On the Thermoelectric Effect of Interface Imperfections

Hu, Jiangtao
Nagy, Peter
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Ordinary thermocouples use the well-known Seebeck effect to measure the temperature at the junction of two different conductors. The electromotive force generated by the heat depends on the difference between the respective thermoelectric powers of the contacting metals and the junction temperature. Figure 1 shows the schematic diagram of the thermoelectric measurement as most often used in nondestructive materials characterization. One of the reference electrodes is heated by electrical means to a preset temperature of 100 – 300 °C, pretty much like the tip of a temperature-stabilized soldering iron, and connected to the inverting (−) input of the differential amplifier driving the indicator. The other electrode is left cold at essentially room temperature and connected to the non-inverting (+) input. The measurement is done quickly in a few seconds to assure (i) that the hot reference electrode is not cooled down perceivably by the specimen and (ii) that the rest of the specimen beyond the close vicinity of the contact point is not warmed up perceivably. Ideally, regardless of the temperature difference between the junctions, only thermocouples made of different materials, i.e., materials of different thermoelectric power, will generate thermoelectric signal. This unique feature makes the simple thermoelectric tester one of the most sensitive material discriminators used in nondestructive inspection.