Resistance Temperature Detector

What is RTD Temperature Sensor

What is a RTD Sensor?

RTD stands for “Resistance Temperature Detector.” It is a type of temperature sensor that works on the principle that the electrical resistance of a material (typically pure platinum) changes as its temperature changes.

The foundational concept behind an RTD sensor is that certain materials exhibit predictable changes in their electrical resistance when subjected to changes in temperature. This change in resistance can then be used as a proxy to determine the actual temperature of the material and, by extension, the surrounding environment.

Here are some critical points about RTD Sensor:


An RTD typically comprises a fine platinum wire wrapped around a ceramic or glass core. The wire’s resistance changes with temperature.

Temperature Range

RTD Sensor can be used over a wide temperature range, typically from about -200°C to 850°C, although the exact range can vary depending on the specific design and construction.


RTD Sensors are known for their precise and accurate temperature measurements, especially over narrow temperature ranges. The resistance change in response to temperature in RTDs is typically quite sensitive, which means even small temperature changes can be detected. This sensitivity makes them useful for applications where precision is required.


The resistance change in the RTD Sensor is relatively linear with temperature change, especially compared to other temperature sensors like thermocouples. This means that for every degree change in temperature, the resistance changes by a predictable and consistent amount over a defined range.


Unlike other sensors that may drift or degrade over time, RTDs, especially those made of platinum, maintain their characteristics over long periods. This long-term stability is valuable in applications where recalibration might be challenging or costly.


The most common RTD is the Pt100, which has a resistance of 100 ohms at 0°C. Other types, like Pt500 and Pt1000, also exist and have resistances of 500 ohms and 1000 ohms at 0°C, respectively.


RTDs can be configured in 2-wire, 3-wire, or 4-wire setups. The 3-wire and 4-wire configurations minimize the effects of lead wire resistance on the temperature measurement, which makes them more accurate.

Comparison with Thermocouples

While RTD Sensor offer higher accuracy and repeatability over narrow temperature ranges, thermocouples can be used over broader temperature ranges and respond more quickly to temperature changes. However, thermocouples are generally less accurate and stable than RTDs.

It’s worth noting that when selecting a temperature sensor, one should consider the specific application, required accuracy, temperature range, and environmental conditions.

RTD Sensor Applications

RTDs are used in a wide range of applications due to their accuracy, stability, and reliability. Most of the time they find use in industrial environments where a higher standard needs to be adhered to, as there are more stringent requirements for industry compared to the commercial sector for example. You will see these on factory floors, refrigeration units, laboratories, productions plants, oil rights, etc.

HVAC Systems

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems utilize RTDs to ensure environments are maintained at the desired temperatures. For instance, they are perfect for cooling tower as their accuracy and stability would translate in a very good long term stability of the system.


In pharmaceutical manufacturing and storage, maintaining precise temperatures can be crucial. RTDs help ensure that products are produced and stored under appropriate conditions, adhering to the stringent requirements that pharma companies need to adhere to.


In scientific and research labs, RTDs help maintain and monitor the temperatures of critical experiments and stored materials, ensuring accuracy and reliability in results. Their high accuracy and linearity ensures experiments do not produce faulty data.

Semiconductor Manufacturing

The manufacturing of semiconductors requires precise temperature control, and RTDs play an essential role in ensuring that these temperatures are maintained accurately.


RTDs help monitor and control the temperatures in refrigeration units, ensuring the optimal conditions for the stored products. They are especially valuable for scenarios where a very high precision is required in the context of medical laboratories for example.

Renewable Energy Systems

In solar thermal systems, for instance, RTDs can monitor the temperature of the heat transfer fluid, ensuring that the system is operating efficiently. They are also utilized in automated solar systems where the panels rotate based on optimizing the solar radiation intake in conjunction with the operating temperature.

Oil and Gas Exploration

In the oil and gas industry, RTDs can be used downhole to measure temperatures in wells or to monitor the temperature of equipment and processes at refineries. They are the preferred choice as minute changes in the temperature could lead to serious incidents, thus a highly sensitive sensor is required.

Types of RTD Sensors

RTDs (Resistance Temperature Detectors) come in various types, primarily differentiated by their construction, material, and configuration. Depending on the type you choose their characteristics and the applications they are suitable for ma vary a lot. Try to select a sensor that has the right combination of characteristics for your particular use-case. Here are the main category types.

Based on Material Used

Platinum RTDs (Pt-RTDs)

These are the most common type. Platinum is preferred because of its linear resistance-temperature relationship, stability, and repeatability. Examples include Pt100 (100 ohms at 0°C), Pt500 (500 ohms at 0°C), and Pt1000 (1000 ohms at 0°C).

Nickel RTDs

Less common than platinum and typically used in lower temperature applications.

Copper RTDs

Also less common than platinum and usually used for specific applications requiring copper’s characteristics.

Based on Construction

Wire-wound RTDs

These have a wire (usually platinum) wound around an insulating core. They offer high accuracy and are suitable for a wide temperature range, however this comes at the cost of being a bit larger in size.

Thin-film RTDs

These have a thin layer of platinum deposited onto a ceramic substrate. They are smaller in size and can be less expensive than wire-wound RTDs but might not be as stable over very long periods.

Based on Configuration

2-wire RTD

The simplest configuration but can suffer from inaccuracies due to the resistance of the connecting wires. Easiest to set up.

3-wire RTD

The most common configuration used to compensate for the lead wire resistance. It offers improved accuracy over the 2-wire configuration and does not complicate the measurement setup too much.

4-wire RTD

Offers the highest level of accuracy by completely eliminating the effects of lead wire resistance, however it is more complex to wire and requires more processing of the measurement.

Based on Temperature Coefficient

European Curve (DIN/IEC 60751)

With an alpha coefficient of 0.00385 ohms/ohm/°C, it’s the standard for most of the world.

American Curve (US Industrial)

It has a slightly different alpha coefficient of 0.00392 ohms/ohm/°C.

Based on Class or Accuracy

Class A, B, C

These are classifications with Class A being the most accurate and Class C the least.

In most applications, platinum RTDs (especially Pt100) with 3-wire or 4-wire configurations are preferred due to their accuracy and reliability. However, the choice of RTD type will depend on the specific requirements of the application, such as the temperature range, desired accuracy, and environmental conditions.