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NTC Thermistors | Comprehensive Guide

Thermistors are a type of resistor whose resistance varies significantly with temperature. They are a critical component in many electronic devices due to their sensitivity to temperature changes. There are two main types of thermistors: NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) and PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient). NTC thermistors decrease in resistance as the temperature rises, while PTC thermistors increase in resistance with increasing temperature.

Importance of NTC Thermistors in Various Applications

NTC thermistors are widely used in applications where precise temperature measurement and control are crucial. They are valued for their accuracy, reliability, and quick response to temperature changes. Key applications include:

  • Temperature Sensing and Control: Used in thermostats, HVAC systems, and household appliances to maintain optimal operating temperatures.
  • Temperature Compensation: Employed in electronic circuits to stabilize performance over varying temperatures, such as in battery packs and automotive sensors.
  • Inrush Current Limiting: Used to protect electronic devices by limiting the initial surge of current when a device is turned on, thereby preventing damage to components.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of NTC thermistors, covering their working principles, types, key characteristics, and applications. Whether you are an engineer, technician, or enthusiast, this guide will offer valuable insights into selecting, and using NTC thermistors.

By the end of this guide, readers will have a solid foundation in the functionality and practical uses of NTC thermistors, enabling them to make informed decisions in their respective fields.

Understanding NTC Thermistors

NTC (Negative Temperature Coefficient) thermistors are a type of thermistor that exhibits a decrease in electrical resistance as the temperature increases. They are made from semiconductor materials, typically metal oxides, which change their resistance properties with temperature.

Negative Temperature Coefficient

The negative temperature coefficient means that as the temperature of the NTC thermistor increases, its resistance decreases. This relationship is typically exponential, making NTC thermistors highly sensitive to temperature changes. The mathematical relationship can often be described using the Steinhart-Hart equation, which provides a more precise fit over a wide range of temperatures.

How Resistance Changes with Temperature

The resistance of an NTC thermistor decreases non-linearly with an increase in temperature. This behavior can be expressed mathematically as:

  • R(T) is the resistance at temperature T (in Kelvin),
  • R0 is the resistance at a reference temperature T0 (typically 25°C or 298K),
  • B is the material-specific constant (Beta value).

As the temperature rises, the exponential term decreases, resulting in a lower resistance.

Comparison with PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) Thermistors

While NTC thermistors decrease in resistance with an increase in temperature, PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) thermistors behave oppositely. PTC thermistors increase in resistance as the temperature rises. This fundamental difference makes each type suitable for different applications:

NTC Thermistors are ideal for applications requiring precise temperature sensing and control, such as in temperature measurement devices, thermostats, and temperature compensation circuits.

PTC Thermistors are commonly used for overcurrent protection and self-regulating heating elements. As the temperature increases, the resistance rises sharply, limiting the current flow and protecting the circuit.

How NTC Thermistors Work

NTC thermistors are typically made from a mixture of metal oxides such as manganese, nickel, cobalt, copper, and iron. These materials are chosen because of their semiconducting properties, which allow their electrical resistance to change significantly with temperature. The specific mixture and proportions of these metal oxides determine the thermistor’s characteristics, such as its resistance range and temperature coefficient.

Types of NTC Thermistors

Bead Thermistors

Bead Thermistors

Bead thermistors are tiny, bead-shaped components made from sintered metal oxides. They are often encased in a protective glass coating. Their small size allows for rapid response to temperature changes and high precision in temperature measurement. Bead thermistors are commonly used in medical devices, temperature sensors in automotive applications, and household appliances.

Disk and Chip Thermistors

Disc and chip thermistors are manufactured by pressing metal oxide powders into disc or rectangular shapes, followed by a sintering process. These thermistors are robust and can handle higher power levels, making them suitable for use in power supply circuits, inrush current limiting devices, and temperature sensing in industrial equipment. Their larger surface area compared to bead thermistors allows for better heat dissipation.

Disk and Chip Thermistors

Glass-Encapsulated NTC Thermistors

Glass-Encapsulated NTC Thermistors

Glass-encapsulated thermistors have a bead thermistor enclosed in a glass case. This design offers excellent stability and protection against environmental factors such as moisture, dust, and mechanical stress. These thermistors are ideal for applications requiring long-term stability and reliability, such as aerospace, military, and high-precision laboratory equipment.

