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Radiometric Temperature Measurements

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Zhuomin M. Zhang, Georgia Institute of Technology

Benjamin K. Tsai, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Graham Machin, National Physical Laboratory, June 2009

Temperature measurement and control has played and continues to play a vital role in many scientific and technological advances. Radiometric temperature measurement, that is the measurement of temperature based on thermal radiative emission, has a long history from fundamental studies of Planckian emission, to many industrial applications including iron and steel production and materials and chemical processing, to playing a fundamental role in the realization and dissemination of successive international temperature scales. Radiation thermometry is attractive in many challenging temperature measurement situations because it is a noncontact, nonintrusive, and fast technique.

Thermal radiation is governed by the fundamental physical laws established over one hundred years ago by Kirchhoff, Stefan, Boltzmann, Wien, and, in particular, Planck. These laws directly link emitted blackbody radiation, total or spectrally resolved, to the thermodynamic temperature of the emitting source. Actual practical measurements by radiation thermometry, however, are prone to a number of uncertainties associated with, for example, surface emissivity and environmental effects such as absorption by dust or smoke and reflected ambient radiation. While a number of books have been published on thermometry, in general, no comprehensive book devoted to radiometric temperature measurement has been published since the publication in 1988 of Theory and Practice of Radiation Thermometry, edited by D.P. DeWitt and G.D. Nutter.

In recent years, there have been tremendous developments in instrumentation. For instance, infrared focal plane arrays can now produce images with a spatial resolution of order 10 μm with a temperature resolution of 0.01 K. While the expert in the field can keep abreast of these rapidly advancing techniques through the information presented at periodic international temperature symposia and through the technical literature, it is very difficult for a newcomer to find a definitive up-to-date summary of the practice of radiation thermometry. This book aims at filling that gap by covering basic theory, measurement fundamentals, standards and calibration, and summaries of current practice of radiation thermometry in different technical fields at a level accessible to the newcomer but also comprehensive enough to provide the information needed to understand and bring to bear the latest technique to a particular radiometric temperature measurement problem.

This two-volume set on Radiometric Temperature Measurements (I. Fundamentals and II. Applications) is written for those who will apply radiation thermometers in industrial practice, who will use thermometers in scientific research, who design and develop thermometers for instrument manufacturers, and who will design the thermometers to address particular measurement challenges. These volumes are more than a practice guide. We hope that by presenting the fundamental principles and pointing out the pitfalls in applying radiation thermometry in various settings, our readers will gain knowledge in: (1) the proper selection of the type of thermometer; (2) the best practice in using radiation thermometers; (3) awareness of the uncertainty sources and subsequent appropriate procedure to reduce the overall measurement uncertainty; and (4) understanding of the calibration chain and its current limitations. We have also added a large number of references at the end of each chapter as a source for those seeking a deeper or more detailed understanding.

The author(s) of each chapter were chosen from a group of international scientists who are experts in the field and specialist(s) on the subject matter covered in the chapter. It is intended that together the two volumes will form a comprehensive summary of the current practice of radiation thermometry. The first volume concentrates on the fundamental aspects, while the second volume mainly focuses on the industrial and practical applications. In the fundamental volume, Chapter 1 provides a historical overview of radiation thermometry, explains the basic fundamentals and commonly used terms, and lists the various types of radiation thermometers. The concepts of temperature, its scale realization, calibration, traceability, measurement, uncertainty analysis, and future approaches, are extensively elaborated in Chapter 2. The basic theory on blackbody radiation, radiative properties, and the electromagnetic wave theory are discussed in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 focuses on the design and characterization of radiation thermometers. Chapter 5 addresses the theoretical and computational characterization of isothermal and nonisothermal blackbody cavities by analytical and Monte Carlo methods. In Chapter 6, radiance sources used for calibration such as fixed-point blackbodies, variable temperature blackbodies, cryogenic blackbodies, high stability and other tungsten-based lamps are described. Chapter 7 is an overview of some complementary surface temperature measurement techniques, such as thermal reflectance, interferometry, ellipsometry, and photothermal radiometry with application examples.

