International Journal of Thermophysics

, Volume 35, Issue 6–7, pp 1202–1214 | Cite as

Compatibility of Materials for Use at High Temperatures with W–Re Thermocouples

  • C. J. Elliott
  • M. J. Large
  • J. V. Pearce
  • G. Machin


Material changes caused by exposure to harsh environments are well known to be the major source of decalibration (drift) in thermocouples and arise from changes in the Seebeck coefficient in the region of the temperature gradient along the thermoelements. Methods of self-validation, which consist of a miniature temperature fixed-point cell mounted over the tip of the thermocouple in situ, have been developed to determine and counter the impact of the drift. Putting this additional component into the hot region introduces complications due to inter-diffusion among the different materials. In order to protect the thermocouple from additional influences due to the presence of the self-validating cell, NPL has performed controlled tests to characterize the material changes which occur when typical high temperature W–Re thermocouples are exposed to temperatures up to \(2300\,^{\circ }\)C in the presence of other materials. Combinations of the cell crucible material (carbon), thermocouple sheath material (tantalum), and thermoelement insulator materials (boron nitride, hafnia, silicon carbide, and yttria–stabilized zirconia) have been tested with controlled exposure at selected temperatures between \(1700\,^{\circ }\)C and 2300 \(^{\circ }\)C, for a period of 10 h to 24 h. Detailed visual results are presented and supported with scanning electron microscope surface characterization, allowing conclusions on the compatibility of these individual materials to be drawn. Importantly, the tantalum reaction with carbon is found to be such that a typical sheath thickness of 0.5 mm reached a saturation composition within 10 h at 2300 \(^{\circ }\)C, when in direct contact with carbon.


Degradation Fixed points High temperature HiTeMS Material compatibility Self-validation W–Re thermocouple 



The authors would like to thank Madeleine Peck (NPL) for carrying out the SEM characterization and discussions on the results. This work has been completed within the framework of the European Metrology Research Project (EMRP) IND01 “HiTeMS.” The EMRP is jointly funded by the EMRP participating countries within EURAMET and the European Union. \(\copyright \) Crown copyright 2013. Reproduced by permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen’s printer for Scotland


  1. 1.
    H. Brixy, R. Hecker, J. Oehmen, E. Zimmermann, High Temp. High Press. 23, G25 (1991)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    IEC 60584, Thermocouples—Part 1: EMF Specification and Tolerances (International Electrotechnical Commission, Geneva, 2013)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    ASTM E988-96, Standard Temperature-Electromotive Force (EMF) Tables for Tungsten–Rhenium Thermocouples (ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2002)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    C. Brookes, Meas. Control 15, 369 (1982)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    C. Brookes, T.R.D. Chandler, B. Chu, Meas. Control 18, 245 (1985)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    N.A. Burley, Measurement 8, 36 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    R.L. Rusby, D.F. Carter, A. Beswick, Mater. High Temp. 10, 193 (1992)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    O. Ongrai, J.V. Pearce, G. Machin, S.J. Sweeney, Meas. Sci. Technol. 22, 105103 (2011)CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    C.J. Elliott, O. Ongrai, J.V. Pearce, G. Machin, C. Schwarz, R. Lindner, in Proceedings of the First International Conference on Through-life Engineering Services, vol. 1, ed. by R. Roy, E. Shehab, C. Hockley, S. Khan (Cranfield University Press, Bedford, 2012), pp. 315–320Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    J.V. Pearce, C.J. Elliott, G. Machin, O. Ongrai, in Proceedings of Ninth International Temperature Symposium, Los Angeles, Temperature: Its Measurement and Control in Science and Industry, vol. 8, ed. by C.W. Meyer, A.I.P. Proceedings 1552 (AIP, Melville, NY, 2013), pp. 595–600Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    C.J. Elliott, G. Failleau, T. Deuze, M. Sadli, J.V. Pearce, G. Machin, Int. J. Thermophys. 35, 560 (2014)CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Y. Yamada, H. Sakate, F. Sakuma, A. Ono, Metrologia 36, 207 (1999)CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    R. Morice, P. Ridoux, J.R. Filtz, Measure 3, 44 (2008)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    R. Morice, M. Lihrmann, J.O. Favreau, E. Morel, M. Megharfi, in Proceedings of Metrologie 2003 (Congrès Français de Métrologie, Toulon, 2003), p. 176Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    G. Machin, K. Anhalt, F. Edler, J.V. Pearce, M. Sadli, R. Strnad, E.M. Vuelban, in Proceedings of Ninth International Temperature Symposium, Los Angeles, Temperature: Its Measurement and Control in Science and Industry, vol. 8, ed. by C.W. Meyer, A.I.P. Proceedings 1552 (AIP, Melville, NY, 2013), pp. 958–963Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    M. Hansen, Constitution of Binary Alloys, 2nd edn. (McGraw-Hill Book Company, London, 1958)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    M.R. Nadler, C.P. Kempter, Rev. Sci. Instrum. 32, 43 (1961)CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    J. Pearce, G. Machin, Acta Metrol. Sin. 29, 224 (2008)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of United Kingdom 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. J. Elliott
    • 1
  • M. J. Large
    • 1
  • J. V. Pearce
    • 1
  • G. Machin
    • 1
  1. 1.Temperature and Humidity GroupNational Physical LaboratoryTeddingtonUK

Personalised recommendations