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A pyrometer is a non-contacting device that intercepts and measures thermal radiation, a process known as pyrometry. This device can be used to determine the temperature of an object's surface.

The word pyrometer comes from the Greek word for fire, "πυρ" (pyro), and meter, meaning to measure. Pyrometer was originally coined to denote a device capable of measuring temperatures of objects above incandescence (i.e. objects bright to the human eye).


Principle of operation

A pyrometer has an optical system and detector. The optical system focuses the thermal radiation onto the detector. The output signal of the detector (Temperature T) is related to the thermal radiation or irradiance j* of the target object through the Stefan–Boltzmann law, the constant of proportionality σ, called the Stefan-Boltzmann constant and the emissivity ε of the object.

This output is used to infer the object's temperature. Thus, there is no need for direct contact between the pyrometer and the object, as there is with thermocouple and Resistance temperature detector (RTDs).


Modern pyrometers became available when the first disappearing filament pyrometer was built by L. Holborn and F. Kurlbaum in 1901[1]. This device superimposed a thin, heated filament over the object to be measured and relied on the operator’s eye to detect when the filament vanished[2]. The object temperature was then read from a scale on the pyrometer.

The temperature returned by the vanishing filament pyrometer and others of its kind, called Brightness Pyrometers, is dependent on the emissivity of the object. With greater use of brightness pyrometers, it became obvious that problems existed with relying on knowledge of the value of emissivity. Emissivity was found to change, often drastically, with surface roughness, bulk and surface composition, and even the temperature itself[3].

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