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4.

Calibrators and Simulators


H. L. DANEMAN

594
2003 by Bla Liptk

(1995)

S. EDVI, J. E. JAMISON

(2003)

Types of Designs:

A. Calibrators that use simulators (devices that simulate the output signal of thermometers). B. Calibrators that use calibration baths, which provide accurate temperature
environments for calibration purposes (systems use hot air, oil, sand, or aluminum
blocks for heat storage; some are fluidized beds).

Costs:

Simple resistance temperature detector or thermocouple simulator costs start at about


$200. A handheld thermocouple simulator with 10 memory locations and 0.1%
inaccuracy is about $700; a resistance temperature detector simulator with 6 decades
and 0.005% inaccuracy is about $2500; a 4- to 20-mA DC transmitter calibrator
with simulation of 11 resistance temperature detectors and 8 thermocouples is about
$6000. Calibration bath costs vary with bath volume, heat storage media, and calibration accuracy. A microprocessor-controlled, programmable bath with IEEE 488
and RS232C interface and 0.002C stability is about $12,500; other baths range from
$3000 to $25,000.

Partial List of Suppliers:

Altek Industries Corp. Div. of Transmation Products Group (A)


(www.altekcalibrators.com)
Ametek/Jofra Instruments (B) (www.ametek.com)
Automation Service, Test Equipment Div. (Bhot air) (www.automationservice.com)
Azonix Co. (www.azonix.com)
Beta Products Div. of Hathaway Process Instrumentation Corp. (A)
(www.betacalibrators.com)
Biddle Instruments (A) (www.avointl.com)
Chino Works Div. Chino Corp. (www.chinoamerica.com)
Elan Technical Corp. (A) (www.elantechnical.com)
Cole-Parmer (Bfluidized bed) (www.coleparmer.com)
Davis Instrument Mfg. Co. (B) (www.davisontheweb.com)
Druck Inc. (www.druck.com)
Ever Ready Thermometer Co. Div. of Apogent Technologies Company (www.ertco.com)
Fluke (www.fluke.com)
Forma Scientific Co. Div. of Thermo Electron. (B) (www.thermo.com)
FTS Kinetics Inc. (B) (www.kineticsgroup.com)
Hart Scientific Inc. (A, B) (www.hartscientific.com)
Hotpack Corp. (B) (www.hotpack.com)
Isothermal Technology Ltd. (B) (www.isotech.co.uk)
GE Kaye Instruments Div. of GE Industrial Systems (www.kayeinstruments.com)
Love Controls Co. Div. of Dwyer Instruments (A) (www.love-controls.com)
Mikron Instrument Co. (A) (www.mikroninst.com)
Neslab Instruments Inc. Div. of Thermo Electron. (B) (www.thermo.com)
Omega Engineering Co. (www.omega.com)
Onicon Inc. (A) (www.onicon.com)
Panalarm Div. Ametek Inc. (A) (www.panalarm.com)
Prime Technology Inc. (A) (www.primetechnology.com)
Procedyne Corp. (B) (www.procedyne.com)
Promac Inc. Div. of Hathaway Process Instrumentation Corp. (A)
(www.hathawayprocess.com)
Rochester Instrument Systems Inc. Div. of Ametek (A) (www.annuciatorstore.com)
Rosemount Inc. Div. of Emerson Electric Company (B) (www.rosemount.com)

4.3 Calibrators and Simulators

595

Science/Electronics Inc. (B) (www.se-one.com)


S-Products Inc. (A) (www.s-products.com)
Techne Inc. (A) (www.techeusa.com)
Tenney Environmental Div. of Lunaire LTD. (B) (www.lunaire.com)
Thermo Electric Co. Inc. (A) (www.thermoelectric.com)
Yokogawa Corp. of America (A) (www.yokogawa.com)

Temperature calibrators range from simple hand-held instruments to large permanently installed baths, chambers, and
water-proof test cases. Calibrators reproduce temperatures
with an accuracy and stability adequate for the range of
devices to be checked. The thermometers are normally calibrated at one specific temperature at a time, although a series
of baths can be assembled for sequential immersion to enable
a range of temperature points to be checked. Correspondingly, the temperature can be reset in stages or as a ramp
function for multipoint checking.
Simulators duplicate the outputs of temperature sensors,
enabling measuring instruments to see a simulated but precise
temperature value. This output may be a millivoltage to
simulate thermocouples (TCs), a resistance to simulate
resistance temperature detectors (RTDs), or a light or radiant energy level to calibrate instruments based on optical
or infrared (IR) energy. Simulators can usually be connected
locally (at the sensor) and then at the readout instrument
so as to check the operation of transmitters, multiplexers,
and cabling.
A fixed resistor connected to a multipoint monitor is an
example of a simulator that continuously checks the calibration of indicators, recorders, and alarms. Some calibrators
incorporate both temperature environment and sensor output
functions.

