Beaded-wire thermocouple

Thermocouple Home Page 

Thermocouple Definition
Thermocouples: A thermocouple is a thermoelectric device that is used to measure temperatures accurately. They are made from two dissimilar metals, joined so that a potential difference generated between the points of contact is a measure of the temperature difference between the points.
Thermocouple imageIntroduction to Thermocouples

What is a thermocouple?

A thermocouple is a sensor that measures temperature. It consists of two different types of metals, joined together at one end. When the junction of the two metals is heated or cooled, a voltage is created that can be correlated back to the temperature. Thermocouple alloys are commonly available as wire.

What type of Thermocouples are commonly available?
Thermocouple are available in different combinations of metals or calibrations. The most common calibrations are J, K, T and E. There are also high temperature calibrations R, S, C and GB. Each calibration has a different temperature range and environment, although the maximum temperature changes with the diameter of the wire used in the thermocouple. Although the thermocouple calibration dictates the temperature range, the maximum range is also limited by the diameter of the thermocouple wire. That is, a very thin thermocouple may not reach the full temperature range. Click here to view a complete reference table for each thermocouple. The table includes international color codes for thermocouple alloys, temperature range and limits of error for almost every kind of thermocouple.
•  Fine Gage Bare Wire and Insulated Thermocouple
•  Thermocouple Probes with Attached Connectors
•  Selection Guide for Thermocouples
•  Washer Assemblies, Cement-On and Self-Adhesive Thermocouple
•  Thermocouple Probes with Head Wires
•  High Temperature Thermocouple and Exotic Thermocouple
•  Handheld Thermocouple and Surface Probes
•  Special Purpose Thermocouple Probes
•  Industrial Thermocouple
Click Here to See All of our Thermocouple Categories
What's the best way to choose a thermocouple type?
Thermocouples measure in wide temperature ranges and can be relatively rugged, so they are very often used in industry. The following criteria are used in selecting a thermocouple:
  • Temperature range
  • Chemical resistance of the thermocouple or sheath material
  • Abrasion and vibration resistance
  • Installation requirements (may need to be compatible with existing equipment; existing holes may determine probe diameter)

Which junction type should I choose?
Sheathed thermocouple probes are available with one of three junction types: grounded, ungrounded or exposed (see graphic below:"Thermocouple Tip Styles"). At the tip of a grounded junction probe, the thermocouple wires are physically attached to the inside of the probe wall. This results in good heat transfer from the outside, through the probe wall to the thermocouple junction. In an ungrounded probe, the thermocouple junction is detached from the probe wall. Response time is slower than the grounded style, but the ungrounded offers electrical isolation (See table below):
insulation Resistance Ungrounded
The thermocouple in the exposed junction style protrudes out of the tip of the sheath and is exposed to the surrounding environment. This type offers the best response time, but is limited in use to dry, noncorrosive and nonpressurized applications.

What is response time?
A time constant has been defined as the time required by a sensor to reach 63.2% of a step change in temperature under a specified set of conditions. Five time constants are required for the sensor to approach 100% of the step change value. An exposed junction thermocouple is the fastest responding. Also, the smaller the probe sheath diameter, the faster the response, but the maximum temperature may be lower. Be aware, however, that sometimes the probe sheath cannot withstand the full temperature range of the thermocouple type.

Material Maximum Temperature Application Atmosphere
Oxidizing Hydrogen Vacuum Inert
304 SS 900°C (1650°F) Very Good Good Very Good Very Good
Inconel 600 1148°C (2100°F) Very Good Good Very Good Very Good

Thermocouple Ranges and Limits of Error

The table below shows temperature ranges and accuracy for J, K, E and T thermocouples. Click here for additional thermocouple types.