The volume on applications begins with a review of the state-of-the-art industrial applications of radiation thermometry, including a critique of multiwavelength thermometry (Chapter 1). Chapter 2 describes experimental characterization of blackbody cavities with an extensive survey on the measurement techniques. Chapter 3 focuses on the application of optical fiber thermometry for semiconductor processing, with an emphasis on rapid thermal processing and in situ calibration of lightpipe thermometers using thin-film thermocouples. Chapter 4 reviews the state-of-the-art practice of radiation thermometry in the steel industry, highlighting specific manufacturing processes. Chapter 5 deals with thermal imaging in firefighting and other thermographic applications along with standards of measurement and application. Chapter 6 discusses remote sensing of earth and sea surface temperatures and reviews different instruments and their measuring capabilities. Finally, Chapter 7 covers four aspects of clinical radiation thermometry: ear thermometry, medical thermal imaging, medical pulsed photothermal radiometry, and microwave radiometry for clinical applications.

This two-volume set is a tribute to David DeWitt (1934–2005) who has been an inspiration for us and to many others in the radiation thermometry community. In his last eight years, he dedicated his research to temperature measurement and calibration for rapid thermal processing in microelectronics manufacturing industry. He will always be remembered as a leader in the fields of radiation thermometry and heat transfer engineering.

The editors sincerely thank all of the chapter authors for their outstanding contributions and hard work. We also express appreciation to Dr. Tom Lucatorto and Dr. Albert C. Parr, the series editors, for their constant encouragement during this process and their careful review of the chapter contents. Finally, we would like to thank our families for their full support and enduring patience throughout the writing and editing of this book.

Chapter 1

Industrial Applications of Radiation Thermometry

Jörg Hollandt¹; Jürgen Hartmann¹; Ortwin Struß²; Reno Gärtner³    ¹ Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt, Braunschweig and Berlin, Germany

² Heitronics Infrared GmbH, Wiesbaden, Germany

³ Raytek GmbH, Berlin, Germany

Publisher Summary

This chapter presents a survey on the use of radiation thermometers in industrial production processes. The typical set-up and current types of industrial radiation thermometers as well as their possible fields of application are described in the chapter. The selection criteria and the essential specifications necessary for the practical use of radiation thermometers are introduced in the chapter. The chapter also presents a survey of industrial production areas in which noncontact temperature measurement is highly developed. For controlling, optimizing, repeating, and comparing industrial production processes, temperature must be measured sufficiently accurately and uniformly worldwide. This is accomplished with the aid of the specifications and regulations of the International Temperature Scale (ITS). A noncontact measurement, based on the ITS-90, of surface temperatures using radiation thermometers is possible, over a temperature range from 100°C to over 3,000°C. In an industrial environment, radiometric temperature measurement offers a range of advantages over contact methods. Radiation thermometers react very quickly and the measurement is not affected by heat supply or dissipation. Objects that are moving rapidly, or are electrically energized (for example, microwave heating, electrical induction), or are subject to rapid temperature changes can be measured this way. As a result, radiation thermometry is being used increasingly for the monitoring and control of thermal processes, for maintenance and in building services engineering.


Temperature is the most important thermodynamic state variable determining, among other things, the speed of chemical reactions, the rate of reproduction of living cells, the degree of efficiency of thermal engines and the emission of thermal radiation. Practically all quantities relevant in industry and research are a function of temperature, and this makes temperature, in addition to time, the most often measured physical quantity. It is clear that good temperature measurement and control for successful industrial processes is required. In addition, because of the globalization of industrial production, simple, precise and yet globally uniform temperature determination is essential. This uniformity is ensured by the implementation of the International Temperature Scale of 1990 (ITS-90) [1] (see Chapter 2 of the companion volume [2] for a detailed description).

Radiation thermometry determines the temperature of an object through measuring its emitted thermal radiance. The technique is a non-contact, quick and non-intrusive surface temperature measurement that, with proper traceable calibration, can be robustly linked to the ITS-90. Among the variety of existing temperature measuring methods, radiation thermometry has a unique role in temperature measurement for industrial production processes. It allows temperature measurement in the following situations which would be very difficult by any other means:

• rapidly moving objects;

• very small objects;

• objects with small heat capacity and/or low thermal conductivity;

• objects with rapidly changing temperature;

• objects for which spatial temperature distributions need to be determined;

• objects at very high temperatures;

• processes where contamination/intrusion has to be avoided.

