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After time, temperature is the variable most frequently measured.

The three most

common types of contact electronic temperature sensors in use today are thermocouples,
resistance temperature detectors (RTDs), and thermistors. This article will examine the
negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistor.

Photo 1. NTC thermistors are

manufactured in a variety of
sizes and configurations. The
chips in the center of the photo
can be used as surface mount
devices or attached to different
types of insulated or
uninsulated wire leads. The
thermistor element is usually
coated with a phenolic or
epoxy material that provides
protection from environmental
conditions. For applications
requiring sensing tip
dimensions with part-to-part
uniformity and/or smaller size,
the devices can be encapsulated
in PVC cups or polyimide

General Properties and Features

NTC thermistors offer many desirable features for temperature measurement and control
within their operating temperature range. Although the word thermistor is derived from
THERMally sensitive resISTOR, the NTC thermistor can be more accurately classified as
a ceramic semiconductor. The most prevalent types of thermistors are glass bead, disc,
and chip configurations (see Photo 1), and the following discussion focuses primarily on
those technologies.

Temperature Ranges and Resistance Values. NTC thermistors exhibit a decrease in

electrical resistance with increasing temperature. Depending on the materials and
methods of fabrication, they are generally used in the temperature range of -50°C to
150°C, and up to 300°C for some glass-encapsulated units. The resistance value of a
thermistor is typically referenced at 25°C (abbreviated as R25). For most applications, the
R25 values are between 100 and 100 k . Other R25 values as low as 10 and as high
as 40 M can be produced, and resistance values at temperature points other than 25°C
can be specified.

Accurate and Repeatable R/T Characteristic. The resistance vs. temperature (R/T)
characteristic (also known as R/T curve) of the NTC thermistor forms the "scale" that
allows its use as a temperature sensor. Although this characteristic is a nonlinear,
negative exponential function, several interpolation equations are available that very
accurately describe the R/T curve [1,2,3]. The most well known is the Steinhart-Hart
equation: 1/T = A + B(lnR) + C(lnR) 3

where: T = kelvin temperature R = resistance at temperature T

Coefficients A, B, and C are derived by calibrating at three temperature points and then
solving the three simultaneous equations. The uncertainty associated with the use of the
Steinhart-Hart equation is less than ±0.005°C for 50°C temperature spans within the 0°C-
260°C range, so using the appropriate interpolation equation or lookup table in
conjunction with a microprocessor can eliminate the potential nonlinearity problem.

Sensitivity to Changes in Temperature. The NTC thermistor's relatively large change in

resistance vs. temperature, typically on the order of -3%/°C to -6%/°C, provides an order
of magnitude greater sensitivity or signal response than other temperature sensors such as
thermocouples and RTDs. On the other hand, the less sensitive thermocouples and RTDs
are a good choice for applications requiring temperature spans >260°C and/or operating
temperatures beyond the limits for thermistors.

Figure 1. Over the range of -50°C to 150°C, NTC thermistors

offer a distinct advantage in sensitivity to temperature changes
compared to other temperature sensors. This graph illustrates the
R/T characteristics of some typical NTC thermistors and a platinum
Another important feature of the NTC thermistor is the degree of interchangeability that
can be offered at a relatively low cost, particularly for disc and chip devices.
Interchangeability describes the degree of accuracy or tolerance to which a thermistor is
specified and produced, and is normally expressed as a temperature tolerance over a
temperature range. For example, disc and chip thermistors are commonly specified to
tolerances of ±0.1°C and ±0.2°C over the temperature ranges of 0°C to 70°C and 0°C to
100°C. Interchangeability helps the systems manufacturer or thermistor user reduce labor
costs by not having to calibrate each instrument/system with each thermistor during
fabrication or while being used in the field. A health care professional, for instance, can
use a thermistor temperature probe on one patient, discard it, and connect a new probe of
the same specifications for use on another patient--without recalibration. The same holds
true for other applications requiring reusable probes.

Small Size.

The small dimensions of most bead, disc, and chip thermistors used for resistance
thermometry make for a very rapid response to temperature changes. This feature is
particularly useful for temperature monitoring and control systems requiring quick

Remote Temperature Sensing Capability.

Thermistors are well suited for sensing temperature at remote locations via long, two-
wire cable because the resistance of the long wires is insignificant compared to the
relatively high resistance of the thermistor.

Ruggedness, Stability, and Reliability.

As a result of improvements in technology, NTC bead, disc, and chip thermistor

configurations are typically more rugged and better able to handle mechanical and
thermal shock and vibration than other temperature sensors.

Materials and Configurations

Most NTC thermistors are made from various compositions of the metal oxides of
manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper, and/or iron. A thermistor's R/T characteristic and R25
value are determined by the particular formulation of oxides. Over the past 10 years,
better raw materials and advances in ceramics processing technology have contributed to
overall improvements in the reliability, interchangeability, and cost-effectiveness of

Of the thermistors shown in Figure 2, beads, discs, and chips are the most widely used for
precise temperature measurements. Although each configuration is produced by a unique
method, some general ceramics processing techniques apply to most thermistors:
formulation and preparation of the metal oxide powders; milling and blending with a
binder; forming into a "green" body; heat-treating to produce a ceramic material; addition
of electrical contacts (for discs and chips); and, for discrete components, assembly into a
usable device with wire leads and a protective coating.

Figure 2. A variety of manufacturing processes are used to make

NTC thermistors configured as beads (A), chips (B), discs (C), rods
(D), and washers (E).

Historical Note on the Thermistor

Michael Faraday (1791-1867), the British chemist and physicist, is

best known for his work in electromagnetic induction and
electrochemistry. Less familiar is his 1833 report on the
semiconducting behavior of Ag S (silver sulfide), which can be

considered the first recorded NTC thermistor [9].

Because the early thermistors were difficult to produce and
applications for the technology were limited, commercial
manufacture and use of thermistors did not begin until 100 years
later. During the early 1940s, Bell Telephone Laboratories
developed techniques to improve the consistency and repeatability
of the manufacturing process [10]. Some of the first commercial
thermistors were the disc type, and by today's standards, their
tolerances were quite broad. These devices were used primarily for
regulation, protection, and temperature compensation of electronic

In the 1950s and 1960s, the expanding aerospace industry's

requirement for more accurate and stable devices led to several
improvements in the materials used to manufacture glass bead and
disc thermistors. During the 1960s and 1970s, the demand for tight-
tolerance devices in high volumes at a lower cost led to the
development of the chip thermistor [11].

As the reliability of these devices improved during the 1980s, the

use of electronic thermometers in the health care industry increased.
The rising costs of sterilization and concerns about cross-infection
among patients led to the demand for low-cost disposable
temperature probes, for which chip thermistors were well suited.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the use of NTC thermistors has
continued to grow in the automotive, food processing, medical,
HVAC, and telecommunications markets.

