Handheld temperature measurement devices

Temperature measurements are fundamentally important to many industrial processes. Many measurements are made with a probe in or on a pipe or vessel. However, if an object cannot be contacted, measuring temperature may be difficult. Contact sensors such as thermometers, thermocouples, and RTD's are accurate and cost effective but not always practical.



  • Types

  • Applications

    Contact devices
    Noncontact Devices

    Temperature measurements are fundamentally important to many industrial processes. Many measurements are made with a probe in or on a pipe or vessel. However, if an object cannot be contacted, measuring temperature may be difficult. Contact sensors such as thermometers, thermocouples, and RTD's are accurate and cost effective but not always practical. For many industrial applications, optical and infrared temperature sensors can carry out measurements virtually impossible for contact sensors.

    Contact devices

    There are several popular methods for measuring temperature by contact. Readings are produced by the expansion of a liquid or metal, the generation of a current in the presence of heat, or the generation of resistance to current flow in the presence of heat. The first two are called active devices; they generate a signal. The third is called a passive device; it creates a blockage. All these devices react proportionally to the temperature they contact.

    Liquid-in-glass thermometers

    Liquid-in-glass thermometers consist of a glass envelope, a responsive liquid, and an indicating scale. They were invented about 300 yr ago and are still the most commonly used temperature-indicating devices.

    Some advantages of these thermometers are:

    • Low cost

    • Simple to use

    • Ease of checking for damage

    • No power requirement.

      • Bimetal thermometers

        Bimetal thermometers use a composite material made up of strips of two or more metals joined together that have different expansion rates. The strip tends to change its curvature when subjected to a change in temperature.

        These devices will retain their accuracy indefinitely. Accuracy is within 1% of scale range at any point on the scale. They can be used beyond their range by 100% below 250 F, 50% up to 500 F, and 10% up to 750 F without damage.


        When dissimilar metal wires are joined and the joint is heated, a voltage is produced that is proportional to the temperature. Various combinations of metal wires respond differently to temperatures.

        The selection of thermocouple wire depends on a variety of factors including:

        • Temperature to be measured

        • Compatibility with the ambient atmosphere

        • Cost

        • Millivolt output

        • Linearity.

          • RTDs

            Resistance temperature detectors (RTDs) are based on the change of electrical conductivity with temperature. They consist of an encapsulated coil of wire (the sensing element), internal lead wires, supporting and insulating material, and a protective case. Platinum wire has the optimum characteristics for service over a wide temperature range.

            Noncontact Devices

            When temperatures are extremely high or the object to be measured is remotely located, noncontact devices must be used. These devices use the radiant energy from the hot source to determine its temperature.

            Optical pyrometers

            Optical pyrometers measure the intensity of the radiant flux emitted in a narrow wavelength interval in the visible spectrum. The temperature of the target is determined from its spectral radiant intensity. Temperatures from 1400 to 5200 F can be measured. With special absorbing screens, this can be extended to 10,000 F.

            Infrared sensors

            Infrared sensors collect radiation from a target. The infrared energy is isolated and measured using photosensitive detectors. The detectors convert the infrared energy to an electrical signal, which is then converted into a temperature value. For accurate temperature readings, the target should be larger than the instrument's field of view. This device can measure temperatures from -32 to 5000 F.

            Temperature sensors









            Liquid-in-glass Thermometers


            Temperature range, F


            -38 to +1110

            Mercury alloys

            -76 to +250

            Organic alloys

            -328 to +450

            Thermocouple comparison

            ISA Type

            Positive wire

            Negative wire

            Recommended temperature, F

            Acceptable ambient conditions




            -450 to +750

            Oxidizing reducing




            0 to +1650





            0 to +2300

            Oxidizing or neutral




            -300 to +1600





            0 to +2800



            Platinum 70-Rh30

            Platinum 94-Rh6

            0 to +3200

            Inert or slow oxidizing

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