Although non-contact industrial temperature measurement in steel and glass manufacture and processing had its origin mainly at high temperatures above 700°C, there is at present a rapid expansion occurring in the application of non-contact thermometry in the low-temperature range, particularly exploiting the atmospheric window from 8 μm to 14 μm. For example, non-contact thermometry at lower temperatures has expanded into the non-metal working industry (e.g. plastics processing and production), maintenance and repair (e.g. non-destructive testing and evaluation), heat and refrigeration engineering and food processing, nearly all of which are at temperatures below 300°C. In no particular order, important industrial production and processing areas in which radiation thermometry is used extensively are, for example:

• glass industry;

• steel industry;

• aluminium industry;

• plastics industry;

• semiconductor industry;

• asphalt, cement and chalk industry;

• paper industry;

• printing and surface-coating industry;

• lacquer curing and lacquer drying;

• laser welding and laser cutting;

• food industry;

• waste incineration, hot gases and flames;

• energy generation and power plant operation.

The detector of thermal radiation is the essential component of a non-contact thermometer. It can be a fast photoelectric semiconductor detector (e.g. based on silicon or indium gallium arsenide (InGaAs)) or for lower temperature applications a thermal detector (e.g. a pyroelectric detector, bolometer or thermopile). Detectors are usually thermally stabilized (or their temperature is monitored and corrected for) to negate changes in responsivity due to drifts in the detector temperature during operation. Furthermore, developments in the semiconductor industry have allowed greatly improved thermal radiation detectors to be developed – leading to enhanced performance radiation thermometers [3].

Depending on the application, stationary and non-stationary radiation thermometers are in use. For industrial process control, stationary radiation thermometers (this includes line-scanners, which give the temperature distribution in one direction) are essentially applied. Non-stationary radiation thermometers are generally handheld radiation thermometers and thermal imagers which are often used as multi-purpose instruments for irregular temperature measurements. Thermal imagers provide two-dimensional temperature distributions.

The stationary radiation thermometers are widely used for in situ monitoring and for continuous process control in an industrial environment. This type of device has shown considerable growth in the number of applications, fuelled by improvements in detector performance and thermometer design aspects such as permissible ambient temperature, installation size, field-of-view diameter and cost.

In addition to the stationary radiation thermometers, handheld radiation thermometers and thermal imagers are increasingly being employed. They are often used as a hot-spot finder in the electrical and electronic industry or, in the case of devices with a sufficiently small measurement uncertainty, for temperature control in the food industry. In the case of thermal imagers, the development of micro-bolometer arrays [4], which are produced as evacuated thin-film bolometers based on vanadium oxide or amorphous silicon, has changed the market. Almost 90% of all modern thermal imagers used in the civilian domain are based on these focal-plane arrays. Such an array generally consist of 12,000–310,000 single bolometers, each having a typical dimension of 25 μm×25 μm or 35 μm×35 μm. Devices having 160×120 pixels, a temperature resolution of 70 mK and an image frequency of 25 Hz are currently the standard. These specifications are improving rapidly with both higher spatial and temperature resolution. However, it should be noted that presently in industrial process control, they only find niche applications. Having said that, thermal imagers along with infrared line-scanners are increasingly being used in industrial process control, where in addition to the temperature, the spatial distribution/uniformity is a crucial quality criterion.

In this chapter, the principal design and current types of industrial radiation thermometers in common use are presented. Some of the selection criteria and essential specifications necessary for the practical implementation of radiation thermometers are discussed. A survey is given of the use of radiation thermometers in important sectors of industry. This will illustrate the broad spectrum of the application fields for radiation thermometry.


2.1 General characteristics of radiation thermometers and influence of environmental conditions

The general layout of a radiation thermometer, including a typical application environment, is shown schematically in Figure 1. An optical system images the measured object onto the field stop in front of the detector. The aperture stop and the field stop define the solid angle and the surface area (measurement field/field-of-view) of the thermal radiation measured by the detector. In the case of most radiation thermometers, a spectral filter is used to limit the wavelength range of the radiation reaching the detector. The spectral filter is often positioned in front of the detector or integrated as the window of the detector housing.

