If you own used industrial equipment that was used in high-temperature settings, it is almost certain that you are in possession of a quantity of used noble metal thermocouples. What are they, and how much are they worth?
Here’s what you need to know.
First, What Is a Thermocouple?
Let’s start with the basics. Here’s the explanation that we recently ran in a post on this blog Interested in Thermocouples and Thermocouple Wire? Why Not Read Up Online?:
“A thermocouple is made from two wires that are made from different kinds of metals. They are connected at one end – the `junction.’ When that connection is made, voltage is generated; that voltage can be measured by equipment that is located at the other ends of the two wires. And here’s where things get interesting, because when temperatures change at the junction, the amount of voltage that’s generated changes too.”
Noble metal thermocouples are so called because they contain quantities of platinum and rhodium. They are usually classified by their manufacturers as Type B, R, or S thermocouples. They are used to measure or monitor temperatures in a high range between about 1800ᵒ Fahrenheit (982ᵒ Centigrade) through about 4200ᵒ Fahrenheit (2300ᵒ Centigrade).
Base metal thermocouples are more common, and less valuable. They typically contain nickel alloys. They are classified by their manufacturers as Type E, J, K, N or T thermocouples. You are most likely to find them in equipment that is used to measure or monitor temperatures below about 1800ᵒ Fahrenheit (982ᵒ Centigrade).
How Can You Tell What Kind of Thermocouples You Have?
As I noted at the beginning of today’s post, noble metal thermocouples are found where temperatures run high – in the range of 1800ᵒ to 4200ᵒ Fahrenheit. Those settings can include production lines, testing laboratories, firing kilns – anywhere high temperatures need to be measured or monitored. One example? Robotic arc welding equipment that must shut down if temperatures start to run too high.
In some cases, you can learn whether you have precious metal thermocouples by reading the documentation that accompanies the equipment. (Don’t have the specs? Don’t forget that you can often learn them by looking at a manufacturer’s product brochures or specifications online.) In some cases, thermocouple specifications are stamped onto small plaques that the manufacturer attached to the equipment. And in some cases, the thermocouple’s classification (Type B, R, or S, for example) will be stamped somewhere on the thermocouple itself, or on gauges or valves that are attached to it.
Precious metals like rhodium and platinum can be recycled by the best platinum refiners very profitably – platinum for more than $1,400 per troy ounce, and rhodium for more than $1,000. If you call Specialty Metals Smelters and Refiners at 800-426-2344, we will be happy to discuss the potential value of your used, recyclable thermocouples.
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