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Negative Temperature Coefficient Resistance (NTCR) Ceramic Thermistors: An Industrial Perspective

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Monitoring and control of temperature is of paramount importance in every part of our daily life. Temperature sensors are ubiquitous not only in domestic and industrial activities but also in laboratory and medical procedures. An assortment of temperature sensors is commercially available for such purposes. They range from metallic thermocouples to resistive temperature detectors and semiconductive ceramics, showing a negative temperature coefficient of resistance (NTCR). NTCR ceramic sensors occupy a respected market position, because they afford the best sensitivity and accuracy at the lowest price. Despite the enormous commercial success of NTCR thermistors, this area of advanced functional ceramics has not been recently reviewed. Nearly 100 years elapsed between the first report of NTCR behavior and the fabrication of NTCR devices. The manufacture of the first NTCR ceramic thermistors was problematic, as often the devices suffered from poor stability and nonreproducibility. Before NTCR ceramics could be seriously considered for mass production of thermistors, it was necessary to devote a large amount of R&D effort to study the nature of their semiconductivity and understand the influence of impurities/dopants and heat treatments on their electrical characteristics, particularly in their time dependence resistivity (aging). Simultaneously, from a technological viewpoint it was important to develop methods enabling reliable and permanent electrical contacts, and design suitable housing for ceramics, in order to preserve their electrical properties under conditions of variable oxygen partial pressure and humidity. These topics are reviewed in this article from an industrial perspective. Examples of common applications of NTCR thermistors and future challenges are also outlined.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: EPCOS OHG, Electronic Components and Parts, 43 Siemmensstrae, A-8530 Deutschlandsberg, Austria

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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