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Physics 103.

1 2nd Sem AY 2013-14

Temperature Measurement

Determine the time constant of different linear thermometers.

Thermometers measure the temperature of a system by establishing thermal
equilibrium. However, it takes some amount of time to achieve thermal equilibrium. That is,
if the temperature of the system is , the thermometer reading T (t) varies with time

T ( t )=T f T (t) (1)

where T (t) is the temperature difference between the thermometer and the system.

A linear thermometer is a thermometer where the rate of change T ( t ) is

proportional to T (t) . In differential equation form, this is written as

d ( T ) 1 (2)
= T

where is known as the time constant. The solution to this differential equation is

T ( t )= T 0 exp ( t )

T 0=T f T i (4)
is the temperature difference between the system and the initial temperature of the
thermometer . Combining equations (1), (3) and (4) gives

T ( t )=T i+ T 0 1exp ( )]


We may tabulate the value of T (t) for multiples of . For example, if T = 10C, T
i f

= 90C, and = 5 seconds, then at time t = 5 = 15 seconds, the thermometer reading will be
[10 + 0.950 (90-10)]C = 86C.

Table 1. Thermometer reading versus multiple of the time constant.

Time Thermometer Reading
t T (t)

T i +0.632 T 0

2 T i +0.865 T 0

3 T i +0.950 T 0

4 T i +0.982 T 0

5 T i +0.993 T 0

Alcohol and mercury thermometers Pots (2)
Thermocouple and digital thermometer Stove
Timer Tap water
Time Constant - Heating:
In this section of the experiment, you will determine the time constant of various
thermometers as they are moved from a cold reservoir to a hot reservoir.

1. Fill one pot with hot water and the other with tap water.

2. Measure the temperature of the hot water (Tf) and of the tap water (Ti) using the alcohol

3. Move the thermometer from the tap water to the hot water. Note the thermometer reading
as a function of time.

4. Using the values in Table 1, determine the time constant for heating of the alcohol

5. Take multiple measurements. Do the same for the mercury thermometer and thermocouple.

Time Constant - Cooling:

In this section, you will determine the time constant of various thermometers as they
are moved from a hot reservoir to a cold reservoir. The experiment steps are the same as the
previous section, except that the temperature of the tap water becomes Tf and that of the hot
water becomes Ti.

Guide Questions:
1. Based on your observations, which among the thermal sensors generally provides the
fastest reading? Which is the slowest?

2. Precautions:
If the temperature of a system changes in time, how would you know which of the thermal
sensors may be used to measure the temperature of the system?
Use mittens when handling hot objects.
3. Do the temperature sensors have linear or nonlinear thermometric properties? Explain.
The operating ranges of the thermometers in this experiment are listed below. Note that
the values listed below are for short term measurement. Prolonged measurement at the
extreme temperatures will cause CATASTROPHIC equipment failure.

Thermometer Minimum Maximum

(C) (C)
Alcohol -110 +100
Mercury -38.5 +800
K-type Thermocouple -270 +1372

DO NOT attempt to measure the temperature of the heating coils using any thermometer.
The glass thermometers are VERY FRAGILE. Be very careful when handling glass
thermometers. Leave the glass thermometers on the table top when not in use.
In case of a mercury thermometer breakage, use a syringe or dropper to siphon the
mercury spill.