Temperature is a measure of the average heat or thermal energy of the particles in a substance; the more thermal energy in the substance the higher it's temperature. This thermal energy is expressed in one of the following units: Kelvin, Celsius, Rankine or Farenheit. See our page on Temperature Conversion to find out more about the origin of each unit, and how to convert between them.
There are many different ways to measure temperature all of which infer temperature by sensing some change in a physical characteristic. Of the many different methods of temperature measurement available, the instrument engineer in the oil and gas industry is only likely to encounter a handful:
Thermocouples. Probably the most used method. Thermocouples are basically two wires, made of different metals and joined at one end. Changes in the temperature at the joined end induce a change in electromotive force (emf) between the other ends. See our page on Thermocouple Types for a description of the more usual materials used in thermocouple construction, and the benefits of each combination.
Resistive Temperature Devices. Resistive temperature devices work on the principle that the electrical resistance of a material changes as its temperature changes. There are two main type of Resistive temperature device:
- Metallic devices (commonly referred to as RTDs). RTDs rely on resistance change in a metal, with the resistance rising more or less linearly with temperature,
- Thermistors. Thermistors rely on resistance change in a ceramic semiconductor with the resistance dropping non linearly with temperature rise.
Bimetallic devices. Bimetallic devices take advantage of the difference in rate of thermal expansion between different metals. Strips of two metals are bonded together. When heated, one side will expand more than the other, and the resulting bending is translated into a temperature reading by mechanical linkage to a pointer.
Infrared sensors. Infrared sensors are non-contacting devices. They infer temperature by measuring the thermal radiation emitted by a material. They tend to be used when temperature measurements are extremely high, so are not seen offshore too often.