Editorial Feature

A Guide to Semiconductor Temperature Sensors

Semiconductor temperature sensors exploit the temperature-induced variations in the electrical properties of semiconductor materials, delivering accurate readings, stability, and fast response times. This article will provide an overview of semiconductor temperature sensors, including their working principle, applications, and the evolving commercial landscape in the industry.

Semiconductor Temperature Sensors

Image Credit: Ivan Smuk/Shutterstock.com

What is a Semiconductor Temperature Sensor?

A semiconductor temperature sensor, also known as a solid-state temperature sensor, is an electronic device integrated into integrated circuits (ICs) capable of measuring temperatures accurately within a range of -55 °C to 150 °C. It offers high performance, affordability, and ease of use, making them popular in automation and microprocessor-based measurement devices.

The semiconductor temperature sensor uses temperature-sensitive voltage in diodes to provide a linear response; however, its accuracy is relatively lower (1-5 °C), and its response time is slower (5-60 seconds) in a narrow temperature range.

Semiconductor temperature sensor comes in various forms, such as analog circuits with voltage or current output and sensor ICs with control registers and digital input/output.

Semiconductor temperature sensors, such as AD590 and LM35, are manufactured on thin silicon wafers, enabling mass production and are widely preferred for their reliable performance.

How Does a Semiconductor Temperature Sensor Work?

The semiconductor temperature sensor operates by measuring the temperature-dependent voltage drop across a forward-biased PN junction or the variation in voltage across a diode junction.

The energy gap between the valence and conduction bands in semiconductors changes with temperature, affecting the electrical conductivity. When a diode is forward-biased, the voltage across the junction changes linearly with temperature, allowing it to function as a temperature sensor.

Semiconductor temperature sensors do not require complex connection circuits and can be implemented using diodes or transistors. By operating two identical transistors at a different but constant collector current density, the difference in their base-emitter voltages can be directly related to the absolute temperature. This voltage difference is then converted to a single-ended current or voltage, often with an offset to convert the signal to Fahrenheit or Celsius.

To achieve reasonable accuracy, a semiconductor temperature sensor may require calibration at a specific temperature point, typically 25 °C. However, advanced signal processing techniques or additional calibration points can be employed for higher accuracy across a wider temperature range.

The semiconductor temperature sensor can be programmed for alert functions when the temperature exceeds a set limit or falls below a specific threshold. This makes it ideal for reliable temperature monitoring in microprocessor-based systems.

Where Are Semiconductor Temperature Sensors Used?

Semiconductor temperature sensors’ linear output, small size, high accuracy, stability, and ease of integration with electronic equipment such as amplifiers and microcontrollers has led to widespread adoption.

The semiconductor temperature sensor offers the ideal solution for embedded systems applications that demand lower power consumption, higher accuracy (±2 °C), and high-resolution measurements within the temperature range of -55 °C to 150 °C.

The semiconductor temperature sensor finds applications in consumer electronics, such as computers, smartphones and laptops, to monitor battery and CPU temperatures and prevent overheating.

Automotive systems employ the semiconductor temperature sensor to monitor engine, oil, and coolant temperatures, optimizing performance and preventing damage. These sensors are often employed in industrial settings for process control and safety systems, ensuring precise temperature monitoring and control.

Increasing demand for advanced portable healthcare devices driven by the aging population and disease prevalence is fueling the adoption of semiconductor temperature sensors.

These sensors are integrated into medical devices for accurate temperature measurement during treatments and procedures, supporting patient monitoring, digital temperature measurement, and life-support systems in the healthcare sector.

The semiconductor temperature sensor is an essential component of the home and building automation networks, providing temperature information to smart devices. These sensors are integrated into HVAC systems, lighting controls, fire detection alarms, and smart thermostats, automating temperature management and facilitating proactive measures to maintain system integrity.

Commercial Landscape of Semiconductor Temperature Sensor

The market for semiconductor temperature sensors is projected to grow significantly in the next decade, driven by the increasing demand for integrated circuit temperature sensors in embedded applications.

Key players in the market, such as Texas Instruments, STMicroelectronics, Analog Devices, Maxim Integrated, and NXP Semiconductors, dominate the market by offering a wide range of semiconductor temperature sensor solutions.

Significant trends are influencing the commercial landscape of the semiconductor temperature sensor. One notable trend is the drive for miniaturization, where manufacturers are developing smaller semiconductor temperature sensors to meet the requirements of compact electronic devices and applications.

Wireless connectivity integration is also gaining traction, enabling remote monitoring and control, making the semiconductor temperature sensor suitable for IoT and smart applications.

There is a strong emphasis on developing an energy-efficient semiconductor temperature sensor that consumes minimal power while maintaining accurate measurements. In addition, the semiconductor temperature sensor is experiencing growing adoption in environmental monitoring systems, enabling the measurement of temperature variations in natural habitats, climate research, and weather forecasting.

These trends collectively shape the semiconductor temperature sensor market, fostering innovation and meeting the evolving needs of various industries.

Comparing Contact and Non-Contact Temperature Sensors

References and Further Reading

Dumcius, A., Augutis, V., & Gailius, D. (2011). The approximation aspects of characteristics of semiconductor temperature sensors. Elektronika Ir Elektrotechnika, 112(6), pp. 47-50. doi.org/10.5755/j01.eee.112.6.443

DSPE. (2023). Semiconductor Temperature Sensors. [Online]. Dutch Society for Precision Engineering. Available at: https://www.dspe.nl/knowledge/thermomechanics/chapter-5-measurement/5-2-contact-sensors/5-2-6-semiconductor-temperature-sensors/

Munday, J. (2023). Measuring Temperature Accurately with Semiconductor Sensors. [Online]. Designs Park. Available at: https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/measuring-temperature-accurately-with-semiconductor-sensors

Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee University. (2023). Semiconductor Temperature Sensors. [Online]. Available at: https://www.dspmuranchi.ac.in//pdf/Blog/Semiconductor%20Temperature%20Sensors.pdf

Elprocus. (2023). Temperature Sensors – Types, Working & Operation. [Online]. Available at: https://www.elprocus.com/temperature-sensors-types-working-operation/

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Owais Ali

Written by

Owais Ali

NEBOSH certified Mechanical Engineer with 3 years of experience as a technical writer and editor. Owais is interested in occupational health and safety, computer hardware, industrial and mobile robotics. During his academic career, Owais worked on several research projects regarding mobile robots, notably the Autonomous Fire Fighting Mobile Robot. The designed mobile robot could navigate, detect and extinguish fire autonomously. Arduino Uno was used as the microcontroller to control the flame sensors' input and output of the flame extinguisher. Apart from his professional life, Owais is an avid book reader and a huge computer technology enthusiast and likes to keep himself updated regarding developments in the computer industry.


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