Drift as a Function of Temperature in Platinum–Rhodium-Alloyed Thermoelements

  • E. S. WebsterEmail author
  • F. Edler
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. TEMPMEKO 2013: Selected Papers of the 13th International Symposium on Temperature, Humidity, Moisture and Thermal Measurements in Industry and Science


Platinum–rhodium-alloyed thermocouples are the most commonly used high-temperature reference thermometer in national measurement institutes, second tier laboratories and industry. Despite the common use of these thermocouples, there is still a great deal that is not known about the drift processes that occur in them. Drift processes in these alloys are known to be made up of three main components: crystallographic changes, rhodium oxidation and migration, and contamination. Through careful use, contamination can be largely avoided; however, the other two processes often cannot. Research on drift in the different platinum–rhodium alloys is important because the largest uncertainty component during calibration of these thermocouple types is due to inhomogeneity, and the same mechanisms responsible for inhomogeneity are responsible for the drift. This study investigates the drift processes as a function of temperature and time for the 5 %, 13 %, 17 %, 20 %, 30 % and 40 % Rh alloys when paired with pure platinum. The use of a linear gradient furnace and high-resolution homogeneity scanner has enabled identification of drift characteristics in the temperature range \(100 \,^{\circ }\)C to \(950 \,^{\circ }\)C, where the bulk of reversible drift occurs. The experiments have quantified the drift rates and magnitude for thermoelements given two commonly used annealing procedures: the high-temperature quench anneal and the low-temperature vacancy anneal. Consequently, this study provides users of platinum–rhodium thermoelements with guidance on what levels of drift they should expect and exposure times before re-annealing is required. It also shows that a Pt–Rh alloy of 20 % Rh is by far the most stable and has properties comparable to the Pt–Pd thermocouple.


Drift Inhomogeneity Noble metal Platinum–rhodium alloys Thermocouples Uncertainty 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Measurement Standards LaboratoryLower HuttNew Zealand
  2. 2.Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt of GermanyBerlinGermany

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