Industrial temperature measurement | Basics and practice

Free Download From ABB

(Extract From the Introduction)

With this Handbook for industrial temperature measurements we are attempting to provide the technician with solutions to his wide variety of responsibilities. At the same time, it provides for those new to the field, insight into the basics of the most important measurement principles and their application limits in a clear and descriptive manner.

The basic themes include material science and measurement technology, applications, signal processing and fieldbus communication.

A practice oriented selection of appropriate temperature sensor designs for the process field is presented as well as therequired communication capability of the meter locations.

The factory at Alzenau, Germany, a part of ABB, is the Global Center of Competencefor Temperature, with numerous local experts on hand in the most important industrialsectors, is responsible for activities worldwide in this sector.

125 years of temperature measurement technology equates to experience and competence. At the same time, it forms an important basis for continued innovation.

In close cooperation with our customers and users, our application engineers create conceptsto meet the measurement requirements.

Our Sector-Teams support the customer, planner and user in the preparation of professional solutions.

Free download available online at:

Author Team:
Karl Ehinger, Dieter Flach, Lothar Gellrich, Eberhard Horlebein, Dr. Ralf Huck, Henning Ilgner, Thomas Kayser, Harald Müller, Helga Schädlich, Andreas Schüssler, Ulrich Staab,

ABB Automation Products GmbH

Many thanks to the publishing group at ControlEngineering-Europe for alerting us to this new online resource (

Mercury Thermometer Alternatives by NIST

Promoting alternatives

no mercuryOnline —  The USA’s National Institute for Science & Technology (NIST) is not only  the nation’s National Metrology Institute (NMI), it also serves additional roles, including cooperating with other government agencies to safeguard people from harm due to sensors or practices that could be hazardous.

About 20 years ago the use of mercury-filled sensors, such as barometers, hygrometers and liquid-in-glass thermometers were recognized as sources of long-term hazards to man and nearly all animals.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began efforts to ban the use of mercury in such devices and NIST has been in the forefront of the effort, along with volunteer organizations like ASTM International.

NIST has published a series of webpages that describe the issues related to mercury filled thermometers and considered several alternatives, some of which, in this Editor’s opinion are long overdue.

The rest of this article is copied from the December 22, 2016 NIST webpage: that begins the NIST series of information pages to help users understand some of the alternatives to mercury-filled  Liquid-in-Glass thermometers.

In effect these new temperature sensor alternatives bring many testing and measuring practices into the modern world of both sensor and display technologies, providing durability, precision and traceability along with digital options, in many cases.

Mercury-filled thermometers have historically served numerous industries as reliable temperature standards. Increased regulation and the high cost of cleaning up mercury spills have encouraged the use of alternative types of thermometers.

To support the use of alternative thermometers, the NIST Temperature and Humidity Group provides guidance documents, training, and technical consultation to other government agencies and standards-developing organizations.

Replacement of mercury thermometers with suitable alternatives will reduce releases of mercury into the environment and will reduce costs incurred to clean up mercury spills.

Historically, healthcare and regulated testing laboratories have relied greatly on NIST-calibrated mercury-in-glass thermometers as stable reference standards of temperature.

The use of mercury thermometers has been virtually eliminated in routine hospital use, but a wide variety of regulations and test methods continue to specify mercury thermometers.

Mercury thermometers have several intrinsic advantages:

  • they are stable for long periods,
  • failure is usually visually apparent, and
  • they require little training or maintenance.


However, mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, and the cost of cleaning a mercury spill in industry is many thousands of dollars. Furthermore, many states restrict the sale of mercury thermometers.

In 2008, the NIST Temperature and Humidity Group worked with several organizations to reduce or eliminate the use of mercury thermometers.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):  the EPA hosted meetings in the Spring of 2008 to discuss strategies to eliminate the use of mercury thermometers in EPA regulations and laboratories. NIST provided technical guidance documents, presentations, and technical advice as experts in temperature measurements.

