Characterizing Drift Behavior in Type S Thermocouples to Predict In-use Temperature Errors

  • 41 Accesses


The Type S thermocouple continues to be used as a primary reference for industrial applications and as a secondary reference in many national metrology institutes (NMI). The Type S thermocouple, in a well annealed state, can yield temperature measurements accurate to better than ± 0.2 °C up to approximately 1100 °C. Metallurgical changes, even in the best cared for thermocouples, quickly lead to drift in use. The main causes of drift are reversible processes occurring in the Pt/Rh alloy thermoelement. Most NMIs will periodically apply a high-temperature (1100 °C) anneal to restore the thermocouple to a state close to that of the original. But, for many second-tier laboratories and industrial users, this annealing procedure is not available or is impracticable. Therefore, these users are faced with measurements that are subject to accumulated or continuous drift errors. Fortunately, recent research has shown that the Pt-10%Rh thermoelement changes with temperature in a predictable way, enabling forecasting of drift as a function of exposure time and temperature. This study aggregates drift results for several Type S thermocouples from different manufacturers after exposure to MSL’s gradient furnace in the range 100 °C to approximately 900 °C. Numerical techniques are then used on these data to anticipate the likely in-use temperature errors for other Type S thermocouples. The method can provide improved confidence for end-users of Type S thermocouples where regular annealing is either difficult or impossible.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 199

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9


  1. 1.

    L.B. Hunt, Platin. Met. Rev. 8, 23–28 (1964)

  2. 2.

    J.S. Acken, J. Res. NBS 12, 249–258 (1934)

  3. 3.

    E.S. Webster, Int. J. Thermophys. 36, 1909–1924 (2015)

  4. 4.

    E.S. Webster, F. Edler, Int. J. Thermophys. 38, 1–14 (2016)

  5. 5.

    F. Edler, P. Ederer, Temperature, its measurement and control in science and industry, vol. 8 (AIP, College Park, 2013), pp. 532–537

  6. 6.

    R.E. Bentley, T.P. Jones, High Temp. High Press. 12, 33–45 (1980)

  7. 7.

    H.E. Stauss, Temperature, its measurement and control in science and industry, vol. 1 (AIP, College Park, 1941), pp. 1267–1271

  8. 8.

    R.E. Bentley, Theory and practice of thermoelectric thermometry, 1st edn. (Springer, Berlin, 1998)

  9. 9.

    C.A. Cousins, Platin. Met. Rev. 3, 94–99 (1959)

  10. 10.

    C. Hagelüken, Platin. Met. Rev. 56, 29–35 (2012)

  11. 11.

    R.E. Bentley, Meas. Sci. Technol. 12, 627–634 (2001)

  12. 12.

    F. Jahan, M. Ballico, Int. J. Thermophys. 31, 1544–1553 (2010)

  13. 13.

    E. Raub, W. Plate, Z. Metall 48, 529–539 (1957)

  14. 14.

    R.E. Bentley, Measurement 23, 35–46 (1998)

  15. 15.

    E.H. McLaren, E.G. Murdock, Temperature, its measurement and control in science and industry, vol. 5 (Instrument Society of America, Pittsburgh, 1982), pp. 953–975

  16. 16.

    R.E. Bentley, J. Phys. D Appl. Phys. 22, 1902–1907 (1989)

  17. 17.

    E.S. Webster, Int. J. Thermophys. 38, 1–18 (2017)

  18. 18.

    E.S. Webster, Int. J. Thermophys. 35, 574–595 (2014)

  19. 19.

    F.R. Caldwell, Buraeu of Standards J. Research 10, 373–380 (1933)

  20. 20.

    G. W. Burns and J. S. Gallagher, Precision Meas. and Calibration: Selected NBS Papers on Temp. 2, 290-306 (1968)

  21. 21.

    E.S. Webster, Int. J. Thermophys. 38, 1–14 (2017)

  22. 22.

    K. Yuge, A. Seko, A. Kuwabara, F. Oba, I. Tanaka, Phys. Rev. B 74, 174202 (2006)

  23. 23.

    S. Müller, M. Stöhr, O. Wieckhorst, Appl. Phys. A 82, 415–419 (2006)

  24. 24.

    P. Welker, O. Wieckhorst, T.C. Kerscher, S. Müller, J. Phys. Condensed Matter 22, 1–6 (2010)

  25. 25.

    D.D. Pollock, Thermocouples theory and properties (CRC Press, Boca Raton, 1991)

  26. 26.

    J.S. Dugdale, The electrical properties of metals and alloys (Dover Publications Inc., New York, 1977)

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to E. Webster.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Selected Papers of the 14th International Symposium on Temperature and Thermal Measurements in Industry and Science.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Webster, E., Saunders, P. Characterizing Drift Behavior in Type S Thermocouples to Predict In-use Temperature Errors. Int J Thermophys 41, 5 (2020).

Download citation


  • Drift
  • Inhomogeneity
  • Noble-metal
  • Rare-metal
  • Type S
  • Thermocouples
  • Uncertainty