Figure 1 Schematic view of the assembly of a radiation thermometer.

The performance of a radiation thermometer is essentially determined by the quality of its optical system and the detectivity of its radiation detector. High-quality radiation thermometers operate with a fixed focus (which corresponds to the recommended measuring distance) or with a variable focus for adjustment to the measuring distance. From the distance-dependent setting of the focus, a measurement field results in which the mean radiation temperature of the measurement object is determined. Industrial radiation thermometers for process temperature measurement operate, as a rule, with high-quality optical imaging systems. These can be made of lenses, mirrors, fibre optics or a combination of these. Depending on the spectral range in which the radiation thermometer operates, optical glass or infrared-transparent materials, such as silicon, germanium, zinc selenide, sapphire or barium fluoride, are employed for lens systems. In the case of low-cost radiation thermometers, optical components made of plastic are often used.

The alignment of radiation thermometers (particularly those used for lower temperature applications) and/or the marking of the measurement field is achieved with the aid of pilot lasers, transparent visors or even integrated digital camera systems. Integrated alignment lasers are often used as focus marking devices, which show the actual dimension of the measurement field with changing measuring distance.

For the measurement of thermal radiation temperatures in the range of about 200°C and above, photoelectric semiconductor detectors based on silicon or InGaAs in conjunction with glass optics are generally used. InGaAs detectors are used to measure temperatures from around 200°C, with silicon detectors being used from 450°C upwards. Semiconductor detectors, such as lead sulphide and lead selenide, are typically used for thermometers to measure object temperatures of 50°C and above. However, for very low-temperature applications down to –100°C, thermal detectors, such as thermopiles or pyroelectric detectors, are generally deployed. It should be noted that by cooling semiconductor detectors, their detectivity can be significantly improved. For example, cooling semiconductor detectors, like indium antimonide or mercury cadmium telluride, enables them to measure very low photon fluxes of thermal radiation, but they are not significantly used for industrial applications.

With some industrial radiation thermometers, the detector and sometimes also the spectral filter are temperature-stabilized. Often, however, internal reference radiation sources (or simply the measurement and processing of the internal temperature of the detector, and/or of the optical components) ensure a stable reading of measurement values of the radiation temperature within the specified temperature range of the radiation thermometer. Industrial radiation thermometers typically work in an ambient temperature range from −20°C to 60°C without requiring active heating or cooling. For more extreme conditions, custom-made products and the use of cooling jackets allow the use of radiation thermometers even under extreme ambient temperatures to above 300°C. When cooling the radiation thermometer, condensation, particularly on the optical system, but also on the thermometer housing must be avoided. See Table 1 for the minimum temperature for given environmental humidity conditions.

Table 1

Minimum temperature of the thermometer in relation to the ambient temperature and humidity to avoid condensation

(n.p.): Operation not possible, as minimum cooling temperature is above 60°C.

Industrial radiation thermometers generally operate within a limited spectral range, or spectral band. This band is generally adapted to the required temperature range of the thermometer, the transmission characteristic of the atmosphere and, for specific applications, the emission spectrum of the material to be measured.

Dependent on the temperature of the object being measured, different wavelength bands are most appropriate for the measurement. This is due to the peak thermal radiation emission (via Planck's radiation law; see Chapter 3 of Ref. [2]) shifting to longer wavelengths at lower temperatures. Above 450°C, where Si photodiodes are the detector of choice, wavelengths of 0.95 μm or less are most suitable. From 250°C upwards, where the InGaAs detector is most appropriate, the wavelength range from 0.9 μm to 1.7 μm is suitable. Radiation temperatures above 0°C can be measured in an atmospheric window of 2.5–5 μm. For the measurement of radiation temperatures of ambient temperature and below the spectral range of 8–14 μm is used. This spectral range is also one of the choices for simple, multi-purpose radiation thermometers.