Surface-Mount Thermistors

Surface-mount thermistors are designed for direct attachment to PCBs. They are typically small and compact, making them suitable for use in modern electronic devices where space is limited. These thermistors provide precise temperature control and compensation, commonly used in mobile phones, laptops, and other compact electronic devices. Their ease of integration into automated manufacturing processes also makes them popular in mass-produced electronics.

Surface-Mount Thermistors

Key Characteristics and Specifications

When selecting and using NTC thermistors, several key characteristics and specifications are essential to understand their performance and suitability for specific applications.

Resistance at a Specific Temperature (R25)

The resistance of an NTC thermistor is typically specified at a standard reference temperature, usually 25°C (denoted as R25). This value provides a baseline for comparing different thermistors. The resistance at this temperature is crucial for determining the thermistor’s behavior in a circuit.

Beta Value (B value)

The Beta value (B value) is a material-specific constant that describes the relationship between the thermistor’s resistance and temperature. It is usually determined between two temperatures, such as 25°C and 85°C, and is given in degrees Kelvin (K). The B value is used in the Steinhart-Hart equation and helps predict the thermistor’s resistance at different temperatures. A higher B value indicates a steeper resistance change with temperature, which means higher sensitivity.


Tolerance indicates the precision of the thermistor’s resistance at a given temperature, usually expressed as a percentage. It reflects the variation from the nominal resistance value (R25) due to manufacturing differences. Lower tolerance values mean higher accuracy, which is critical for applications requiring precise temperature measurements.

Dissipation Constant

The dissipation constant (D) is the amount of power, in milliwatts (mW), that the thermistor must dissipate to raise its temperature by 1°C above the surrounding ambient temperature. It is a measure of how well the thermistor can dissipate heat. The dissipation constant depends on the thermistor’s size, shape, and encapsulation. It is crucial for understanding the self-heating effects in a thermistor, which can affect its accuracy in temperature sensing applications.

Time Constant

The time constant (τ) represents the time required for a thermistor to respond to a step change in temperature and reach 63.2% of the final temperature difference. It is typically measured in seconds and depends on the thermistor’s thermal mass and the surrounding medium. A shorter time constant indicates a faster response to temperature changes, which is important in applications requiring quick temperature measurements.

Operating Temperature Range

The operating temperature range specifies the range of temperatures within which the thermistor can function correctly without degradation. This range is determined by the materials used and the construction of the thermistor. It is essential to choose a thermistor with an operating temperature range that suits the application’s environmental conditions. Common ranges can vary from -55°C to +150°C, depending on the thermistor type.

Applications of NTC Thermistors

NTC thermistors are versatile components used in a wide range of applications due to their sensitivity to temperature changes. Here are some of the primary applications of NTC thermistors:

Temperature Measurement and Control

Household Appliances (e.g., Thermostats)

NTC thermistors are commonly used in household appliances to measure and control temperature. In thermostats, they help maintain a consistent temperature by providing accurate temperature readings, allowing for precise heating and cooling adjustments. They are also used in appliances like ovens, refrigerators, and water heaters to ensure proper operation within safe temperature ranges.

Industrial Applications

In industrial settings, NTC thermistors are used for temperature monitoring and control in processes that require precise thermal management. Examples include:

Manufacturing Processes: Monitoring and controlling temperatures in processes such as plastic extrusion, metal treatment, and chemical production.

HVAC Systems: Ensuring efficient operation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems by providing accurate temperature readings for climate control.

Temperature Compensation

Electronic Circuits

NTC thermistors are used in electronic circuits to compensate for temperature variations that can affect the performance of components. They help stabilize the operation of transistors, oscillators, and other temperature-sensitive components, ensuring consistent performance across different temperature conditions.

Battery Packs

In battery packs, particularly in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, NTC thermistors monitor and control the temperature during charging and discharging cycles. They prevent overheating, which can lead to battery degradation or failure, and ensure safe and efficient operation.

