Thermocouple vs. Thermopile

By Jaxson

Main Difference

The main difference between Thermocouple and Thermopile is that the Thermocouple is a thermoelectric device and Thermopile is a device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy.

  • Thermocouple

    A thermocouple is an electrical device consisting of two dissimilar electrical conductors forming electrical junctions at differing temperatures. A thermocouple produces a temperature-dependent voltage as a result of the thermoelectric effect, and this voltage can be interpreted to measure temperature. Thermocouples are a widely used type of temperature sensor.

    Commercial thermocouples are inexpensive, interchangeable, are supplied with standard connectors, and can measure a wide range of temperatures. In contrast to most other methods of temperature measurement, thermocouples are self powered and require no external form of excitation. The main limitation with thermocouples is accuracy; system errors of less than one degree Celsius (°C) can be difficult to achieve.

    Thermocouples are widely used in science and industry. Applications include temperature measurement for kilns, gas turbine exhaust, diesel engines, and other industrial processes. Thermocouples are also used in homes, offices and businesses as the temperature sensors in thermostats, and also as flame sensors in safety devices for gas-powered appliances.

  • Thermopile

    A thermopile is an electronic device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. It is composed of several thermocouples connected usually in series or, less commonly, in parallel.

    Thermocouples operate by measuring the temperature differential from their junction point to the point in which the thermocouple output voltage is measured. Thermocouples can be connected in series as thermocouple pairs with a junction located on either side of a thermal resistance layer. The output from the thermocouple pair will be a voltage that is directly proportional to the temperature difference across the thermal resistance layer and also to the heat flux through the thermal resistance layer. Adding more thermocouple pairs in series increases the magnitude of the voltage output. Thermopiles can be constructed with a single thermocouple pair, composed of two thermocouple junctions, or multiple thermocouple pairs.

    Thermopiles do not respond to absolute temperature, but generate an output voltage proportional to a local temperature difference or temperature gradient.

    Thermopiles are used to provide an output in response to temperature as part of a temperature measuring device, such as the infrared thermometers widely used by medical professionals to measure body temperature, or in thermal accelerometers to measure the temperature profile inside the sealed cavity of the sensor. They are also used widely in heat flux sensors and pyrheliometers and gas burner safety controls. The output of a thermopile is usually in the range of tens or hundreds of millivolts. As well as increasing the signal level, the device may be used to provide spatial temperature averaging.Thermopiles are also used to generate electrical energy from, for instance, heat from electrical components, solar wind, radioactive materials, laser radiation or combustion. The process is also an example of the Peltier effect (electric current transferring heat energy) as the process transfers heat from the hot to the cold junctions.

  • Thermocouple (noun)

    A transducer consisting of two different metals welded together at each end; a voltage is produced that is proportional to the difference in temperature between the two junctions (one of which is normally held at a known temperature)

  • Thermopile (noun)

    An electronic device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. Usually constructed using a series-combination of thermocouples.

  • Thermocouple (noun)

    a thermoelectric device for measuring temperature, consisting of two wires of different metals connected at two points, a voltage being developed between the two junctions in proportion to the temperature difference.

  • Thermopile (noun)

    a set of thermocouples arranged for measuring small quantities of radiant heat.

Oxford Dictionary

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