In principle, three phenomena have to be considered which may be caused by the atmosphere. Atmospheric absorption reduces the spectral radiance of the measured object, while atmospheric emission increases the spectral radiance observed by the radiation thermometer. Emission of the atmosphere is in most cases less significant than absorption, as long as objects are observed with a temperature significantly above atmospheric temperature. Atmospheric scatter becomes a major problem when a significant amount of small particles like dust, smoke or vapour is in the atmosphere. From among the gases present in air, water and carbon dioxide have a significant influence on the measurement of temperature. Figure 2 shows the transmittance of a 1-m-long air path with 300 ppm CO2 concentration at a temperature of 25°C and a relative humidity of 50%. As can clearly be seen, there are spectral windows in the atmosphere where the transmission is practically unaffected by these molecular absorption bands.

Figure 2 Transmittance of an air path 1 m long with 300 ppm CO 2 concentration, an air temperature of 25°C and a relative air humidity of 50%.

The effect of the atmosphere must be considered, particularly when viewing targets that are at a significant distance from the thermometer. For example, in many industrial processes, dust and high air humidity are unavoidable consequences and these will strongly influence the readout of even well-designed radiation thermometers even at small measurement distances. Some high-quality radiation thermometers allow, if the atmospheric conditions are known, a correction to be made to the measured value of the temperature for the effect of distance, humidity and even carbon dioxide concentration. When using radiation thermometers under difficult and variable atmospheric conditions, measurement errors and contamination of the optical system can be avoided or reduced through judicious mounting of the radiation thermometer as well as through the use of protection tubes and/or air purging of the optical system. Furthermore, the use of fibre optics, which are brought close to the measuring object, or the use of ratio radiation thermometers, at least where the attenuation is wavelength independent, presents possible solutions. An overview on the environmental effects on radiation thermometry is given in Ref. [5].

The emissivity of the measurement object has a great influence on the radiometric measurement of the object's temperature (see Chapter 3 of Ref. [2]). The emissivity of a material is not only dependent on the temperature, wavelength and direction of observation, but also on the form and condition of the surface (e.g. contamination, oxidation, roughness and structure). Consequently, in the course of an industrial process, considerable changes in the emissivity can occur within very short time spans, and it is, in general, impossible to calculate these changes. In only a few very special cases can emissivity be calculated (e.g. reflecting metal surfaces). In nearly all cases, diffuse reflection prevails in practice and one is dependent on a priori values of emissivity from literature, from radiation thermometer manufacturers or in extreme cases a direct in situ measurement. In the case of a low emissivity and a low object temperature, the uncertainty of the radiation temperature measurement is likely to be large, because in addition to low levels of thermal radiation from the target (due to its intrinsic temperature and emissivity), the ambient thermal radiation reflected by the object has to be taken into account. This precludes, or at least makes very difficult, the measurement of shiny metal surfaces. However, high emissivity, diffusely reflecting materials, for example, construction materials, such as stone, cement or ceramic, have emissivities close to unity and as such the temperatures of such materials are quite straightforward to measure using radiation thermometry. In addition, for materials which appear transparent in the visible such as glass, water and plastic film, as well as for hot gases and flames, characteristic wavelength ranges exist in the infrared, in which the absorptivity and emissivity are large so that with spectrally adapted radiation thermometers, non-contact temperature measurement is possible. In practice, for most real surfaces, it is possible to adjust the thermometer for known emissivity and ambient temperature so that the thermometer corresponds to the true temperatures of the measured object. An important general principle to minimize emissivity errors is to measure at as short a wavelength as practicable, if the object to be measured is not surrounded by a furnace with a higher temperature than the object itself (see Section 4.7). An overview on the thermal radiative properties of materials can be found in Refs. [6,7] and methods how to reduce the influence of emissivity on the temperature measurement with radiation thermometers are given in Ref. [8].