Bead thermistors, which have lead wires that are embedded in the ceramic material, are
made by combining the metal oxide powders with a suitable binder to form a slurry. A
small amount of slurry is applied to a pair of platinum alloy wires held parallel in a
fixture. Several beads can be spaced evenly along the wires, depending on wire length.
After the beads have been dried, the strand is fired in a furnace at 1100°C-1400°C to
initiate sintering. During sintering, the ceramic body becomes denser as the metal oxide
particles bond together and shrink down around the platinum alloy leads to form an
intimate physical and electrical bond. After sintering, the wires are cut to create
individual devices. A glass coating is applied to provide strain relief to the lead-ceramic
interface and to give the device a protective hermetic seal for long-term stability. Typical
glass bead thermistors range from 0.01 in. to 0.06 in. (0.25 mm to 1.5 mm) in dia.

Disc thermistors are made by preparing the various metal oxide powders, blending them
with a suitable binder, and then compressing small amounts of the mixture in a die under
several tons of pressure. The discs are then fired at high temperatures to form solid
ceramic bodies. A thick film electrode material, typically silver, is applied to the opposite
sides of the disc to provide the contacts for the attachment of lead wires. A coating of
epoxy, phenolic, or glass is applied to each device to provide protection from mechanical
and environmental stresses. Typical uncoated disc sizes range from 0.05 in. to 0.10 in.
(1.3 mm to 2.5 mm) in dia.; coated disc thermistors generally measure 0.10 in. to 0.15 in.
(2.5 mm to 3.8 mm) in dia.

Chip thermistors are manufactured by tape casting, a more recent technique borrowed
from the ceramic chip capacitor and ceramic substrate industries. An oxide-binder slurry
similar to that used in making bead thermistors is poured into a fixture that allows a very
tightly controlled thickness of material to be cast onto a belt or movable carrier. The cast
material is allowed to dry into a flexible ceramic tape, which is cut into smaller sections
and sintered at high temperatures into wafers 0.01 in. to 0.03 in. (0.25 mm to 0.80 mm)
thick. After a thick film electrode material is applied, the wafers are diced into chips. The
chips can be used as surface mount devices or made into discrete units by attaching leads
and applying a protective coating of epoxy, phenolic, or glass. Typical chip sizes range
from 0.04 in. by 0.04 in. (1 mm by 1 mm) to 0.10 in. by 0.10 in. (2.5 mm by 2.5 mm) in
square or rectangular shapes. Coated chip thermistors commonly measure from 0.08 in.
to 0.10 in. (2.0 mm to 2.5 mm) in diameter. Very small coated chip thermistors 0.02 in. to
0.06 in. (0.5 mm to 1.5 mm) in dia. are available for applications requiring small size, fast
response, tight tolerance, and interchangeability.

Washer-shaped thermistors are essentially a variation of the disc type except for having a
hole in the middle, and are usually leadless for use as surface mount devices or as part of
an assembly. Rod-shaped thermistors are made by extruding a viscous oxide-binder
mixture through a die, heat-treating it to form a ceramic material, applying electrodes,
and attaching leads. Rod thermistors are used primarily for applications requiring very
high resistance and/or high power dissipation.

Photo 2. NTC thermistors can

be attached to extension leads or
jacketed cable and assembled
into various types of housings.
The optimum materials,
dimensions, and configuration
for a probe assembly are
determined by careful review of
the application requirements.

Comparison of Thermistor Configurations

One of the problems the thermistor industry has faced over the years is that some
manufacturers have claimed their particular style or configuration of thermistor is better
than other configurations made by their competitors, without regard to other, more
pertinent factors. These thermistor "politics," more harmful than beneficial to the
industry, can confuse engineers and purchasing agents who are looking for reliable
information to help them choose the appropriate product for their application. Although
some thermistor qualities or capabilities, including interchangeability, repeatability, size,
responsiveness, and stability, can either be enhanced or limited by style or geometry,
these characteristics are much more dependent on a manufacturer's ability to understand
the ceramics technology being used and to maintain control of the manufacturing process.

Glass-coated beads feature excellent long-term stability and reliability for operation at
temperatures up to 300°C. Studies at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) and other laboratories indicate that some special bead-in-glass probes have
measurement uncertainties and stabilities (better than ± 0.003°C for temperatures
between 0°C and 100°C) that approach those of some standard platinum resistance
thermometers [3,4,5]. The relatively small size of glass bead thermistors gives them a
quick response to temperature changes, but for some applications this small size can
make the devices hard to handle during assembly and have the effect of limiting their
power dissipation. It is also more difficult and more expensive to produce glass beads
with close tolerances and interchangeability. Individual calibration and R/T
characterization, resistor network padding, or use of matched pairs are among the
methods used to achieve interchangeability.

Chip and disc thermistors are noted for their tight tolerances and interchangeability at a
relatively low cost compared to bead thermistors. These qualities are inherent in the
manufacturing processes. The thermistors' larger size permits power dissipation higher
than that of beads, although at some expense of response times. Larger size can be a
disadvantage in some applications. Because of their geometry, disc thermistors normally
have larger coated diameters and higher power dissipation capabilities than chip
thermistors. On the other hand, chip thermistors typically can be produced to smaller
coated diameters and are better suited for applications requiring smaller size and faster
response times. More recent designs of chip thermistors allow the production of sizes and
response times approaching those of glass beads. In some cases, chip and disc thermistors
with equivalent physical and electrical characteristics can be used in the same
applications without any noticeable difference in performance.

Thermistors, thermocouples, RTDs, and other sensors and electronic components exhibit
a phenomenon called drift, a gradual, predictable change in certain properties over time.
For a thermistor, drift results in a change in resistance from its initial value, typically
after being continuously exposed to or cycled to an elevated temperature. Thermistor drift
is expressed as a percent change in resistance and/or as a change in temperature that
occurs at a given exposure temperature for a certain length of time. As the exposure
temperature increases, so do the drift and the drift rate [4,5,6].

Chip and disc thermistors with soldered leads and an epoxy or phenolic coating have
potential limitations in their maximum operating temperatures, typically 150° C for short-
term exposures (1-24 hours) and 105°C for long-term exposures (1-12 months). When
subjected to environmental conditions above their recommended maximum operating
temperatures, epoxy- or phenolic-coated chips and discs can begin to exhibit an
undesirable, excessive amount of drift. When such thermistors are used at temperatures
below the specified maximum operating temperatures, drift is minimal, on the order of
0.02°C to 0.15°C after 12 months of continuous exposure to temperatures between 25°C
and 100°C, respectively. Recent advances in the techniques used to manufacture chip and
disc thermistors with a glass coating have produced devices that combine the
interchangeability advantage of chips and discs with the stability of glass beads [5,6]. For
applications that require operating temperatures up to 200°C, these new devices offer a
lower cost alternative to the conventional glass bead thermistors.

These comparisons can help determine whether a thermistor supplier is objectively

evaluating an application in terms of the appropriate thermistor, or simply promoting the
configuration it manufactures. For an example of the latter approach, see [7], where a
manufacturer of disc thermistors stated that "Loose-tolerance thermistors are usually
mass-produced by tape casting," and that "These devices . . . are designed for applications
requiring neither interchangeability nor a high degree of accuracy," implying that all chip
thermistors are loose tolerance. On the contrary, millions of precision chip thermistors
with superior long-term stability are produced annually to an interchangeable tolerance of
±0.1°C, and they are available with an interchangeability of ±0.05°C. In reality, broad-
tolerance and tight-tolerance thermistors are available in each of the three major
thermistor configurations discussed above.

