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What is a Thermocouple?

A thermocouple is a sensing device manufactured for measuring temperatures. It consists of two dissimilar metals, joined together at both ends, which produce a small EMF voltage at a given temperature. This voltage is measured and interpreted by a thermocouple measurement instrument which provides for cold junction compensation.

Thermocouple History
In 1821, physicist Thomas Seebeck discovered that when two wires of different metals were connected at both ends, and heat was applied to the junction of one end, a small electric current flowed through the circuit, known as an EMF (Electromagnetic field). The energy generated is known as the "the Seebeck effect".


Thomas Seebeck

Leopoldo Nobili

Using Seebeck's work as his baseline, Italian physicist Leopoldo Nobili (1784 to 1835) then collaborated with another Italian physicist, Macedonio Melloni (1798 to 1854), to develop a thermoelectrical battery in 1826. Called the "thermo-multiplication" (thermo multiplier), it drew from Seebeck's discovery of thermoelectricity by combining a thermopile and galvanometer to measure radiation. For his work, some people Credit Nobili as the inventor of the thermocouple as it is known today, or at least the archetype.

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