TEMPERATURE CALIBRATION BATHS


A bath or chamber creates a temperature environment
suitable for the immersion of temperature sensors such
as TCs, RTDs, or bulbs. There are two bath types: fixed
and adjustable. The earliest fixed-temperature calibrator
used was the ice bath. This was supplemented by other
so-called fixed calibration points, such as the steam and
sulfur points, and later by a full range of freezing, boiling,
and triple points (see Table 4.1e). These are based on the
principle that materials change state (freeze and boil) at
certain fixed temperatures (Table 4.3a). Many of these
points have become reference values for defining the temperature scale and are therefore especially appropriate for
calibration.
Useful examples of such fixed points are the triple point
of water (0.0100 C) and the freezing point of zinc
(419.53C). The triple point of water is obtained in a sealed
container in which the solid, liquid, and vapor states of
water are in equilibrium (Figure 4.3b). In contrast to the
triple point, the ice point can be more easily obtained and
used to an accuracy suitable for industrial calibration. RTDs

2003 by Bla Liptk

in particular are defined in terms of their R0 value, or resistance value at the ice point (e.g., 100 Pt.). Immersion in
an ice point bath is a useful way of compensating for calibrating drift even though the thermometer is normally used
at higher temperatures.
Adjustable temperature baths contain a fluid (liquid or
fluidized solid) circulated through a chamber in which the
thermometers can be immersed. Controllers maintain a temperature at the desired set point. A block establishes temperature uniformity among sensors at temperatures below
1472F (800C), or where conduction is the primary means
of heat transfer.

TABLE 4.3a
Defining Fixed Points of the International Practical Temperature Scale (ITS-90)
Temperature

Point
Number

T90 / K

3 to 5

13.8

t90 / C

Substance

State

270.15 to
268.15

He

VP

259.35

eq. H2

TP

17

256.15

eq. H2 (or He)

VP (or GT)

20.3

252.85

eq. H2 (or He)

VP (or GT)

24.6

248.6

Ne

TP

54.36

218.8

O2

TP

83.8

189.34

Ar

TP

234.32

38.83

Hg

TP

273.16

0.01

H2O

TP

10

302.92

29.77

Ga

MP

11

429.75

156.60

In

FP

12

505.08

231.93

Sn

FP

13

692.68

419.53

Zn

FP

14

933.47

660.32

Al

FP

15

1234.93

961.78

Ag

FP

16

1337.33

1064.18

Au

FP

17

1357.77

1084.62

Cu

FP

FP = freezing point
MP = melting point
GT = gas thermometer point
TP = triple point
VP = vapor pressure point
eq. H2 = hydrogen at the equilibrium concentration of the ortho- and
para-molecular forms

596

Temperature Measurement

Platinum RTD

Handle
Thermocouple
Calibrator

Water Vapor

Type
K

Borosilicate Glass
Cell

Degrees
F

Liquid Water

Out
Hi
Set
Lo
Store

In
Off
Max
Read
Min
Reset

Thermowell
Ice

FIG. 4.3b
Sealed container used to obtain the triple-point temperature of
water used in the calibration of RTDs.

SIMULATORS
Simulators for TCs and RTDs consist of voltage sources
and/or resistors having values that correspond to the required
temperature readings. TC simulators require provision for
reference junction compensation and alloy terminals.
Simulators for optical or total radiation pyrometer calibration may be as simple as a 25-watt lamp or as sophisticated
as a controlled output arc furnace. It is usual to use these
simulators with comparison standards. By comparing one
optical pyrometer with a standard or with a laboratory-calibrated optical pyrometer, one can avoid errors that may arise
due to their large ambient temperature coefficients. Such
calibrations can, for example, be performed in an outdoor
shed or pyrometer shop adjacent to a steel mill.
A typical handheld calibrator is illustrated in Figure 4.3c.
A laboratory-type thermocouple calibrator/simulator is shown
in Figure 4.3d. This unit combines both the simulation and
calibration functions in one unit.
A simulator for optical pyrometry is shown in
Figure 4.3e. The unit incorporates a copper fixed point to
provide a reference temperature 1985F (1085C) independent of a standards laboratory. A very high temperature
3002F (1650C) TC and optical/radiation pyrometer calibration system incorporating a palladium freezing point,
molybdenum block, and standard lamp was built for a steel
mill in Brazil where traceability to a national laboratory
was unavailable.

