperature Logger: Use a thermocouple probe to record the temperature of something over time, like inside an oven or refrigerator over several hours or days.

3 Tips for Choosing the Right Thermocouples

Electromotive series

The electromotive force of thermocouples depends on the metals used. You can find a complete list of all different types of thermocouples, their corresponding colours, and which metals are typically used for quick comparison.

Temperature range

Thermocouple devices have varying temperature ranges depending on their type and material. Make sure you choose a T/C probe that can measure the temperature of your environment with accuracy.

Thermocouple Colours

Different thermocouple types have different colours. These are typically used to indicate their temperature range. K-type Negative colour is black, and Positive colour is red. The maximum error below 0°C is ±1 °C at -50°C; at higher temperatures, the error varies depending on the metal.

Thermocouple Device Wrap Up

Thermocouple devices are temperature measuring devices that use the temperature difference between two points to reflect their output. They can be used in various applications, including things like building energy management systems and cooking food in an oven. You only need to find the correct one for your needs.