Making a Thermocouple





Introduction: Making a Thermocouple

About: Engineer making renewable energy products for African entrepreneurs.

A thermocouple is a device used to measure temperature by utilizing the Seebeck effect. This instructable will show a very simple method of making a thermocouple so you can precisely measure the internal temperature of your thanksgiving turkey.

I'm sorry that the one picture I have came out terrible. The picture with the flash off was even worse (low battery syndrome). I was debating weather or not to post - but considering I couldn't find instructions anywhere on the web on how to do this, I decided to go forth and conquer. At least the video in step 2 is somewhat amusing.

If I can - I'll build my own bridge and make my own meat thermometer probe. Why? you ask. Why not? What's cooler than measuring the temperature of your turkey with your trusty multimeter. And in my case, my trusty cheapo multimeter and calculator :P

Step 1: Materials

1. Thermocouple wire : we got ours from

You can probably do it with your own wires - but the must be dissimilar materials and your results may vary. If the materials are not suitable, you will know as soon as you try to calibrate.

2. A capacitor bank or other method to spot weld a tiny wire.

Step 2: Actually Making the Thermocouple

1. Strip back the outer insulation
2. Strip back each individual wire and expose about .24-.5 inches of wire.
3. Bend the wire to make a contact point**

4. Weld (see next step for a suggested setup).

Now you can use your thermocouple (a whole other set of instructions). We used Labview 7 a DAQ board and a conditioner board (which provided a 1/4 Wheatstone bridge).

**If you have more than one contact point, you're measurement will be the average temperature over all of the contact points rather than the temperature at the contact.

Step 3: Welding

We had a fancy little device that provided a ground (pliers) and a hot "plate." We would grasp wire in contact with the pliers and touch the hot plate (closing the circuit). A high amperage discharge would occur and the wire would spot weld.

I suspect it was a capacitor bank. All you'd need is a sufficiently large bank of charged caps. Take a pair of insulated pliers and attach the ground wire to an exposed bit of metal. Then grasp your thermocouple wire in the pliers and touch the positive end of the charged cap bank.

I would personally start small and add caps as necessary ;)

Step 4: Calibration

Okay, so lets say you have the tools to use your Thermocouple (I don't, but the measurements lab did). As with any other measuring device, you must form a calibration curve to show your measurements are accurate/precise and credible.

Given the tools/supplies available. We made an ice water bath and a boiling water bath. Ideally, we would have added salt to the water to help it get colder. We used a normal thermometer to measure an analog temperature. Then, we started recording the thermocouple data in Labview and went from the room to the ice water bath. We saved this data and repeated for the hot water bath.

As thermocouples have a linear relationship to temperature, linear interpolation can be used to determine any temperature within the thermocouples range. You can also determine the response time of the thermocouple based on the data collected.



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    32 Discussions


    1 year ago

    What I do with it me no eat meat????

    It wouldn't be worth trying, considering that the Seebeck Effect at each junction would only produce a few milliVolts each, you would have to use hundreds of junctions which would make it very complicated and also very cumbersome to make

    RTD's and Thermistors change resistance. Thermocouples DO produce a voltage potential. It is that potential that is read and converted to a temperature based on the voltage produced.

    No, the Seebeck effect (which is the principle in which a T-couple is driven) is fairly well understood. As defined:
    The Seebeck effect is the conversion of temperature differences directly into electricity.

    Not easily. You'd have to apply many junction pairs in series. Hot junction, cold junction and repeat.
    From, using Type K thermocouple wire and (pick a number) a 500F temperature difference you get about 10.6mV (0.0106V) per junction pair, so that's 300 junction pairs for 3.18V.

    Great post especially for measuring in electronics rework where removal and replace of surface mounted components is needed. In IC engines to monitor EGT's and other hostile environments. 5 Stars

    You're putting 2 dis-similar metals into the meat. The meat will act as an electrolyte and you'll have a simple battery. The effect will be metal ions flowing from your thermocouple into the bird. Most metal ions are toxic except in tiny amounts.

    5 replies

    Are you sure about that? I thought that with the ends in contact with one another the wire would be shorted within the electrolyte so there would be no ion flow.

    It can be put in an inert carrier without changing its ability to measure temp (although it may increase response time).

    Of course it can, and that's what a commercial unit does. However, this instructable shows using it directly without an inert carrier, so using it as shown here will posion the meat.

    Fair Enough :) I also found out today that the wire insulation is not food service safe. Not sure why though -- maybe lead or something? So, for said time/temp plot - I got a cheap meat probe ($15) and I'll keep record :) I'll even calibrate it :P

    The insulation might or might not be harmful. To rate it as food service safe the manufacturer would have to spend time and $ to design it to be food-safe, then spend more time and $ to perform testing, plus monitoring during production. Not something they'd want to do without a significant reason.