2003 by Bla Liptk

FIG. 4.3c
Handheld thermocouple calibrator. (Courtesy of Altek Industries
Corp.)

Field and laboratory temperature calibrations are best


performed with calibrators and simulators that are adapted
for the particular application.

CONCLUSIONS
Table 4.3f provides some recommendations for the type of
calibration equipment that is best suited for particular temperature sensors and industrial or laboratory environments.

Bibliography
Adler, C.B., Reliability Aspects of Temperature Measurement, Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Society Conference, 2002.
American Society for Testing and Materials, Annual Book of ASTM Standards,
Section 14, General Methods and Instrumentation, West Conshohocken,
PA, 2003.
Calibration Technology Goes Digital, InTech, September 1989, pp. 8687.
Daneman, H.L., The Dos and Donts of Temperature Calibration, NCSL
Annual Conference Proceedings, June 1991.
Daneman, H.L., The Precise Calibration of Industrial Pyrometers to 1,650C,
Measurement Science Conference, Anaheim, CA, January 1986.
Gray, W.T., Calibration of Optical Pyrometers, ISA Transactions, Vol. 6,
1967.
Hussselbaugh, B., Temperature Calibration Chamber, M & C News, September 1992.
Kaufman, A., Liquid Cooling of Electronics, Measurements and Control,
September 1979, pp. 120121.
Kaufman, A., Temperature Transducer Calibration Baths, Measurements
and Control, February 1986, pp. 188189.

4.3 Calibrators and Simulators

597

Numeric Keypad: Selects Measurement Function or Enter Calibration Values


CJ Mode Key Selects Internal, External, or Manual (keypad entered value) Cold Junction Compensation
Large, Easy-to-Read 6-digit LCD Display

Precision Thermometer/Calibrator
CuKo FeKo E R

S B N T K J Pt100

Probe

mV

int

man

Cl
Mode

TC
Type

Rate

Diff

Min

Max

Reset

STO

Pt100

RCL

+/-

ENT

On

Clear Display

CL

Tc&mV TC

TC Type Key to Select


Thermocouple
Calibration

Norm

Store Displayed
Value in Memory

Recall
Stored Value

TC

Off

/mv

Measurement/Calibration Switch to
Select Operating Mode

Output the Displayed Calibrator Value

Engineering Units of F, C, mV, Ohms, or degress/minute


Up/Down Keys to Increment or Decrease the Calibrator Output
TC/mV Key to Select Thermocouple or Millivolt Output

FIG. 4.3d
Thermocouple calibrator/simulator used in the laboratory.

High Temperature
Detector Calibration
Accessory
Copper Point Blackbody
Accessory
Optical Bench
Lamp with WaterCooled Base
Pyrometer Control

Filter System
Pyrometer

Pyrometer Mount
Optical Bench
Writing Shelf

Control
Panels

FIG. 4.3e
Two pyrometer calibration system with copper point, blackbody furnace, and standard lamp.

2003 by Bla Liptk

598

Temperature Measurement

TABLE 4.3f
Calibration Equipment Recommended as a Function of the Type
of Thermometer and of the Operating Environment
Temperature Sensor
Being Calibrated
Thermocouples

RTDs

Laboratory
Environment

Industrial Installation

Triple point

Automatic ice point

Metal freezing points

Portable calibrator

Fluidized bath

Portable simulator

Triple point

Portable calibrator

Freezing points

Portable bath

Laboratory simulator

Portable simulator

Optical pyrometers

Comparison system

Lamp comparator

Radiation detectors

Comparison system

Optical pyrometer

2003 by Bla Liptk

Kaufman, A. and Drees, W., How Accurate Are Your Transducer Calibrations?, Instruments & Control Systems, November 1959, pp.
16821685.
Kaufman, A. and Mitchell, P., How Accurate Are Your Temperature Reference Baths?, Instruments & Automation, March 1955, pp. 450451.
Kerlin, T.W., Practical Thermocouple Thermometry, ISA Press, 1999.
Mangum, B.W. and Furukawa, G.T., Guidelines for Realizing the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90), NIST Tech. Note 1265,
August 1990.
Michalski, L., Eckersdorf, K., and McGhee, J., Temperature Measurement,
New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991.
National Bureau of Standards, Thermometer Calibration: A Model for State
Calibration Laboratories, NBS Monograph 174.
Standards, Simulators, Calibrators, Measurements and Control, September
1991.
Temperature Calibration Baths, Measurements and Control, September
1991.
Withers, P., Thermocouple Calibration, Measurements and Control, September 1990, pp. 144147.