Temperature indication for users has historically been based on mechanical gauges but with the increasing depth of automation in process control, temperature sensors such as Thermocouples and RTD's are cost effective ways of determining accurate temperature measurements that can be fed directly into control systems without operator input.
Temperature gauges are often based on expansion of different metals to provide a turning force in Bimetal Thermometers that when fed through some gears, directly move a pointer on a dial. These gauges have a fixed probe which can limit where then can be mounted.
Gas Expansion Thermometers employ a similar internal mechanism to a pressure gauge that is connected through a capillary to a bulb that contains a gas that expands proportionally to temperature. Increasing the temperature raises the pressure within the bulb and capillary, fed to the internal mechanism that moves the pointer on the dial. Gas Expansion Thermometers are more expensive that Bimetals but the flexible capillary and wider temperature range allow them to be employed almost anywhere.
Temperature switches tend to be of either mechanical gas expansion type or electronic sensors that give a contact or relay output to control a process or provide an alarm signal.
The most common industrial temperature sensor is the Pt100 RTD probe that uses a platinum element that has a very linear resistance change with varying temperature. Using calculations based on platinum resistance tables, a temperature controller can determine very small differences in temperature to give highly accurate process control.
Thermocouples work on a principle of dissimilar metals producing a tiny voltage that is proportional to temperature. There are many different material combinations with different characteristics to suit particular temperature ranges. Similarly, the thermocouples can be supplied in a wide range of different sensor shapes and sizes.
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