In 1821, the German–Estonian physicist Thomas Johann Seebeck discovered that when any conductor (such as a metal) is subjected to a thermal gradient, it will generate a voltage. This is now known as the thermoelectric effect or Seebeck effect. Any attempt to measure this voltage necessarily involves connecting another conductor to the "hot" end. This additional conductor will then also experience the temperature gradient, and develop a voltage of its own which will oppose the original. Fortunately, the magnitude of the effect depends on the metal in use. Using a dissimilar metal to complete the circuit creates a circuit in which the two legs generate different voltages, leaving a small difference in voltage available for measurement (Figure 1). That difference increases with temperature, and can typically be between one and seventy micro-volts per Kelvin (μV/K) for the modern range of available metal combinations. Certain combinations have become popular as industry standards, driven by cost, availability, convenience, melting point, chemical properties, stability, and output. This coupling of two metals gives the thermocouple its name.
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- Temperature Differences
- Seebeck Effect
- Cold Junction