Thermocouple Reference Tables
Thermocouples produce a voltage output that can be correlated to the temperature that the thermocouple is measuring. The documents in the table below provide the thermoelectric voltage and corresponding temperature for a given thermocouple type. Most of the documents also provide the thermocouple temperature range, limits of error and environmental considerations.

click on a link below to see the related document
Thermocouple Type B(° C)  Thermocouple Type B(° F)
Thermocouple Type C(° C) Thermocouple Type C(° F)
Thermocouple Type E(° C) Thermocouple Type E(° F)
Thermocouple Type J(° C) Thermocouple Type J(° F)
Thermocouple Type K(° C) Thermocouple Type K(° F)
Thermocouple Type N(° C) Thermocouple Type N(° F)
Thermocouple Type R(° C) Thermocouple Type R(° F)
Thermocouple Type S(° C) Thermocouple Type S(° F)
Thermocouple Type T(° C) Thermocouple Type T(° F)
Tungsten and Tungsten/
CHROMEGA® vs. Gold-0.07
Atomic Percent Iron

•  Thermocouple Selection Guide
•  Thermocouple Color Codes, Accuracy and Temperature Range
•  Probe Reference Guide (temperature range vs. diameter, sheath material properties)
•  Using Thermocouples
•  Infrared Selection Guide
•  Introduction to Thermocouples
•  Sheath Selection Guide
•  Reference Junction Principles
•  Wire Insulation Identification & Application Guide
•  Response Time of Thermocouple Probes in Water
•  Response Time of Thermocouples in Air
•  Temperature Conversion Chart

Chart: Comparison of Time Constant* vs. Overall Outside Diameter of Bare Thermocouple Wires or Grounded Junction Thermocouples In Air
A chart Comparison of Time Constant vs. Overall Outside Diameter of Bare Thermocouple Wires or Grounded Junction Thermocouples In Air. Click on the image to see a larger size.

Chart: Metal Sheathed Thermocouple Probe Time Response Study in Water
A chart showing metal sheathed thermocouple probe time response in water. Click on the image to see a larger size.

Featured Thermcouple Probe
(*)SS Series PFA Coated
PFA Coated Thermocouple Probes
(*)SS Series PFA Coated
• Made with Special Limits of Error Material
• Chemically Inert
• Electrically Insulated
• Abrasion Resistant
• Rated to 205°C (400°F)
• Quick Disconnect Style
Click here for more info
 Thermocouple Types
Beaded Wire Thermocouple Beaded Wire Thermocouple
A beaded wire thermocouple is the simplest form of thermocouple. It consists of two pieces of thermocouple wire joined together with a welded bead. Because the bead of the thermocouple is exposed, there are several application limitations. The beaded wire thermocouple should not be used with liquids that could corrode or oxidize the thermocouple alloy. Metal surfaces can also be problematic. Often metal surfaces, especially pipes are used to ground electrical systems The indirect connection to an electrical system could impact the thermocouple measurement. In general, beaded wire thermocouples are a good choice for the measurement of gas temperature. Since they can be made very small, they also provide very fast response time.

Thermocouple Probe

Thermocouple Probe
A thermocouple probe consists of thermocouple wire housed inside a metallic tube. The wall of the tube is referred to as the sheath of the probe. Common sheath materials include stainless steel and Inconel. Inconel supports higher temperature ranges than stainless steel, however, stainless steel is often preferred because of its broad chemical compatibility.For very high temperatures, other exotic sheath materials are also available.
Click here for a more information on high temperature exotic thermocouple probes.
The tip of the thermocouple probe is available in three different styles. Grounded, ungrounded and exposed. With a grounded tip the thermocouple is in contact with the sheath wall. A grounded junction provides a fast response time but it is most susceptible to electrical ground loops. In ungrounded junctions, the thermocouple is separated from the sheath wall by a layer of insulation. The tip of the thermocouple protrudes outside the sheath wall with an exposed junction. Exposed junction thermocouples are best suited for air measurement.

Thermocouple Tip Styles

Grounded Thermocouple Ungrounded Thermocouple Exposed Thermocouple
Grounded Thermocouple Ungrounded Thermocouple Exposed Thermocouple
thermocouple Surface Probe Surface Probe
Measuring the temperature of a solid surface is difficult for most types of temperature sensors. In order to assure an accurate measurement, the entire measurement area of the the sensor must be in contact with the surface. This is difficult when working with a rigid sensor and a rigid surface. Since thermocouples are made of pliable metals, the junction can be formed flat and thin to provide maximum contact with a rigid solid surface. These thermocouples are an excellent choice for surface measurement. The thermocouple can even be built in a mechanism which rotates, making it suitable for measuring the temperature of a moving surface.
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