After determining the appropriate specifications, the engineer and purchasing agent need
to evaluate which configuration and supplier will best meet the requirements for process
control, quality, on-time delivery, and value at a reasonable price. An important part of
the evaluation process is to perform some basic tests on the design and quality of the
thermistor and, wherever possible, include simulation of the actual environmental
conditions of the intended application. To achieve optimum performance, thermistors are
usually mounted into protective housings or probe assemblies (see Photo 2). For
additional information on sensor assembly design, see [8]. An informed decision can then
be made as to which product and supplier will provide the best value for the application
requirement. Part II of this article will examine the ways to perform these tests.

The full five-part article on Negative Temperature Coefficient Thermistors can be

found at the Sensors Magazine web site..


1. J.S. Steinhart and S.R. Hart. 1968. "Calibration Curves for

Thermistors," Deep Sea Research 15:497.

2. M. Sapoff et al. 1982. "The Exactness of Fit of Resistance-

Temperature Data of Thermistors with Third-Degree Polynomials,"
Temperature, Its Measurement and Control in Science and Industry,
Vol. 5, James F. Schooley, ed., American Institute of Physics, New
York, NY:875.

3. W.R. Siwek et al. 1992. "A Precision Temperature Standard

Based on the Exactness of Fit of Thermistor Resistance-Temperature
Data Using Third Degree Polynomials," Temperature, Its
Measurement and Control in Science and Industry, Vol. 6, James F.
Schooley, ed., American Institute of Physics, New York, NY:491.

4. S.D. Wood et al. 1978. "An Investigation of the Stability of

Thermistors," J Res of the Nat Bur of Stds:83, 247.

5. W.R. Siwek et al. 1992. "Stability of NTC Thermistors,"

Temperature, Its Measurements and Control in Science and Industry,
Vol. 6, James F. Schooley, ed., American Institute of Physics, New
York, NY:497.

6. J.A. Wise. 1992. "Stability of Glass-Encapsulated Disc-Type

Thermistors," Temperature, Its Measurement and Control in Science
and Industry, Vol. 6, James F. Schooley, ed., American Institute of
Physics, New York, NY:481.

7. C. Faller and F. Arment. Jun. 1996. "NTC Thermistor Update,"


8. D. McGillicuddy. Dec. 1993. "NTC Thermistor Basics and

Principles of Operation," Sensors:42.

9. D. Hill and H. Tuller. 1991. "Ceramic Sensors: Theory and

Practice," Ceramic Materials for Electronics, R. Buchanan, ed.,
Marcel Dekker, Inc., New York, NY:272.

10. U.S. Patent No. 2,258,646, 14 Oct. 1941.

11. R.L. Winter, former chairman and CEO, Western Thermistor

Corp., private communication. Jul. 1996.

Gregg Lavenuta is President, Cornerstone Sensors, Inc., 1304 N. Melrose Dr., Ste. C,
Vista, CA 92083; 760-732-0111, fax 760-732-0163.
We invite you to browse our catalog and
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Reprinted with permission from Cornerstone Sensors, Inc. and Sensors Magazine
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NTC Engineering Notes

A negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistor is a two terminal solid state electronic component that
exhibits a large, predictable change in resistance corresponding to changes in absolute body temperature.
This change in body temperature of the thermistor can be brought about either externally via a change in
ambient temperature or internally by heat resulting from current passing through the device or by a
combination of these effects.

NTC thermistors are manufactured using metallic oxides of manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper, iron and
other metals. They are fabricated using a mixture of two or more metallic oxides and a binder material and
are then pressed into the desired configuration. The resulting material is then sintered at elevated
temperatures. By varying the types of oxides, the sintering time and temperature as well as the atmosphere,
a wide variety of curves and resistance values can be manufactured.

Thermistor Terminology

Thermistors exhibit a large negative change in resistance with respect to temperature, on the order of -3%/C
to -6%/ºC at 25ºC. This relationship between resistance and temperature follows an approximately
exponential-type curve as shown below. A few parameters will help to describe the curve and how it
changes over temperature.

Figure 20: Resistance vs Temperature Graph

Resistance at 25ºC (R25)

The most common temperature used to measure the thermistor resistance and the one temperature that is
most often used to reference the resistance value of the thermistor is 25ºC. For NTC thermistors, this value
can vary from less than 100Ω to greater than 1MegΩ . The value at 25ºC is normally measured in a
temperature controlled bath where very low power is used to measure the resistance value. When a
resistance value for a thermistor is mentioned, it is the value at 25ºC that is usually being used.

Temperature Coefficient of Resistance (α )

One way to describe the curve of an NTC thermistor is to measure the slope of the resistance versus
temperature (R/T) curve at one temperature. By definition, the coefficient of resistance is given by:

• T = Temperature in ºC or K
• R = Resistance at Temp T

The temperature coefficient is expressed in ohms/ohms/ºC or more commonly %/ºC.

As can be seen from Figure 20, the steepest portion of the NTC curve is at colder temperatures. Depending
upon the type of NTC material, the temperature coefficient at -40ºC can be as high as -8%/ºC. The flattest
portion of the curve occurs at higher temperatures where, at temperatures of 300ºC, a can be less than

The temperature coefficient is one method that can be used to compare the relative steepness of NTC
curves. It is important that the temperature coefficient be compared at the same temperature because, as
was noted previously, a varies widely over the operating temperature range.

Resistance Ratio (Slope)

The resistance ratio, or slope, for thermistors is defined as the ratio of resistance at one temperature to the
resistance at a second higher temperature. The resistance ratio is one method of describing the NTC curve.
It is sometime used to compare the relative steepness of two curves. There is no industry standard for the
two temperatures that are used to calculate the ratio, although some common temperature ranges are:

The value obtained by taking the resistance ratio at different temperatures will vary greatly depending upon
the temperatures used. Therefore, resistance ratios cannot be used to compare thermistor curves unless the
same temperature ranges are used. For example, for ATP Curve “Z”, the following ratios are obtained:

Beta value (β )

A simple approximation for the relationship between the resistance and temperature for a NTC thermistor is
to use an exponential approximation between the two. This approximation is based on simple curve fitting to
experimental data and uses two points on a curve to determine the value of β . The equation relating
resistance to temperature using β is:

β /T)
R = Ae(


R = thermistor resistance at temp T

A = constant of equation
β = Beta, the material constant
T = Thermistor temperature (K)

To calculate Beta for any given temperature range, the following formula applies:

β can be used to compare the relative steepness of NTC thermistor curves. However, as with resistance
ratios, the value of β will vary depending upon the temperatures used to calculate the value, although not to
the extent that resistance ratio does. For example, to calculate β for the temperature range of 0ºC to 50ºC
for ATP curve “Z”:

T1 = 0ºC + 273.15ºC = 273.15K

T2 = 50ºC + 273.15ºC = 323.15K
R1 = 3.265
R2= 0.3601

This value of β would be referenced as β 0ºC/50ºC . Using other temperatures to calculate b for curve “Z” would
yield the following results:

β 25ºC/50ºC = 3936K
β 25ºC/85ºC = 3976K

As you can see, it is important to know what temperatures were used to calculate the value of β before it is
used to compare thermistor curves. b can be used to calculate the resistance of the curve at other
temperatures within the range that b was calculated once the constant A is determined. However, the
accuracy of this equation is only approximately ±0.5ºC over a 50ºC span.

