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

          LiquidTemperature range, F
          Mercury-38 to +1110
          Mercury alloys-76 to +250
          Organic alloys-328 to +450

          Thermocouple comparison

          ISA TypePositive wireNegative wireRecommended temperature, FAcceptable ambient conditions
          TCopperConstantan-450 to +750Oxidizing reducing
          JIronConstantan0 to +1650Reducing
          KChromelAlumel0 to +2300Oxidizing or neutral
          EChromelConstantan-300 to +1600Oxidizing
          R,SPlatinum-rhodiumPlatinum0 to +2800Oxidizing
          BPlatinum 70-Rh30Platinum 94-Rh60 to +3200Inert or slow oxidizing

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