Thermocouple

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A thermocouple is a junction between two different metals that produces a voltage related to a temperature difference. Thermocouples are a widely used type of temperature sensor for measurement and control[1] and can also be used to convert heat into electric power. They are inexpensive[2] and interchangeable, are supplied fitted with standard connectors, and can measure a wide range of temperatures. The main limitation is accuracy: system errors of less than one degree Celsius (C) can be difficult to achieve.[3]

Any junction of dissimilar metals will produce an electric potential related to temperature. Thermocouples for practical measurement of temperature are junctions of specific alloys which have a predictable and repeatable relationship between temperature and voltage. Different alloys are used for different temperature ranges. Properties such as resistance to corrosion may also be important when choosing a type of thermocouple. Where the measurement point is far from the measuring instrument, the intermediate connection can be made by extension wires which are less costly than the materials used to make the sensor. Thermocouples are usually standardized against a reference temperature of 0 degrees Celsius; practical instruments use electronic methods of cold-junction compensation to adjust for varying temperature at the instrument terminals. Electronic instruments can also compensate for the varying characteristics of the thermocouple, and so improve the precision and accuracy of measurements.

Thermocouples are widely used in science and industry; applications include temperature measurement for kilns, gas turbine exhaust, diesel engines, and other industrial processes.

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