Steinhart-Hart Thermistor equation

The Steinhart-Hart equation is an emperically derived polynomial formula which best represents the
resistance versus temperature relationship of NTC thermistors. The Steinhart-Hart equation is the best
method used to describe the RvT relationship and is accurate over a much wider range of temperature than
is β . To solve for temperature when resistance is known, yields the following form of the equation:

1/T = a + b(LnR) + c(LnR)3


T = temperature in Kelvins (K = ºC + 273.15)

a, b and c are equation constants
R = resistance in Ω at temp T

To solve for resistance when the temperature is known, the form of the equation is:

The a, b and c constants can be calculated for either a thermistor material or for individual values of
thermistors within a material type. To solve for the constants, three sets of data must be used. Normally, for
a temperature range, values at the low end, middle and high end are used to calculate the constants. This
will ensure the best fit for the equation over the range. Using the Steinhart-Hart equation allows for an
accuracy as good as ±0.001ºC over a 100ºC temperature span. See the Steinhart-Hart Equation Constants
for ATP Thermistor Chart for values of the constants. Print outs that contain resistance versus temperature
data for individual parts are available by contacting ATP.

Thermistor tolerance and temperature accuracy

There are two factors to consider when discussing thermistors and their ability to measure temperature. The
first is resistance tolerance and this is defined as the amount of resistance that any part will vary from its
nominal value. The tolerance on the resistance at any temperature is the sum of:

a) the closest tolerance at any specified temperature

b) the additional tolerance due to deviation from the nominal curve for the material

In any application where the thermistor is to be used to measure temperature it is more appropriate to
discuss the temperature accuracy for the device. The accuracy can be calculated if the resistance tolerance
and α are known.

There are two generally accepted methods of describing the tolerance or accuracy of a thermistor. The first
is point matched. This describes a thermistor that has its tightest resistance tolerance at one temperature,
the reference temperature, which is normally 25ºC. At temperatures below and above the reference
temperature the resistance tolerance will become larger due to the uncertainty in the material curve. The
other type of thermistor tolerance is known as curve matched or interchangeable. These thermistors are
normally defined to have a certain accuracy over a range, typically ±0.2ºC from 0ºC to 70ºC.

A simple equation is used to describe the relationship between resistance tolerance and temperature
accuracy. When one is known the other can be calculated.

For example, for ATP part number A1004Z-2, the resistance tolerance is ±2% @ 25ºC. Looking at the data
for curve “Z” shows that the a at 25ºC is 4.4 %/ºC. Therefore, the accuracy at 25ºC can be calculated to be
(±2% / 4.4%/ºC) = ±0.45ºC.

Similarly, for ATP part number A1004Z-C3, the temperature accuracy is expressed as ±0.2ºC from 0ºC to
70ºC. To calculate the resistance tolerance at 25ºC divide the temperature accuracy at the temperature by
the a at that temperature. For 25ºC, the resistance tolerance would be (±0.2ºC * 4.4%/ºC) = ±0.88%.

In the data section for NTC thermistors, ATP also provides the curve deviation for parts that are point
matched at 25ºC. Using this information and the value of α , allows for the temperature accuracy to be
calculated at any temperature. For example for curve “Z” at 50ºC for ATP part number A1004Z-2, the
resistance tolerance at 25ºC is ±2%. The deviation due to the curve uncertainty is listed as ±1.2%.
Therefore, the total resistance tolerance would be:

(±2%) + (±1.2%) = ± 3.2% @ 50ºC

The α at 50ºC for this material is listed as -3.8%/ºC. Therefore, to calculate the temperature accuracy at
50ºC for A1004Z-2:

(±3.2%) / (-3.8%/ºC) = ±0.84ºC

The a at 50ºC for this material is listed as -3.8%/ºC. An example of how the accuracy of a thermistor
changes with respect to temperature can be seen in the following graph.

Figure 21: Typical Temperature Tolerance of NTC Thermistors

(Point Matched vs Interchangeable

NTC Thermistor self-heated parameters

Self-heating occurs in a thermistor when current passing through the device is such that the internal heat
generated is sufficient to raise the thermistor body temperature above that of its environment. For
temperature sensing applications, it is not desirable to self-heat the thermistor to any extent. Other NTC
thermistor applications utilize the self heated characteristics inherent to the parts. The ability of a thermistor
to dissipate power is a function of the size of the part, its geometry, lead material and size, method of
mounting and any other factor that would contribute to the ability of the part to dissipate heat.

Dissipation Factor (δ )

The dissipation factor, δ , defines the relationship between the applied wattage and the thermistor self
heating in terms of temperature rise. This relationship is defined as follows:


P = power dissipated in watts

∆ T = the rise in temperature (ºC

The dissipation factor (δ ) is expressed in units of mW/ºC. A particular value of δ will correspond to the
amount of power necessary to raise the body temperature of the thermistor by 1ºC. Because the dissipation
factor, δ , is dependent upon a number of factors, the values listed in the data sheets are for reference only.

Time constant (τ )
The thermal time constant for a thermistor is defined as the time required for a thermistor to change 63.2%
of the difference between the initial temperature of the thermistor and that of its surroundings when no power
is being dissipated by the thermistor. The value of τ defines a response time for the thermistor when it has
been subjected to a step change in temperature. For example, a thermistor that has been in an ambient
temperature of 25ºC for a period of time long enough for it to reach equilibrium, is then moved to an
environment where the temperature is 75ºC. The thermistor will not immediately indicate a resistance
corresponding to the new temperature but rather will exponentially approach the new resistance value. For
measurement purposes, the resistance value that corresponds to the temperature for τ will correspond to
63.2% of the temperature span, i.e.

Tτ = 0.632 (70-25) = 31.6 + 25 = 56.6ºC

Therefore the temperature that the part must reach is 56.6ºC. The resistance of the part at that temperature
can be calculated using the Steinhart-Hart equation or an approximation can be used. For example for ATP
part number A1004Z-C3, using the equation, the value at 56.6ºC should be 2814Ω . Therefore, to find the
value for τ , we would monitor the resistance value of the part using a multimeter or similar instrument. The
part should start at 25ºC where the resistance should be 10,000Ω . The time that the part takes to reach
2814Ω once the part is moved to the new temperature of 75ºC will correspond the value of τ and will have
the units of seconds. The factors that affect τ are similar to those that affect δ and include the mass of the
thermistor, mounting, environment and other factors.
Temperature Sensor - The Thermistor
You are at: Elements - Sensors - Thermistors
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Thermistors are inexpensive, easily-obtainable temperature sensors.

