How Does A Digital Thermometer Work?

In this blog post, we’ll talk about how a Digital Thermometer functions.

Digital thermometers are based on the idea that the resistance to the electricity of metal alters with temperature.

Digital thermometers differ from traditional bi-metal and liquid thermometers because they require a sensor. Typically, the sensor employed in digital thermometers will be one of four:

Solid State Sensors

Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTD or PT100)



What is a digital thermometer?

The digital thermometer is a widely used item of temperature-measuring equipment that significantly overhauls and updates the traditional liquid-based thermometers of yesteryear.

The thermometer made of liquid mercury was first used in 17th and 18th-century advances in clinical science.

It remained, in essence, our primary temperature-reading device until the invention of thermistors that were commercially viable around the 1930s.

At that time, the fundamental elements of thermography had been widely recognized for many centuries – perhaps thousands, if you include the first observations of Ancient Greek scholars with their crude tubes made of air and water.

What are digital thermometers used for?

Digital thermometers provide various functions in everyday professional and home applications.

 They are precise and quick in reading the temperature in almost every situation a conventional thermometer can handle.

 They are also ideally suited to many situations where liquid-in-glass models are unsuitable.

In most situations or applications that could pose a challenge to using a thermometer for liquids, there is an electronic model capable of completing the task with ease.

Examples of this include Common applications of thermometers that are digital in a wide range of sectors and industries in the present, including:

Medical applications

Food preparation and production

Instruments for meteorology

HVAC thermometers

Labor environments

Home use

How do digital thermometers work?

They all work by generating resistance, voltage, or current as a result of temperature changes.

The temperature changes are known as analog output signals.

Although all these thermometers digitally display the same final result, an electronic display of temperature, the method they carry varies.


 A brief overview of how digital thermometers work.  

All it takes is starting with the sensors. Unlike the liquid-filled thermometer and the bi-metal thermometer, the digital thermometer requires sensors.

4 well-known sensor types are currently in use:


Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTD or PT100)


Solid State Sensors

Solid State Sensors

They all generate an electrical current, voltage, or resistance change in response to the change in temperature.

The sensors are “analog” signals in contrast to digital signals. (More on this in the future.)

To comprehend how the digital thermometer functions, it is necessary to understand how the sensor functions.

The sensors come with a separate analog output without getting into many specifics.

A thermocouple produces an mV signal that is generated by itself which is proportional to the temperature difference at its opposite ends.

RTD an RTD is a type of resistor that alters its resistance nearly in a linear fashion as temperature increases.

A thermistor can be described as a resistor that alters the resistance of its nonlinear fashion in response to temperature.

The sensor needs external power and emits a low line current proportional to its temperature.

The thermometer has to excite and record its “signal” from the sensor. Each method is unique; however, the end output is an electrical voltage proportional to the temperature.

Digital Thermocouple Thermometer

Digital Thermocouple Thermometer
Digital Thermocouple Thermometer

A thermometer with a digital thermocouple requires two measurements to determine the temperature.

 It first has sensors to determine the temperature of the area where the thermocouple connects.

This is known as “cold-junction compensation (CJC). It also measures the mV signal of the thermocouple. It subtracts CJC temperatures from the signal at the hot end and converts the voltage into temperature to find out the thermometer’s temperature.

Digital RTD Thermometer

Digital RTD Thermometer

The digital thermometer is, in essence, an Ohmmeter. It is a device that measures its resistance.

 To do this, it either applies a tiny excitation current or voltage to the sensor to measure the voltage applied to the sensor.

 The 4-wire connector is commonly employed to eliminate the measurement error – two wires to transport the excitation and 2 wires to detect the voltage applied to the sensor.

Some systems can reverse the excitation direction and then average the two readings to avoid inductive, capacitive, and thermocouple influences.

Some use pulses to reduce the excitation power, and the sensor’s temperature is due to the power of the excitation.

Digital Thermistor Thermometer

Digital Thermistor Thermometer

A digital thermometer offers an excitation either in current or voltage for the thermistor.

Because the changes in resistance are significant compared to the lead’s resistance, typically connected to two-wire connections.

 The excitation is converted into voltage through the thermistor. The thermometer is then able to convert the measured temperature to voltage.

Digital Solid State Thermometer

Digital Solid State Thermometer

The digital thermometer delivers an exciter current for the sensors. It determines the linear (mV/deg) signal coming from the sensor.

The thermometer is now processing it and taking the electronic analysis of the output.

The signal, which is a voltage known as resistance, is analog. The thermometer uses this signal. It is converted into the A to D conversion .The A to D converter converts an analog signal to a set of Pulses.

The signal is now being transmitted to the digital realm. In the digital world, the signal is compared to the resistance curves of the sensors.

CJC was added as a thermocouple, and the digital signal is then sent to a display driver, which transforms the temperature signal into the signal needed to turn on specific display segments so that you, as a human, can “read” actual temperature determined.

The precision of a digital thermometer typically lies in the analog and digital worlds.

 The accuracy of the excitation, as well as the error that causes the measurement, as well as any errors caused by changes in temperature of the ambient in the analog world as well as in the digital world, the error in the converter A to Do as well as the accuracy of the curve fit equations that are used to determine the exact contour that the thermometer produces.

An RTD thermometer is based on the equation of Callendar-VanDusen, which describes the relationship between the resistance of a resistance sensor made of platinum (RTD) and the temperature.

A Thermocouple thermometer utilizes polynomials or tables for the thermocouple that are published through ASTM.

Thermistor thermometers make use of tables or polynomials supplied by the manufacturer of the sensor.

Solid state thermometers have the linear mV/o signal; therefore, no further digital conditioning is required.

The quality of the signal depends on the precision of the excitation and the A toD converter and the thermometer’s inherent error.


This gives you an overview of all signal processing within a digital thermometer.

Knowing that the sensors and thermometer work together will help you use the sensors correctly and take the most accurate measurements.

   FAQ About How Does A Digital Thermometer Work?    

How accurate is an electronic thermometer?

For thermometers with digital sticks, precision is needed to +/- 0.2degF (or 0.1degC (when test in an in-water bath) in between 98degF to 102.0degF.

What is the temperature of a fevered forehead?

Advertising revenue helps us fulfill our not-for-profit mission. Following thermometer measurements typically indicate fever such as ear, rectal, or temporal arterial temperatures of 100.4 (38 C) or more. The oral cavity temperature is at 100 F (37.8 C) or more.

What is the definition of high fever to Covid?

Take the thermometer off and read the following number: fever. A temperature of 100.4 F or greater is considered to be fever. A person who does not have a fever temperature of less than 100.3 F may continue into the shelter following normal procedures.

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