Temperature sensors

Diodes (Silicon bandgap temperature sensor)

The silicon bandgap temperature sensor is an extremely common form of temperature sensor (thermometer) used in electronic equipment. Its main advantage is that it can be included in a silicon integrated circuit at very low cost. The principle of the sensor is that the forward voltage of a silicon diode is temperature-dependent, according to the following equation:

VBE = VG0(1 - T / T0) + VBE0(T / T0) + (nKT / q)ln(T0 / T) + (KT / q)ln(IC / IC0)


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A thermistor is a type of resistor used to measure temperature changes, relying on the change in its resistancei with changing temperature.

If we assume that the relationship between resistance and temperature is linear (i.e. we make a first-order approximation), then we can say that:

ΔR = kΔT


ΔR = change in resistance
ΔT = change in temperature
k = first-order temperature coefficient of resistance

Thermistors can be classified into two types depending on the sign of k. If k is positive, the resistance increases with increasing temperature, and the device is called a positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistor, or posistor. If k is negative, the resistance decreases with increasing temperature, and the device is called a negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistor. Resistors that are not thermistors are designed to have the smallest possible k, so that their resistance remains almost constant over a wide temperature range.

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In electronics, thermocouples are a widely used kind of temperature sensor. They are cheap, interchangeable, have standard connectors and can measure a wide range of temperatures. The main limitation is accuracy, system errors of less than 1 °C can be difficult to achieve.

How they work:

In 1822, an Estonian physician named Thomas Seebeck discovered (accidentally) that the junction between two metals generates a voltage which is a function of temperature. Thermocouples rely on this discovery, the so-called Seebeck effect. Although almost any two types of metal can be used to make a thermocouple, a number of standard types are used because they possess predictable output voltages and large temperature gradients.
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