They are easy to use and adaptable. Circuits with thermistors can have
reasonable outout voltages - not the millivolt outputs thermocouples have.
Because of these qualities, thermistors are widely used for simple
temperature measurements. They're not used for high temperatures, but in
the temperature ranges where they work they are widely used.

Thermistors are temperature sensitive resistors. All resistors vary

with temperature, but thermistors are constructed of semiconductor
material with a resistivity that is especially sensitive to temperature.
However, unlike most other resistive devices, the resistance of a thermistor
decreases with increasing temperature. That's due to the properties of the
semiconductor material that the thermistor is made from. For some, that
may be counterintuitive, but it is correct. Here is a graph of resistance as a
function of temperature for a typical thermistor. Notice how the resistance
drops from 100 kΩ , to a very small value in a range around room
temperature. Not only is the resistance change in the opposite direction
from what you expect, but the magnitude of the percentage resistance
change is substantial.
In this lesson you will examine some of the characteristics of
thermistors and the circuits they are used in.

• Why Use Thermistors To Measure Temperature?

o They are inexpensive, rugged and reliable.
o They respond quickly

• What Does A Thermistor Look Like?

o Here it is.

• What Does A Thermistor Do?

o A Thermistor is a temperature dependent resistor. When
temperature changes, the resistance of the thermistor changes
in a predictable way.

• How Does A Thermistor's Resistance Depend Upon Temperature?

o The Steinhart-Hart equation gives the reciprocal of absolute
temperature as a function of the resistance of a thermistor.
o Using the Steinhardt-Hart equation, you can calculate the
temperature of the thermistor from the measured resistance.
o The Steinhardt-Hart equation is:

1/T = A + B*ln(R) + C*(ln(R))3 R in Ω , T in oK

o The constants, A, B and C can be determined from experimental

measurements of resistance, or they can be calculated from
tabular data.

Here are some data points for a typical thermistor from "The
Temperature Handbook" (Omega Engineering, Inc., 1989). (By the way, when
you refer to this thermistor, you would say it has 5kΩ at room

T (oC) R (Ω )
0 16,330
25 5000
50 1801

Using these values, we can get three equations in A, B and C.

(1/273) = A + B ln(16330) + C (ln(16330))3

(1/298) = A + B ln(5000) + C (ln(5000))3

(1/323) = A + B ln(1801) + C (ln(1801))3

This set of simultaneous linear equations can be solved for A, B and C.

Here are the values computed for A, B and C.
A = 0.001284
B = 2.364x 10-4
C = 9.304x 10-8

Using these values you can compute the reciprocal, and therefore the
temperature, from a resistance measurement.

Using these values for A, B and C we obtain a plot of resistance vs. Kelvin

Getting the temperature from resistance

If you have a resistance value - and that is what you will measure
electrically - you then need to solve for the temperature. Use the
reciprocal of the equation above, and you will get:

T = 1/[A + B*ln(R) + C*(ln(R))3] R in Ω , T in oK

However, if the thermistor is embedded in a circuit - like a voltage divider,

for example - then you will have to measure electrical quantities - usually
voltage - and work back from that electrical measurement.

There will be situations where you need to measure a higher

temperature than a thermistor can work in. Or you may need more precision
than a thermistor can give. Consider a thermocouple or and integrated
circuit sensor like the LM35.
How Do You Use A Thermistor?

Thermistors are most commonly used in bridge circuits like the one
below. Bridge circuits are discussed in more detail in the lesson on bridge

In this bridge circuit, three resistors are constant, Ra, Rb, and Rc, while the
resistive sensor, Rs, varies depending upon some physical variable - like
temperature, light level, etc. That's where the thermistor can be used.

The thermistor can be placed anywhere in the bridge with three

constant resistors, but different placements can produce different behavior
in the bridge. For example, different placements might cause the output
voltage to go in different directions as the temperature changes.

Links to Related Lessons

• Temperature Sensors
o Thermistors
o Thermocouples
o LM35s
• Other Sensors
o Strain Gages
o Temperature
• Sensor Laboratories
The same year that Seebeck made his discovery
about thermoelectricity, Sir Humphrey Davy
announced that the resistivity of metals showed a
marked temperature dependence. Fifty years later,
Sir William Siemens proffered the use of platinum
as the element in a resistance thermometer. His
choice proved most propitious, as platinum is used
to this day as the primary element in all high-
accuracy resistance thermometers. In fact, the
Platinum Resistance Temperature Detector, or
PRTD, is used today as an interpolation standard from the oxygen point (-182.96°C) to the
antimony point (630.74°C).

Platinum is especially suited to this purpose, as it can withstand high temperatures while
maintaining excellent stability. As a noble metal, it shows limited susceptibility to contamination.

The classical resistance temperature detector (RTD) construction using platinum was proposed
by C.H. Meyers in 1932. He wound a helical coil of platinum on a crossed mica web and mounted
the assembly inside a glass tube. This construction minimized strain on the wire while maximizing

Although this construction produces a very stable element, the thermal contact between the
platinum and the measured point is quite poor. This results in a slow thermal response time. The
fragility of the structure limits its use today primarily to that of a laboratory standard.

Another laboratory standard has taken the place of Meyers’ design. This is the bird-cageelement
proposed by Evans and Burns. The platinum element remains largely unsupported, which allows
it to move freely when expanded or contracted by temperature variations.

Strain-induced resistance changes over time and temperature are thus minimized, and the bird-
cage becomes the ultimate laboratory standard. Due to the unsupported structure and
subsequent susceptibility to vibration, this configuration is still a bit too fragile for industrial

A more rugged construction technique is shown in Figure 37. The platinum wire is bifilar wound
on a glass or ceramic bobbin. The bifilar winding reduces the effective enclosed area of the coil to
minimize magnetic pickup and its related noise. Once the wire is wound onto the bobbin, the
assembly is then sealed with a coating of molten glass. The sealing process assures that the
RTD will maintain its integrity under extreme vibration, but it also limits the expansion of the
platinum metal at high temperatures. Unless the coefficients of expansion of the platinum and the
bobbin match perfectly, stress will be placed on the wire as the temperature changes, resulting in
a strain-induced resistance change. This may result in a permanent change in the resistance of
the wire.

There are partially supported versions of the RTD which offer a compromise between the bird-
cage approach and the sealed helix. One such approach uses a platinum helix threaded through
a ceramic cylinder and affixed via glass-frit. These devices will maintain excellent stability in
moderately rugged vibrational applications.
TYPICAL RTD’s (FIgures 36 and 37)

Metal Film RTD’s

In the newest construction technique, a platinum or metal-glass slurry film is deposited or
screened onto a small flat ceramic substrate, etched with a lasertrimming system, and sealed.
The film RTD offers substantial reduction in assembly time and has the further advantage of
increased resistance for a given size. Due to the manufacturing technology, the device size itself
is small, which means it can respond quickly to step changes in temperature. Film RTD’s are
presently less stable than their hand-made counterparts, but they are becoming more popular
because of their decided advantages in size and production cost. These advantages should
provide the impetus for future research needed to improve stability.

Metals - All metals produce a positive change in resistance for a positive change in temperature.
This, of course, is the main function of an RTD. As we shall soon see, system error is minimized
when the nominal value of the RTD resistance is large. This implies a metal wire with a high
resistivity. The lower the resistivity of the metal, the more material we will have to use.

