What is a temperature sensor?
An analog temperature sensor is pretty easy to explain, it's a chip that tells you what the ambient temperature is!
These sensors use a solid-state technique to determine the temperature. That is to say, they don't use mercury (like old thermometers), bimetallic strips (like in some home thermometers or stoves), nor do they use thermistors (temperature sensitive resistors). Instead, they use the fact as temperature increases, the voltage across a diode increases at a known rate. (Technically, this is actually the voltage drop between the base and emitter - the Vbe - of a transistor. By precisely amplifying the voltage change, it is easy to generate an analog signal that is directly proportional to temperature. There have been some improvements on the technique but, essentially that is how temperature is measured.
Because these sensors have no moving parts, they are precise, never wear out, don't need calibration, work under many environmental conditions, and are consistent between sensors and readings. Moreover they are very inexpensive and quite easy to use.
Some basic stats
These stats are for the temperature in the Adafruit shop, the Analog Devices TMP36 (-40 to 150C). Its very similar to the LM35/TMP35 (Celsius output) and LM34/TMP34 (Fahrenheit output). The reason we went with the '36 instead of the '35 or '34 is that this sensor has a very wide range and doesn't require a negative voltage to read sub-zero temperatures. Otherwise, the functionality is basically the same.
- Size: TO-92 package (about 0.2" x 0.2" x 0.2") with three leads
- Price: $2.00 at the Adafruit shop
- Temperature range: -40 degrees C to 150 degrees C / -40 degrees F to 302 degrees F
- Output range: 0.1V (-40 degrees C) to 2.0V (150 degrees C) but accuracy decreases after 125 degrees C
- Power supply: 2.7V to 5.5V only, 0.05 mA current draw