5 Types of Temperature Element

There are several temperature element types widely used to measure the temperature of a process substance. These types are categorized into mechanical temperature elements and electronic temperature elements. Mechanical temperature element uses the principle of thermal expansion, i.e. the element expands if the temperature rise and vice versa.

Mechanical Based Temperature Element

Solid element Bimetallic is temperature element instrument formed from two types of metal which have different thermal expansion properties. These two metal are bonded together to become one strip. The metal strips will bend if temperature changes. At the free end of bimetal, the pointer is attached to indicate the result of temperature measurement.

Gas element

Gas-filled Temperature Element is base on the principle of the ideal gas law and consists of bulb/stem, capillary and Bourdon tube. The sensing element is a rigid bulb or stem containing a gas. If the temperature rises, the volume remains constant since the bulb is rigid, while the gas pressure increases proportionally. The Pressure Element like bourdon tube, measures the change in gas pressure.
The bulb and the bourdon tube is connecting by a capillary tube, allowing the temperature indicator to be located not directly attached to the measuring process. This advantage enables the temperature gauge indicator is mounted on the convenient location, whereas the tapping point of process fluid to be measured is not permanently inaccessible.
However, the capillary might have heat loss; therefore, the addition of compensation is required to eliminate the error.

Liquid element

Liquid temperature element utilises mercury constrained within a bulb/stem. Mercury is no longer preferred in most of the process application, although it provides fast response and good accuracy. Mercury mostly used in glass stem thermometer for non-process industry such as body temperature measurement.

Electronic based Temperature Instrument

The two most commonly used electronic temperature element is Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) and Thermocouple. To indicate the temperature measurement, these elements need to be connected to the control system by wired directly or using a temperature transmitter.

Resistance Temperature Detector

Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) works based on the principle that resistance of a metal varies with its temperature. RTD is the most commonly used type in-process measurement due to its excellent stability, accuracy, repeatability.


A thermocouple consists of two dissimilar metals of which the junction generates a voltage proportional to the junction temperature. The applications of Thermocouple requires typically a wide range (very high to low temperature). Other advantages of Thermocouple over RTD are it has a more rugged design and also provide a faster measurement response.

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