Table 6 lists the resistivities of common RTD materials.

(cmf = circular mil foot)

Gold Au 13.00
Silver Ag 8.8
Copper Cu 9.26
Platinum Pt 59.00
Tungsten w 30.00

Table 6

Because of their lower resistivities, gold and silver are rarely used as RTD elements. Tungsten
has a relatively high resistivity, but is reserved for very high temperature applications because it is
extremely brittle and difficult to work.

Copper is used occasionally as an RTD element. Its low resistivity forces the element to be longer
than a platinum element, but its linearity and very low cost make it an economical alternative. Its
upper temperature limit is only about 120ºC.

The most common RTD’s are made of either platinum, nickel, or nickel alloys. The economical
nickel derivative wires are used over a limited temperature range. They are quite non-linear and
tend to drift with time. For measurement integrity, platinum is the obvious choice.

Resistance Measurement
The common values of resistance for a platinum RTD range from 10 ohms for the bird-cage model
to several thousand ohms for the film RTD. The single most common value is 100 ohms at 0ºC.
The DIN 43760 standard temperature coefficient of platinum wire is α = .00385. For a 100 ohm
wire, this corresponds to + 0.385 ohms/ºC at 0ºC. This value for α is actually the average slope
from 0ºC to 100ºC. The more chemically pure platinum wire used in platinum resistance standards
has an α of +.00392 ohms/ohm/ºC.

Both the slope and the absolute value are small numbers, especially when we consider the fact
that the measurement wires leading to the sensor may be several ohms or even tens of ohms. A
small lead impedance can contribute a significant error to our temperature measurement.

A ten ohm lead impedance implies 10/.385 ≈ 26ºC error in measurement. Even the temperature
coefficient of the lead wire can contribute a measurable error. The classical method of avoiding
this problem has been the use of a bridge.
The bridge output voltage is an indirect indication of the RTD resistance. The bridge requires four
connection wires, an external source, and three resistors that have a zero temperature coefficient.
To avoid subjecting the three bridge-completion resistors to the same temperature as the RTD,
the RTD is separated from the bridge by a pair of extension wires:

These extension wires recreate the problem that we had initially: The impedance of the extension
wires affects the temperature reading. This effect can be minimized by using a three-wire bridge

If wires A and B are perfectly matched in length, their impedance effects will cancel because each
is in an opposite leg of the bridge. The third wire, C, acts as a sense lead and carries no current.

The Wheatstone bridge shown in Figure 41 creates a non-linear relationship between resistance
change and bridge output voltage change. This compounds the already non-linear temperature-
resistance characteristic of the RTD by requiring an additional equation to convert bridge output
voltage to equivalent RTD impedance.

4-Wire Ohms - The technique of using a current source along with a remotely sensed digital
voltmeter alleviates many problems associated with the bridge.

The output voltage read by the dvm is directly portional to RTD resistance, so only one conversion
equation is necessary. The three bridge-completion resistors are replaced by one reference
resistor. The digital voltmeter measures only the voltage dropped across the RTD and is
insensitive to the length of the lead wires.

The one disadvantage of using 4-wire ohms is that we need one more extension wire than the 3-
wire bridge. This is a small price to pay if we are at all concerned with the accuracy of the
temperature measurement.

3-Wire Bridge Measurement Errors

If we know VS and VO, we can find Rg and then solve for temperature. The unbalance voltage Vo of
a bridge built with R1 = R2 is:

If Rg = R3, VO= 0 and the bridge is balanced. This can be done manually, but if we don’t want to do
a manual bridge balance, we can just solve for Rg in terms of VO:
This expression assumes the lead resistance is zero. If Rg is located some distance from the
bridge in a 3-wire configuration, the lead resistance RL will appear in series with both Rg and R3:

Again we solve for Rg:

The error term will be small if Vo is small, i.e., the bridge is close to balance. This circuit works well
with devices like strain gauges, which change resistance value by only a few percent, but an RTD
changes resistance dramatically with temperature. Assume the RTD resistance is 200 ohms and
the bridge is designed for 100 ohms:

Since we don’t know the value of RL, we must use equation (a), so we get:

The correct answer is of course 200 ohms. That’s a temperature error of about 2.5ºC.

Unless you can actually measure the resistance of RL or balance the bridge, the basic 3-wire
technique is not an accurate method for measuring absolute temperature with an RTD. A better
approach is to use a 4-wire technique.

Resistance to Temperature Conversion

The RTD is a more linear device than the thermocouple, but it still requires curve-fitting. The
Callendar-Van Dusen equation has been used for years to approximate the RTD curve:


RT = Resistance at Temperature T
Ro = Resistance at T = 0ºC
Temperature coefficient at T = 0ºC ((typically
α =
δ = 1.49 (typical value for .00392 platinum)
β =0 T>0
0. 11 (typical) T < 0

The exact values for coefficients α , β, and δ are determined by testing the RTD at four
temperatures and solving the resultant equations. This familiar equation was replaced in 1968 by
a 20th order polynomial in order to provide a more accurate curve fit. The plot of this equation
shows the RTD to be a more linear device than the thermocouple.

© MXV MMV | 72


A resistance temperature detector (RTD) is a temperature sensor that senses temperature by means
of changes in the magnitude of current through, or voltage across, an element whose electrical
resistance varies with temperature. These types of sensors provide a change in resistance
proportional to a change in temperature. Resistance temperature detectors have been used for
making accurate temperature measurements. They utilize a resistance element whose resistance
changes with the ambient temperature in a precise and known manner. The resistance temperature
detector may be connected in a bridge circuit which drives a display calibrated to show the
temperature of the resistance element. Most metals become more resistant to the passage of an
electrical current as the metal increases in temperature. The increase in resistance is generally
proportional to the rise in temperature. Thus, a constant current passed through a metal of varying
resistance produces a variation in voltage that is proportional to the temperature change. Platinum
is the most commonly used metal for RTDs due to its stability and nearly linear temperature versus
resistance relationship. Platinum also has the advantages of chemical inertness, a temperature
coefficient of resistance that is suitably large in order to provide readily measurable resistance
changes with temperature, and a resistance which does not drastically change with strain. Other
types of RTDs include copper, nickel and nickel alloys. Resistance temperature detectors are usually
fabricated by winding a fine diameter wire on a bobbin or mandrel which is made of a ceramic
material such as aluminum oxide. Then, the wire-wound bobbin is coated with an cement-like
insulating material and is installed in a protective tube.