Clinical Laboratory and Standards Institute (CLSI):  NIST Temperature and Humidity Group staff have worked with CLSI staff to update standards calling for the use of mercury-in-glass SRM thermometers, enabling laboratories to use other thermometer types with NIST traceability.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  Control of temperature is critical to proper storage of vaccines, in order to preserve safety and efficacy. At CDC’s invitation, the NIST Temperature and Humidity Group gave a presentation at the May, 2008 “Vaccine University” that CDC sponsors. Over 60 participants learned how traceable temperature measurement and control can be achieved with modern electronic thermometers.

These activities build on support provided in 2007 to the Food and Drug Administration (steam processing of food) and ASTM committee D2 on petroleum.

In an environment of increased regulatory and economic pressures to discontinue the use of mercury thermometers, NIST has provided timely and critically important technical advice to other federal agencies and thermometer users, ensuring that important industrial and health-care temperature measurements are performed efficiently and accurately.

Major accomplishments:

  • Guidance document published on how to identify alternatives to mercury liquid-in-glass thermometers.
  • Technical support provided to other government agencies and to developers of documentary standards.


Links to other NIST webpages:


Selected Publications & Related Links


Questions about Mercury Thermometer Alternatives?

TI Temperature Measurement Videos

TI, or Texas Instruments, is one of the world’s most prolific and largest makers of temperature sensors. They make all kinds but their sensors are mostly in the form of Integrated Circuit semiconductors.

TI also does an exceptional job in educating users how their devices work and how they can be interfaced and incorporated in measurement systems. Especially useful are the videos showing how some of their other integrated circuit modules can be used with external temperature sensors, like Thermocouples, RTDs and Thermistors.

Here’s an example of an interesting one:

Developed through TI’s expertise in MEMS technology, the TMP006 is the first of a new class of ultra-small, low power, and low cost passive infrared temperature sensors. It has 90% lower power consumption and is more than 95% smaller than existing solutions, making contactless temperature measurement possible in completely new markets and applications.

Check out their Video Channel on YouTube, especially the long list of videos already published about “Temperature Measurement”. It very straightforward; just go to:

Mercury Thermometers & Alternatives in the USA

Thermometer Image
Thermometer Image: Courtesy & mistermong

USA — The USA’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) began an active mercury-reduction campaign in 2007, and stopped calibrating Mercury (Chemical symbol: Hg) thermometers entirely on March 1, 2011.

A full range of thermometric calibration services continues for non-mercury devices according to the special NIST webpage at:

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and every thermometer that contains it is a potential environmental threat. In the 21st century, however, that is a risk that no one needs to take, and a worldwide effort is underway to deploy substitute devices (alternatives) in consumer, professional, and industrial applications.

New analog thermometers with safe filling materials are in production at several companies and recent ASTM standards have been developed to cover them. See ASTM Standards E1 ( and E2251 (

For more information on each, click each standard’s title (above).

Digital thermometry technologies are plentiful, trials versatile, and generally superior to modern variations on the mercury-in-glass design. Many of these digital devices have wider effective temperature ranges, and nearly all of them equilibrate about 10 times faster than Mercury-filled devices.

There are three classes of sensors that produce signals which can be converted into a digital temperature read-out: thermistorsplatinum resistance thermometers and thermocouples. For more information on each, click on the name on on their name.

Each sensor type used is digital thermometers uses a slightly different aspect of a well-characterized relationship between temperature and electrical resistance or induced voltage in certain materials.

The term “thermometer,” when used in the context of digital equipment, refers to electronic systems that capture signals from the sensors, convert them into temperatures using conversion methods compatible with ASTM and/or ITS-90 standards, and then display the result in some format.

The accuracy of digital thermometers thus depends on the sensor type used, the sensor’s quality, its calibration, and conformance to specified standards. Plus,  the conversion system’s electronics, it’s calibration and conversion technique used and the unit’s sensitivity to ambient temperature and other conditions result additional sources needing traceable calibration.

In many modern devices, these details can be transparent to the user and summary details are described in the unit’s ‘System” calibration certification.

If not, then it is the responsibility of the user to assure that all major components of the measuring system have certified, traceable calibration and then perform the required calculations to determine the system’s measurement capability and combined measurement uncertainty.

