Bimetallic Spiral Thermometer

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This Demonstration simulates a classical bimetallic spiral thermometer (dial or coil thermometer).


An Archimedes's spiral made of a coiled bimetal strip gives a deflection proportional to the surrounding temperature and can serve as a thermometer.

The angular deflection of a bimetal spiral of length and strip thickness is given by , where and are the coefficients of linear expansion of the component materials used.


Contributed by: Erik Mahieu (December 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



For the arc length of Archimedes's spiral, we use the classical formula (Wolfram|Alpha)


where is the gap.

The thermometer is by default calibrated for the Mg/Fe bimetal. Other bimetal settings need to be calibrated individually. To do this, we insert a linear factor cal60, computed with Mathematica's built-in function FindRoot, to give a deflection of at 60 °C.

Snapshot 1: a very sensitive bimetal Mg/Ti with thermal expansion coefficients of 26/8.6

Snapshot 2: a less sensitive bimetal Cu/Ni with thermal expansion coefficients of 17/13

Snapshot 3: the uncalibrated version of Snapshot 2

For extensive information about bimetals, see "Thermostatic Bimetal Handbook" from Kanthal AB, Sweden.

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