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Related products

• Thermocouple
• Heat detector
• Temperature controller
• Temperature probe
• Temperature sensor
• Temperature transmitter
• Thermistor sensor


Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs)


• Excellent long-term stability

• -60ºC to 250ºC operation for Nickel
• -200ºC to 600ºC operation for Platinum
• Values from 100Ω to 1,000Ω
• Small size, fast response time
• Resistant to vibration and thermal shock

• Available in standard DIN class accuracies


Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTDs) are characterized by a linear

change in resistance with respect to temperature. RTDs exhibit the most
linear signal with respect to temperature of any sensing device. RTDs are
specified primarily where accuracy and stability are critical to the
application. RTDs operate through the principal of electrical resistance
changes in pure metal elements. Spectrum Sensors & Controls offers
elements manufactured with platinum, the most common element, as well
as nickel. The RTD element consists of a thin film of platinum or nickel
which is deposited onto a ceramic substrate and laser trimmed to the
desired resistance. Thin-film elements attain higher resistances with less
metal and, thus, tend to be loss costly then the equivalent wire-wound

[ Resistance Temperature Detectors Datasheet (394K) ]

[ Create a Custom RTD Solution ]

[ Click

RTD Product Information

Part RTD Type R@0ºC DIN Cla
Number The table below compares some of the (Ω)
different types of base metals that are Temperature Class A Class B
used in the construction of RTD elements. (ºC) Limit Limit
-200 ±0.55ºC ±1.3ºC
∝ 1
Element Temperatur -100 ±0.35ºC ±0.8ºC
Benefits (%/ºC
Material e Range
) 0 ±0.15ºC ±0.3ºC D
Platinum -200ºC to Best 0.375 100 ±0.35ºC ±0.8ºC 4
Thin- 800ºC range to 200 ±0.55ºC ±1.3ºC 2
film Best 0.385
stability 300 ±0.75ºC ±1.8ºC
400 ±0.95ºC ±2.3ºC
500 ±1.15ºC ±2.8ºC
Nickel Lost cost
-100ºC to 600 ±1.35ºC ±3.3ºC
Thin- Best 0.618
film sensitivity 350 ±1.45ºC ±3.6ºC
Low cost 0.518
-100ºC to
Balco High to
sensitivity 0.527
Note: ∝ is normally used to distinguish between RvT
curves of the same element or those of different material.

RP102T22 Platinum 100 A, B

RP502T22 Platinum 500 A, B
RP103T22 Platinum 1,000 A, B
Nickel 100 1/2 DIN, DIN
Nickel 500 1/2 DIN, DIN
Nickel 1,000 1/2 DIN, DIN
Research Paper

RTD characteristics for micro-thermal sensors

, a,
Gwiy-Sang Chung and Chael-Han Kima
School of Electrical Engineering, University of Ulsan, San 29, Mugeodong, Namgu, Ulsan 680-749,
Republic of Korea
Received 9 January 2008;
accepted 25 February 2008.
Available online 15 April 2008.

The physical and electrical characteristics of MgO (medium layer) and Pt (sensor material) thin films
deposited by a reactive RF sputtering method and a magnetron sputtering method, respectively, were
analyzed as a function of the annealing temperature and time by using a four-point probe, SEM, and XRD.
After being annealed at 1000 °C for 2 h, the MgO layer showed good adhesive properties on both layers (Pt
and SiO2 layers) without any chemical reactions, and the surface resistivity and the resistivity of the Pt thin
film were 0.1288 Ω/□ and 12.88 μΩ cm, respectively. Pt resistance patterns were made on MgO/SiO2/Si
substrates by the lift-off method, and Pt resistance thermometer devices (RTDs) for micro-thermal sensor
applications were fabricated by using Pt-wire, Pt-paste, and spin-on-glass (SOG). From the Pt RTD samples
having a Pt thin film thickness of 1.0 μm, we obtained a temperature coefficient of resistor (TCR) value of
3927 ppm/°C, which is close to the Pt bulk value, and the ratio variation of the resistance value was highly
linear in the temperature range of 25–400 °C.

Keywords: Pt-RTD; Thermal sensor; MgO; TCR

Resistance Elements and RTD’s
David J. King
( Printable Version )

Resistance elements come in many types conforming to different standards, capable of different
temperature ranges, with various sizes and accuracies available. But they all function in the same
manner: each has a pre-specified resistance value at a known temperature which changes in a
predictable fashion. In this way, by measuring the resistance of the element, the temperature of
the element can be determined from tables, calculations or instrumentation. These resistance
elements are the heart of the RTD (Resistance Temperature Detector). Generally, a bare
resistance element is too fragile and sensitive to be used in its raw form, so it must be protected
by incorporating it into an RTD.

Resistance Temperature Detector is a general term for any device that senses temperature by
measuring the change in resistance of a material. RTD’s come in many forms, but usually appear
in sheathed form. An RTD probe is an assembly composed of a resistance element, a sheath,
lead wire and a termination or connection. The sheath, a closed end tube, immobilizes the
element, protecting it against moisture and the environment to be measured. The sheath also
provides protection and stability to the transition lead wires from the fragile element wires.

Some RTD probes can be combined with thermowells for additional protection. In this type of
application, the thermowell may not only add protection to the RTD, but will also seal whatever
system the RTD is to measure (a tank or boiler for instance) from actual contact with the RTD.
This becomes a great aid in replacing the RTD without draining the vessel or system.

Thermocouples are the old tried and true method of electrical temperature measurement. They
function very differently from RTD’s but generally appear in the same configuration: often
sheathed and possibly in a thermowell. Basically, they operate on the Seebeck effect, which
results in a change in thermoelectric emf induced by a change in temperature. Many applications
lend themselves to either RTD’s or thermocouples. Thermocouples tend to be more rugged, free
of self-heating errors and they command a large assortment of instrumentation. However, RTD’s,
especially platinum RTD’s, are more stable and accurate.


There are several very important details that must be specified in order to properly identify the
characteristics of the RTD:

1. Material of Resistance Element (Platinum, Nickel, etc.)

2. Temperature Coefficient
3. Nominal Resistance
4. Temperature Range of Application
5. Physical Dimensions or Size Restrictions
6. Accuracy

1. Material of Resistance Element

Several metals are quite common for use in resistance elements and the purity of the metal
affects its characteristics. Platinum is by far the most popular due to its linearity with temperature.
Other common materials are nickel and copper, although most of these are being replaced by
platinum elements. Other metals used, though rarely, are Balco (an iron-nickel alloy), tungsten
and iridium.

2.Temperature Coefficient
The temperature coefficient of an element is a physical and electrical property of the material. This
is a term that describes the average resistance change per unit of temperature from ice point to
the boiling point of water. Different organizations have adopted different temperature coefficients
as their standard. In 1983, the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) adopted the DIN
(Deutsche Institute for Normung) standard of Platinum 100 ohm at 0ºC with a temperature
coefficient of 0.00385 ohms per ohm degree centigrade. This is now the accepted standard of the
industry in most countries, although other units are widely used. A quick explanation of how the
coefficient is derived is as follows: Resistance at the boiling point (100ºC) =138.50 ohms.
Resistance at ice point (0ºC) = 100.00 ohms. Divide the difference (38.5) by 100 degrees and then
divide by the 100 ohm nominal value of the element. The result is the mean temperature
coefficient (alpha) of 0.00385 ohms per ohm per ºC.