Tritek's battery pack use Surface-Mount Thermistors
Tritek’s battery packs use Surface-Mount Thermistors

Inrush Current Limiting

Power Supplies

NTC thermistors are used in power supplies to limit inrush current when the device is first turned on. The inrush current can be significantly higher than the normal operating current and may damage components. The thermistor initially presents a high resistance, reducing the inrush current, and then gradually decreases in resistance as it heats up, allowing normal current flow.

Transformers and Motors

In transformers and electric motors, NTC thermistors serve as inrush current limiters to protect the windings and other components from the sudden surge of current that occurs at startup. This helps extend the lifespan of the equipment and improves reliability.

Selecting the Right NTC Thermistor

Choosing the right negative temperature coefficient thermistor for your application involves considering several factors to ensure optimal performance and reliability. Here are key factors to consider and a couple of calculation examples to guide you in selecting the appropriate NTC thermistor:

Factors to Consider

Application Requirements

Understand the specific needs of your application. Determine if the thermistor will be used for temperature measurement, compensation, inrush current limiting device, or another function. The application will influence the type of thermistor needed (e.g., bead, disc, surface-mount) and its required specifications.

Temperature Range

Identify the operating temperature range for your application. Ensure the chosen NTC thermistor can function correctly within this range without degradation. Different applications may require thermistors that operate over different temperature spans, from very low to very high temperatures.

Accuracy and Precision

Consider the accuracy and precision required for your application. This includes the tolerance of the thermistor at a specific reference temperature (usually 25°C). For applications requiring high precision, select thermistors with low tolerance values.

Environmental Conditions

Take into account the environmental conditions where the thermistor will be used. Factors such as humidity, mechanical stress, and exposure to chemicals can affect the thermistor’s performance. Choose a thermistor with suitable encapsulation (e.g., glass-encapsulated for harsh environments) to ensure reliability and longevity.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ve explored the fundamental aspects of NTC thermistors, covering their working principles, types, key characteristics, applications, and selection criteria.

Given their versatility and effectiveness, NTC thermistors are a valuable component in many technological applications. Whether you’re designing consumer electronics, industrial machinery, or power management systems, considering NTC thermistors can greatly enhance your products’ performance and reliability. Their wide range of types and specifications allows for customization to meet specific needs, making them an excellent choice for precise temperature control and monitoring.


What are NTC temperature sensors and how do they measure temperature?

NTC temperature sensors, also known as NTC thermistors, are thermally sensitive resistors that decrease in resistance as temperature increases. They measure temperature through the resistance temperature characteristic of NTC materials. When the core temperature of the sensor changes, the resistive value of the NTC thermistor changes accordingly. This change in resistance alters the voltage drop across the thermistor, producing a temperature-related output voltage that can be interpreted by signal conditioning circuits.

What is the difference between NTC temperature sensors and resistance temperature detectors (RTDs)?

Both NTC temperature sensors and resistance temperature detectors (RTDs) are types of resistive temperature sensors used to measure temperature. The key difference lies in their materials and response characteristics. NTC thermistors are made from ceramic materials that have a negative temperature coefficient, meaning their resistance decreases as temperature increases. RTDs, typically made from platinum alloy lead wires, have a positive temperature coefficient, meaning their resistance increases with temperature. NTC thermistors offer faster temperature responses and higher sensitivity, while RTDs are known for their precise heat capacity and long-term stability.

How are NTC thermistors mounted on printed circuit boards (PCBs) and what are the benefits?

NTC thermistors can be mounted on printed circuit boards (PCBs) using various methods, including surface-mount technology (SMT) and through-hole mounting. Chip NTC sensors are often used in SMT applications for their compact size and ease of integration. The benefits of PCB mounting include:

  • Compact Design: Enables integration into small and densely packed electronic devices.
  • Accurate Temperature Sensing: Ensures close thermal contact with the board and other components, leading to precise heat capacity measurement.
  • Enhanced Reliability: Provides secure and stable mounting, reducing the risk of mechanical stress and improving the longevity of the sensor.
  • Efficient Production: Supports automated manufacturing processes, making it suitable for mass production of electronic devices.

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Bluen Lee

Hello, I'm Bluen, I have over 25 years in the battery industry.
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