This is not always an easy task, but is quite straightforward, as described in the NIST Publication: NIST/SEMATECH Engineering Statistics Handbook (

Reference webpage: Selection of Alternatives to Liquid-in-Glass Thermometers

Promoting alternatives to mercury thermometers



Ref: ASTM E230 / E230M – Standard Specification and Temperature-Electromotive Force (emf) Tables for Standardized Thermocouples

Platinum Resistance Thermometers (PRTs)

Standard Specification for Industrial Platinum Resistance Thermometers:
ASTM E1137 / E1137M – 08

Verification Methods for Alternative Thermometers

Background References & Links
(Laws and Regulations),

EPA’s Mercury home page — (

State Regs: 2005 Mercury Compendium

The Environmental Council of the States
50 F Street NW Suite 350,
Washington, DC 20001

Tel: +1  202-266-4920
Fax: +1 202-266-4937
Email: ecos (at) ecos (dot) org

No More Mercury Thermometer Support in USA

New Info Worth Reposting
The bulk of this article is from a NIST Press Release with edits that was originally posted on our companion news website, on 14 June 2012 as: NIST’s Drive to Replace Mercury Thermometers

Gaithersburg MD, USA — NIST researchers have developed a new website explaining the hazards associated with mercury thermometers and discussing potential alternatives for the temperature sensing needs of industry.

Reducing the amount of mercury in the environment by recycling mercury thermometers also helps to reduce the amount of electricity we need to produce, which in turn reduces the amount of coal burned. Read more No More Mercury Thermometer Support in USA

How to Choose a Fever Thermometer –

In this episode of the Lab, Daddy Clay talks to Nurse Gretchen about the different kinds of thermometers parents should use on their kids from infants to teens.

The Lab Ep. 611 is brought to you by BabyBjorn and distributed by

See it directly on at: says it is the best fatherhood community on the web

Overview of Thermometry – Lecture 10

The Second Lecture in  the 11 Lecture Sub-series on Temperature Measurement.

It may also be viewed directly on at: and the NPTEL website at:

Lecturers for these videos are Prof. Shunmugam M. S., Department of Mechanical Engineering , IIT Madras.(email: and.Prof. S.P. Venkateshan, Department of Mechanical Engineering , IIT Madras (email:

Numbers after the lecture title indicate the length of the lecture in (hh:mm:ss) format. You can appreciate from the list and times shown, this is about a 50 hour course,  a substantial opportunity to learn the topics in significant depth.

Lectures in this course: 50

– Syllabus: PDF.

Temperature Measurement – Lecture 9

“The Science & Art of Temperature Measurement”

The first Lecture in Module 2, on the first topic of the Mechanical Measurements and Metrology, a part of the course from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, India – online at

It assumes an educational level of at least first year college engineering or higher, Some of the topics in this series of lectures also assume some knowledge of prior lectures in the Series (see below).

This is but one of the 50 videos in this course. A full list of the course contents is below.

The courses related to temperature measurement in this series are Numbers 9 through 19, inclusive, titles illustrated in red below. Additional lectures in this course detail related topics in measurement errors, and measurements of thermophysical properties of matter, subects that any serious student of temperature measurement should know well, indeed. The tiles of the latter lecture topics are shown as green in the list.

All of these lectures may be seen here or on, or on the NPTEL website at, where flowplayer is used to display the lectures. Read more Temperature Measurement – Lecture 9

Mercury-Containing Thermometer Alternatives

This six minute video by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes the types of mercury-containing thermometer alternatives that are currently available for use today in laboratory and industrial applications.

This video and the similar ones on the EPA website ( are important adjuncts to the recently announced Calibration Policy change at NIST, NIST will cease offering calibration services for mercury-filled thermometers on March 1, 2011.

Thermometer Articles on Wikipedia

Hotel_Baron_thermometerWikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has some in-depth articles on nearly everything. The ones on liquid in glass (LIG) thermometers are very detailed but subject to some variable technical depth, as is the mode of Wikipedia. Despite that possibility, these are, we think, some excellent resources on thermometers.


at, includes materials organized the following way:


“Medical Thermometer”

at: includes information organized as follows, according to its table of contents:


“Mercury-in-glass thermometer”

at includes information organized as follows, according to its table of contents:


The article above contains quotations and an image from and links to Wikipedia. The work is released under CC-BY-SA and is open according to the terms described at: For further information, please refer to the legal code of the CC-BY-SA License.