Some of the less common materials and temperature coefficients are:

Pt TC = .003902 (U.S. Industrial Standard)

Pt TC = .003920 (Old U.S. Standard)
Pt TC = .003923 (SAMA)
Pt TC = .003916 (JIS)
Copper TC = .0042
Nickel TC = 0.00617 (DIN)
.00672 (Growing Less Common in
Nickel TC =
Balco TC = .0052
= 0.0045

Please note that the temperature coefficients are the average values between 0 and 100ºC. This
is not to say that the resistance vs. temperature curves are truly linear over the specified
temperature range.
3. Nominal Resistance
Nominal Resistance is the prespecified resistance value at a given
temperature. Most standards, including IEC-751, use 0ºC as their
reference point. The IEC standard is 100 ohms at 0ºC, but other
nominal resistances, such as 50, 200, 400, 500, 1000 and 2000 ohm,
are available.

4.Temperature Range of Application

Depending on the mechanical configuration and manufacturing methods, RTD’s may be used
from -270ºC to 850ºC. Specifications for temperature range will be different, for thin film, wire
wound and glass encapsulated types, for example.

5. Physical Dimensions or Size Restrictions

The most critical dimension of the element is outside diameter (O.D.), because the element must
often fit within a protective sheath. The film type elements have no O.D. dimension.To calculate
an equivalent dimension, we need to find the diagonal of an end cross section (this will be the
widest distance across the element as it is inserted into a sheath).

Permissible deviations from basic values

Class A Class B

Deviation Deviation
Temperature Temperature
ºC ºC
ohms ºC ohms ºC

-200 ±0.24 ±0.55 -200 ±056 ±1.3

-100 ±0.14 ±0.35 -100 ±0.32 ±0.8

0 ±0.06 ±0.15 0 ±0.12 ±0.3

100 ±0.13 ±0.35 100 ±0.30 ±0.8

200 ±0.20 ±0.55 200 ±0.48 ±1.3

300 ±0.27 ±0.75 300 ±0.64 ±1.8

400 ±0.33 ±0.95 400 ±0.79 ±2.3

500 ±0.38 ±1.15 500 ±0.93 ±2.8

600 ±0.43 ±1.35 600 ±1.06 ±3.3

650 ±0.46 ±1.45 650 ±1.13 ±3.6

700 ±1.17 ±3.8

800 ±1.28 ±4.3

850 ±1.34 ±4.6

For example, using an element that is 10 x 2 x 1.5 mm, the diagonal can be found by taking the
square root of (22 + 1.52).Thus, the element will fit into a 2.5 mm (0.98") inside diameter hole. For
practical purposes, remember that any element 2 mm wide or less will fit into a 1/8" O.D. sheath
with 0.010" walls, generally speaking. Elements which are 1.5 mm wide will typically fit into a
sheath with 0.084" bore. Refer to Figure 1.

6. Accuracy
IEC 751 specifications for Platinum Resistance Thermometers have adopted DIN 43760
requirements for accuracy. DIN-IEC Class A and Class B elements are shown in the chart on this

7. Response Time
50% Response is the time the thermometer element needs in order to reach 50% of its steady
state value. 90% Response is defined in a similar manner. These response times of elements are
given for water flowing with 0. 2 m/s velocity and air flowing at 1 m/s.They can be calculated for
any other medium with known values of thermal conductivity. In a 1/4" diameter sheath immersed
in water flowing at 3 feet per second, response time to 63% of a step change in temperature is
less than 5.0 seconds.

8. Measurement Current and Self Heating

Temperature measurement is carried out almost exclusively with direct current. Unavoidably, the
measuring current generates heat in the RTD.The permissible measurement currents are
determined by the location of the element, the medium which is to be measured, and the velocity
of moving media. A self-heating factor, “S”, gives the measurement error for the element in ºC per
milliwatt (mW). With a given value of measuring current, I, the milliwatt value P can be calculated
from P = I2R, where R is the RTD’s resistance value. The temperature measurement error Δ T
(ºC) can then be calculated from Δ T = P x S.


Stability: Better than 0.2ºC after 10,000 hours at maximum temperature (1 year, 51 days, 16
hours continuous).

Vibration Resistance: 50 g @ 500ºC; 200 g @ 20ºC; at frequencies from 20 to 1000 cps.

Temperature Shock Resistance: In forced air: over entire temperature range. In a water quench:
from 200 to 20ºC.

Pressure Sensitivity: Less than 1.5 x 10-4 C/PSI, reversible.

Self Heating Errors & Response Times: Refer to specific Temperature Handbook pages for the
type of element selected.

Self Inductance From Sensing Current: Can be considered negligible for thin film elements;
typically less than 0.02 microhenry for wire wound elements.
Capacitance: For wire wound elements: calculated to be less than 6 PicoFarads; for film-type
elements: capacitance is too small to be measured and is affected by lead wire connection. Lead
connections with element may indicate about 300 pF capacitance.


As stated previously, a Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) element generally appears in a
sheathed form. Obviously, all of the criteria applicable to resistance elements also apply here, but
rather than element size, the construction and dimensions of the entire RTD assembly must be
considered. Since the lead wire used between the resistance element and the measuring
instrument has a resistance itself, we must also supply a means of compensating for this
inaccuracy. Refer to Figure 2 for the 2-wire configuration.


The circle represents the resistance element boundaries to the point of calibration. 3- or 4-wire
configuration must be extended from the point of calibration so that all uncalibrated resistances
are compensated.

The resistance RE is taken from the resistance element and is the value that will supply us with an
accurate temperature measurement. Unfortunately, when we take our resistance measurement,
the instrument will indicate RTOTAL:


RT = R1 + R2 + RE

This will produce a temperature readout higher than that actually being measured. Many systems
can be calibrated to eliminate this. Most RTD’s incorporate a third wire with resistance R3. This
wire will be connected to one side of the resistance element along with lead 2 as shown in Figure

This configuration provides one connection to one end and two to the other end of the sensor.
Connected to an instrument designed to accept 3-wire input, compensation is achieved for lead
resistance and temperature change in lead resistance. This is the most commonly used

If three identical type wires are used and their lengths are equal, then R1 = R2 = R3. By measuring
the resistance through leads 1, 2 and the resistance element, a total system resistance is
measured (R1 + R2 + RE ). If the resistance is also measured through leads 2 and 3 (R2 + R3), we
obtain the resistance of just the lead wires, and since all lead wire resistances are equal,
subtracting this value (R2 + R3) from the total system resistance (R1 + R2 + RE) leaves us with just
RE, and an accurate temperature measurement has been made. A 4-wire configuration is also
used. (See Figure 4.) Two connections are provided to each end of the sensor. This construction
is used for measurements of the highest precision.


With the 4-wire configuration, the instrument will pass a constant current (I) through the outer
leads, 1 and 4.

The voltage drop is measured across the inner leads, 2 and 3. So from V = IR we learn the
resistance of the element alone, with no effect from the lead wire resistance. This offers an
advantage over 3-wire configurations only if dissimilar lead wires are used, and this is rarely the

Still another configuration, now rare, is a standard 2-wire configuration with a closed loop of wire
alongside (Figure 5). This functions the same as the 3-wire configuration, but uses an extra wire to
do so. A separate pair of wires is provided as a loop to provide compensation for lead resistance
and ambient changes in lead resistance.


© MXV MMV | 72