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#204 Type K Temperature Logger

Simple high-temperature monitor using Type K (differential) and LM35 (cold-junction) sensors.

The Build


This is an experiment in reading high temperatures on an Arduino - above those typically supported with semiconductor sensors or thermistors.

Here I’m using a K Type thermocouple that’s rated up to 700°C. Since thermocouples only measure a differential temperature, I’m using an LM35 to provide the cold-junction baseline. The temperature measurement is displayed on a 5110 LCD.

High Temperature Thermocouple Type K Probe

The Type K probes I have are from an aliexpress seller with the following specifications:

  • Operating Temperature: -50-700°C
  • Probe Diameter: 0.66mm /0.026 inch
  • Probe Length: 8.15mm /0.321 inch
  • Cable Length: 2m
  • Cable Internal Insulation: Fiberglass
  • Connector: K Type Mini-Connector

Thermocouples and the Seebeck Voltage

A thermocouple loop is made from two dissimilar metals. When subjected to a temperature differential, the metals have different affinity for electrons. This develops an open-circuit voltage (Seebeck voltage) that is proportional to the difference in temperature.

Various types of thermocouples are differentiated by their materials and their Seebeck voltages. Votlages vary as a function of temperature and are not linear. Three techniques are possible for converting the thermocouple voltage to a temperature differential:

  • use the standard tables available for each type of thermocouple
  • use the characteristic polynomial equation that may be available
  • use a linear approxmation. This is common when using Type K, since the Seebeck voltage is roughly linear above room temperature

Since thermocouples only measure the temperature differential, it is necessary to independently establish the baseline aka the “Cold Reference Junction”.

Measuring the Type K Thermocouple Temperature

The Thermocouple voltage difference is amplified with an LM358 in non-inverting amplifier configuration. It is configured for significant gain in order to get the µV reading into the 0-5V scale readable with an Arduino analog input.

The second op amp in the LM358 is used to buffer the reading - really unnecessary in this configuration as the Arduino analog input presents a fairly high impedence load.

A 100nF capacitor is used to filter high-frequency jitter from the signal.

While this works pretty well, there are limitations:

  • since the LM358 is not rail-to-rail, we’re not able to use the full resolution of the Arduino ADC
  • the gain and zero-point of the amplifier need to be selected with the temperature reading range in mind. For example, higher resolution but limit to say 200°C, or lower resolution but able to reach higher temperatures.

Since I’m interested in temperatures above room temperature and into the 300-700°C range. I’m using the 41µV/°C Type K linear approximation.

For the configuration demonstrated here, I’m using R1=1kΩ and R2=330kΩ in the amplifier configuration for a gain of 331:

Vout = (1 + R2/R1) * Vin
gain = 1 + 330/1

Since the upper output limit of the LM358 is V+ - 1.5V per the datasheet, in this case 3.5V, then the maximum Vin before clipping is: 3.5V/331 = 10.6mV

This represents a temperature range of 10.6mV/41µV/°C = 258.5°C. That’s far below the limits of the probe, but enough for a test.

To measure higher ranges, the gain can be increased accordingly and perhaps use a rail-to-rail op amp.

Cold Reference Junction

Three basic techniques for measuring the temperature of the reference junction:

  1. Use a thermistor or semiconductor temperature sensor
  2. Hold the reference junction at a fixed and known temperature e.g. ice bath
  3. Use a cold junction compensation IC such as the Analog Devices AD594 or Linear Technology LT1025

Measuring the Cold Reference Junction Temperature

This circuit uses an LM35 Precision Centigrade Temperature Sensor to measure the cold-junction reference temperature.

The LM35 is incredibly easy to use, especially for working in centigrade. It provides a linear 10.0 mV/degree output for an operating range of -55°C to 150°C. So for example, 250mV is 25°C.

The LM35 output is read with an analog input which has an analog to digital resolution of only 1024 levels (0-1023). So with the default 5V reference voltage that means 4.88mV per step. The LM35 therefore only has a resolution of 0.5°C.

That’s OK here when compared to the resolution from the Type K reading.

See LedTemperatureDisplay for more on using the LM35.

5110 LCD SPI Configuration

The u8glib takes advantage of hardware SPI, which means pin connections are dictated for at least MOSI and SCK.

Here’s the mapping from the terminology used by my particular 5110 module and pins on an Arduino Uno.

Pin Usage Arduino Uno Pin
RST reset 8
CE/SCE chip enable 10 SPI SS
DC address line 0 9
DIN data in 11 SPI MOSI
CLK clock 13 SPI SCK
VCC power  
BL Backlight on when GND  
GND Ground  

Next Steps/Improvements

So far so good, but I’d like to take this further as a I have a high-temperature measurement application in mind.

Firstly, I like a more flexible way to measure across the full temperature range supported by the Type K Probes with good resolution:

  • perhaps buffer the thermocouple voltage into a number of amplifiers setup with different gain products
  • the microcontroller could auto-range across 3 or 4 amplifiers
  • perhaps switch to 1.1V internal ADC reference to avoid needing to pulling the op amps near the upper or lower rail limits

Secondly, this needs mounting properly. In particular to provide a good isothermal terminal block for the type K probe so a good cold reference junction measurement is possible.

Finally, it needs some calibration tests. It seems to be doing the right thing, but I haven’t checked the accuracy of the readings I’m getting (how hot is a tea candle flame??)



The Schematic

The Build

Credits and References

Project Source on GitHub Project Gallery Return to the LEAP Catalog

This page is a web-friendly rendering of my project notes shared in the LEAP GitHub repository.

LEAP is just my personal collection of projects. Two main themes have emerged in recent years, sometimes combined:

  • electronics - usually involving an Arduino or other microprocessor in one way or another. Some are full-blown projects, while many are trivial breadboard experiments, intended to learn and explore something interesting
  • scale modelling - I caught the bug after deciding to build a Harrier during covid to demonstrate an electronic jet engine simulation. Let the fun begin..
To be honest, I haven't quite figured out if these two interests belong in the same GitHub repo or not. But for now - they are all here!

Projects are often inspired by things found wild on the net, or ideas from the many great electronics and scale modelling podcasts and YouTube channels. Feel free to borrow liberally, and if you spot any issues do let me know (or send a PR!). See the individual projects for credits where due.