Now in principle the output signal, Sm, of a radiation thermometer is a complex function of the dimensions of the aperture and the field stop, the transmission of the optical components, the responsivity of the detector and the performance of the associated signal processing electronics. However, this situation can be greatly simplified if (a) the radiation thermometer is operated in its linear range where the output signal is proportional to the measured radiance Lm and (b) the spectral responsivity of the radiation thermometer is sufficiently narrow so that its output signal is proportional to Planck's law LBB(λ, T) at the effective wavelength λ[9,10] of the radiation thermometer when observing a blackbody. Under these assumptions, the output signal and the spectral radiance measured by a radiation thermometer when observing an opaque object are


where ε(λ, To) is the spectral emissivity of the observed object, To the temperature of the observed object, Ta the temperature of the surrounding (ambient temperature) and Td the temperature of the detector.

The first part of Equation (1) represents the spectral radiance emitted from the observed object due to the object temperature. The second term is the radiance originating from the surrounding of the measured object and reflected by the observed surface. The last term represents the radiance emitted by the detector. It is assumed that the emissivity of the detector is unity, since it is usually enclosed in a housing at the same temperature.

For low-temperature measurements, the detector radiance must be considered in the radiation budget, but for thermometers which measure temperatures above 200°C the last term in Equation (1) is negligible and the output signal is given by


2.2 Types of industrial radiation thermometers

The various types of radiation thermometers are generally categorized by their respective spectral responsivity.

2.2.1 Spectral radiation thermometers

Spectral radiation thermometers operate in a narrow spectral range with a typical bandwidth (Δλ) of less than 20 nm in the visible, and less than 100 nm in the infrared (Figure 3a). Their waveband is generally so narrow that in industrial applications it is possible to assign to them an effective wavelength independent of temperature (Table 2). As the radiant power striking the detector is low, radiation detectors with a high detectivity must be used. Spectral radiation thermometers are generally used in industrial process control for specific temperature measuring tasks. Their spectral responsivity range is usually selected to match the particular industrial process. One specific example is that by selecting suitable narrow spectral bands, radiation thermometers can be used to measure both the surface and below-surface temperature, for example, in glass, plastic or a gas, and also behind an object, for example, behind a window (Figure 4). Besides industrial applications, special spectral radiation thermometers that have a signal strictly proportional to the spectral radiance with very high-temperature resolution and a very small size-of-source effect (SSE; see Section 3) [12] are suitable as metrological transfer radiation thermometers. These can be calibrated with very small uncertainty using blackbody radiators (see Chapter 6 of Ref. [2]) and their reference function can be modelled very precisely. These types of thermometers act as transfer standards in the calibration chain providing the link (traceability) for industrial radiation thermometers to the primary standards of the ITS-90 (see Chapter 2 of Ref. [2]) [11,13].

Figure 3 Schematic sequence of the spectral responsivity for various types of radiation thermometers: (a) spectral radiation thermometer, (b) broadband radiation thermometer, (c) total radiation thermometer and (d) ratio radiation thermometer.

Table 2

Effective wavelengths at various radiation temperatures for the spectral ranges of a spectral radiation thermometer at 0.65 μm and typical industrial band radiation thermometers [11]

Figure 4 Schematic representation of the various measurement possibilities of a spectral radiation thermometer as a function of its effective wavelength and the absorption and/or emission behaviour of the observed materials. (a) At the effective wavelength λ1, material A is highly absorbent. The radiation thermometer measures the surface temperature of A. (b) At the effective wavelength λ2, material A is weakly absorbent. The radiation thermometer measures – if A has sufficient material thickness – a mean temperature within the depths of A. (c) At the effective wavelength λ3, material A is transparent and gas B is weakly absorbent. The radiation thermometer measures – if there is a sufficiently large gas volume – a mean temperature of the gas in an enclosed volume. (d) At the effective wavelength λ4, material A is transparent and material C is highly absorbent. The radiation thermometer measures the surface temperature of C. Note: The schematic presentation of the various measurement possibilities has been simplified for clarity – that is, in practice the cases (c) and (d) may need the residual absorption of the window A to be taken into account.

