Temperature Sensors - Comparing Types

Comparing advantages and disadvantages of thermocouples, RTDs and thermistors temperature sensors

AttributeThermocoupleRTDThermistor
Cost Low High Low
Temperature Range Very wide
-350oF
+3200oF
Wide
-400oF
+1200oF
Short to medium
-100oF
+500oF
Interchange ability Good Excellent Poor to fair
Long-term Stability Poor to fair Good Poor
Accuracy Medium High Medium
Repeatability Poor to fair Excellent Fair to good
Sensitivity (output) Low Medium Very high
Response Medium to fast Medium Medium to fast
Linearity Fair Good Poor
Self Heating No Very low to low High
Point (end) Sensitive Excellent Fair Good
Lead Effect High Medium Low
Size/Packaging Small to large Medium to small Small to medium
  • A thermocouple has two dissimilar conductors forming electrical junctions at differing temperatures. The thermocouple produces a temperature-dependent voltage as a result of the thermoelectric effect and can be interpreted as a temperature measurement.
  • A RTD - Resistance Thermometer Detector - are made of a length of fine wire wrapped around a ceramic or glass core. The RTD wire is of pure material - typically platinum, nickel, or copper - with an accurate resistance/temperature relationship. The electrical resistance provides an indication of the temperature.
  • A thermistor is a type of resistor made of ceramic or polymer materials. The resistance is - like the RTD - dependent on temperature.

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