2.2.2 Broadband radiation thermometers

Many industrial radiation thermometers are band or more properly broadband radiation thermometers. Strictly speaking, the spectral radiation thermometer is also a band radiation thermometer, but with a very narrow spectral band (see Section 2.2.1). For broadband radiation thermometers, the bandwidth of the spectral filter is considerably larger than for spectral radiation thermometers (Figure 3b) and they can no longer be taken to be quasi-monochromatic in operation. They often use the entire spectral range of an atmospheric window. The effective wavelength of a broadband radiation thermometer changes according to the temperature of the object measured. This shift in effective wavelength is caused by a change in the spectral radiance distribution within the bandwidths of the thermometer with temperature according to Planck's law. Table 2 shows the effective wavelengths at various radiation temperatures for the spectral ranges of some typical broadband radiation thermometers. By using the temperature-dependent effective wavelength, the signal to temperature characteristic of a broadband radiation thermometer can simply be described with Equation (1), or (2) according to a spectral radiation thermometer.

The greater bandwidth of such thermometers leads to a higher radiant power on the detector, which for the most part facilitates good resolution of the measured temperature values, and enables the thermometer to function at lower radiance temperatures than spectral radiation thermometers. Their operation in a spectral band also reduces the influence of atmospheric absorption compared to total radiation thermometers (see Section 2.2.3). Because of the avoidance of atmospheric absorption bands, the measurement uncertainties attainable with broadband radiation thermometers can be kept low, but are usually larger than those obtained with spectral radiation thermometers.

2.2.3 Total radiation thermometers

Total radiation thermometers operate mostly without spectral filters and detect nearly the entire spectrum of the thermal radiation of the measurement object (Figure 3c). The radiant power striking the detector is large due to the very broad bandwidth. However, the calibration and application of total radiation thermometers with low measurement uncertainty can only be performed under very constant atmospheric conditions, either with an inert gas or in a vacuum. The industrial use of total radiation thermometers is impractical due to their sensitivity to variable atmospheric conditions.

2.2.4 Ratio radiation thermometers

In the case of the ratio radiation thermometer, the temperature is determined from the ratio of two signals, taken at the same temperature but at different wavelengths. It operates in two, mostly narrow, spectral ranges lying close together (Figure 3d). The radiation temperature of the measurement object is determined by forming the ratio of the spectral radiances in the two spectral ranges. The output characteristics of such an instrument are this ratio as a function of temperature. Ratio radiation thermometers are designed to avoid the problem of unknown emissivity of the measured object and unknown transmittance of the optical path. They are well suited for the temperature measurement of grey bodies, that is, objects whose emissivity does not change with wavelength, if the reflected radiation of the surrounding from the object can be neglected. In this case, from Equation (2) follows for the output signal of a ratio radiation thermometer Sm,R working in the two wavelength ranges characterized by λ1 and λ2


where ε(λ, T) is the spectral emissivity of the observed object and To the temperature of the observed object.

From Equation (3), it is obvious that if the emissivity of the object is the same at the two wavelengths λ1 and λ2 (grey conditions: ε(λ1)=ε(λ2)), the ratio depends only on the temperature of the observed object. The ratio thermometer can also be applied when small emissivity differences between the two wavelengths occur. However, it should be noticed that the ratio thermometer is in general more sensitive to measurement errors, including a non-grey behaviour of the measured object, than a typical band radiation thermometer as it determines the temperature from the shape of the thermal radiation curve, while the band radiation thermometer measures the intensity of the thermal radiation, which is much more strongly changing with the temperature than the shape of the spectral distribution (i.e. the ratio of the signal at the two wavelengths).

In real industrial situations, materials often display, in the case of changing temperatures, changing emissivity ratios rendering the ratio radiation thermometer unsuitable for emissivity free thermometry. However, often the great advantage of these devices lies in three other stated factors: measurements with a ratio radiation thermometer can significantly reduce the influence of window contamination and of a transmittance change of the line of sight by either dust or smoke, as these often lead to a wavelength-independent loss of signal (grey absorption). Finally the ratio radiation thermometer can perform temperature measurements for objects that are only partially filling the measurement field.

The importance of the last item, where the target to be measured is small compared to the measurement field of the thermometer, should not be underestimated. The method is often the only simple way in which very small and/or moving measurement objects, which do not completely fill the field-of-view of the radiation thermometer, for example, the temperature measurement at the laser focus in material processing with lasers, can be measured. However, this is only possible if the radiance contribution from the fraction of the measurement field which is not filled with the object of interest is considerably smaller than the radiance contribution of the measured object.

In the case that the reflected radiation from the measured object cannot be neglected, the signal of a ratio radiation thermometer is derived from Equation (2) to


where ε(λ, T) is the spectral emissivity of the observed object, To the temperature of the observed object and Ta the temperature of the surrounding (ambient temperature).

From Equation (4), it follows that if the reflected radiation cannot be neglected even for objects with true grey-body behaviour, the measured ratio is not independent of the emissivity. Therefore, ratio radiation thermometers are only used for measuring temperatures above approximately 150°C, as the influence of the ambient radiation reflected from the object being measured must be kept small. Furthermore, it becomes obvious from Equation (4) that a ratio radiation thermometer cannot be used for temperature measurement of objects in a furnace. As the furnace temperature is generally even higher than the object temperature, a large error in object temperature measurement results (see Section 4.7) [14].

2.2.5 Multi-wavelength radiation thermometers

The extension of the idea of the dual-wavelength ratio radiation thermometer is the multi-wavelength radiation thermometer. The temperature is determined from the ratios of three or more signals, taken at the same temperature but at different wavelengths. In this case, it is usually assumed that the problem of the wavelength dependence of the emissivity can be solved by describing the logarithm of the emissivity as a series expansion in wavelength [15]. This means a three-wavelength radiation thermometer can measure true temperature if the logarithm of the emissivity depends linearly on wavelength, a four-wavelength thermometer if the logarithm of emissivity is a quadratic function of wavelength and so on. However, the sensitivity of the multi-wavelength radiation thermometer to measurement errors increases rapidly with the number of parameters in the emissivity model, that is, the number of wavelengths of the thermometer. So in practice the use of such thermometers cannot be regarded as a general solution to the emissivity problem, and very significant temperature errors can result even for materials that differ only slightly from grey-body conditions [16].

A critical analysis of the potential of multi-wavelength radiation thermometry to derive true temperatures is given in Ref. [17].

2.2.6 Typical commercially available radiation thermometers

Tables 3–5 show the characteristics, for example, the spectral responsivity, temperature ranges, the radiation detectors used, as well as typical applications, of commercially available typical radiation thermometers.

Table 3

Spectral and band radiation thermometers [17]

a Indicated are the central wavelength and the typical spectral limits in parentheses.

b Indicated is the total temperature range offered. Individual radiation thermometers have, as a rule, a lower measuring temperature range.

c The lower temperature range is dependent on the optical system used (measuring field size) and the response time.

d Indicated is the shortest possible response time. In the lower temperature range, longer response times are usually necessary for a good temperature resolution.

e Si: silicon, Ge: germanium, InGaAs: indium gallium arsenide, PbS: lead sulphide, PbSe: lead selenide, Pyro: pyroelectrical detectors, TP: thermopiles.

Table 4

Spectral and band radiation thermometers [17]

a Indicated are the central wavelength and typical spectral limits in parentheses.

b Indicated is the total temperature range offered. Individual radiation thermometers have, as a rule, a lower measuring temperature range.

c The lower temperature range is dependent on the optical system used and the response time.

d Indicated is the shortest possible response time. In the lower temperature range, longer response times are usually necessary for a good temperature resolution.

e Si: silicon, Ge: germanium, InGaAs: indium gallium arsenide, PbS: lead sulphide, PbSe: lead selenide, Pyro: pyroelectrical detectors, TP: thermopile.

Table 5

Ratio radiation thermometers [17]

a Indicated are the central wavelength and the typical spectral limits in parentheses.

b Indicated is the total temperature range offered. Individual radiation thermometers have, as a rule, a lower measuring temperature range.

c The lower temperature range is dependent on the optical system used and the response time.

d Indicated is the shortest possible response time. In the lower temperature range, longer response times are usually necessary for a good temperature resolution.

e Si: silicon, Ge: germanium, InGaAs: indium gallium arsenide, PbS: lead sulphide, PbSe: lead selenide, Pyro: pyroelectrical detectors, TP: thermopiles.

f In the case of short-wave ratio radiation thermometers, in the case of temperatures under 300°C, an increased photosensitivity can occur (disturbances due to sunlight and artificial