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PTC Thermistors
Engineering Notes
In addition, to our standard products, we are able to
offer UL recognition for PTC heaters. UL recognition
for ceramic PTC devices is listed under heading XGPU2
Component - Thermistor Type Devices. MS is listed
under file number E157106. Presently, MS devices can
be qualified under the following guidelines:
TABLE 4: MS PTC UL Guidelines
Size: Disc
Diameter: 0.10" to 0.75" (2.5mm-19.1mm)
Thickness: .030" to 0.250" (0.76mm-6.35mm)
Length: up to 2" (50.8mm)
Width: up to 2" (50.8mm)
Thickness: .030" to 0.250" (0.76mm-6.35mm)
Switch Temperature: 40˚C to 180˚C
Voltages: 12V to 240V
Resistance: up to 100kΩ
Positive temperature coefficient (PTC) thermistors are
thermally sensitive resistors that are manufactured from
semiconducting barium titanate along with the addition
of small amounts of dopants.
Over the majority of its operating temperature range,
PTC thermistors exhibit a slight negative temperature
coefficient, similar to most semiconductors. However,
as the temperature approaches a certain value, known
as the switch temperature, TS, or Curie temperature, the
resistance of the part begins to rise very rapidly. This
steep climb in resistance continues as the temperature
rises but eventually levels off and the temperature
coefficient actually becomes negative again at very
high temperatures.
32 Temperature Sensor Products
10 6
Ts = 120˚C
Ts = 65˚C
10 5
At MS we manufacture a broad range of PTC thermistors
for applications ranging from overcurrent protection in
electronics to heater elements for bimetals. The range
of industries is also very broad and covers everything
from appliances to telecommunications to everything
in between. At MS, we specialize in the design and
manufacture of PTC elements in rectangular, oval or disc
shapes with a wide variety of contact configurations. We
do our very best to provide fast turnaround on samples
and production and offer excellent technical service.
Ts = 30˚C
10 4
10 3
10 2
Figure 8: PTC Resistance versus Temperature Curves
By altering the major elements and levels of dopants the TS can be modified. Most PTC’s have a TS
from around 50˚C to 160˚C, although it is possible to
manufacture parts with TS as low as 0˚C and as high
as 300˚C. In addition, the resistance level of the parts
can be altered over a limited range. The graph above
shows a typical resistance versus temperature curve
for a PTC thermistor.
Electrical characteristics of PTC
The electrical characteristic of PTC thermistors can
be described by utilizing a number of parameters.
Because no single equation has been developed for the
PTC thermistor, these parameters serve to define the
resistance versus temperature characteristics of the PTC.
Resistance at 25˚C (R 25)
This resistance is a zero power resistance that serves
as a baseline for the normal resistance of the part in a
circuit. The resistance is measured with no appreciable
current flowing through the thermistor. This is done so
as to not self-heat the thermistor, which could cause errors in the measured value. A typical specification for
the maximum measuring power is 0.1 mW.
1028 Graphite Road, St. Marys, PA 15857
Ph: 814.834.1541 Fax: 814.834.1556
PTC Thermistors
Engineering Notes
Minimum resistance (Rmin)
The switch temperature of a PTC is the temperature
at which the resistance of the PTC thermistor begins
to rise rapidly. For specification purposes, the switch
temperature is defined as the temperature where the
resistance of the part is twice the minimum resistance
value R min.
Ts = T(2 x Rmin)
Temperature coefficient of resistance (α)
The temperature coefficient of resistance (α) is defined
as the slope of the resistance versus temperature curve
at any point with respect to resistance. For any temperature T, α is defined as:
1 dR T
R T * dT
Below R min, a PTC thermistor exhibits a slight negative temperature coefficient in the range of 0 to 1%/˚C.
Above R min, the α becomes positive and becomes quite
large near Ts and continues to be quite high until it levels
off at high temperatures. The α will become negative
again at temperatures above this, although PTC’s are
not normally operated in this region.
Thermal characteristics of the PTC
There are two separate and distinct modes in which the
PTC thermistor can operate: zero power and self heated.
A number of terms are used to describe the self-heated
operation of a PTC thermistor and these parameters
describe how the PTC operates when power is applied.
Temperature Sensor Products
10 5
10 2
PTC Thermistors
Switch temperature (Ts)
10 6
The minimum resistance of a PTC thermistor is defined
as the lowest zero power resistance value that can be
measured. It is the point on the resistance versus temperature curve where a relative minimum occurs. R min
is often used as a baseline for the measurement of the
switch temperature of a PTC. It also will indicate what
the maximum current that will flow through the circuit
before the PTC starts to limit its flow. Normally, the
actual value attained is not tabulated but for most values
of Ts, the value of R min will be similar to the value of R 25.
Figure 9: PTC Resistance vs Temperature Curve for Ts = 120˚C
Dissipation factor (δ)
The dissipation factor, δ, is used to describe the relationship between the applied power and the subsequent body
temperature rise due to self heating. The temperature
rise of a PTC measures how well the unit dissipates
heat to its surroundings. The value of δ, can change
depending upon lead material, ambient temperature,
method of mounting, environmental medium as well as
other factors. The values listed were generated under
specific conditions and are meant as reference values
to show how factors such as diameter, thickness and
wire gauge can affect power dissipation.
Heat capacity (H)
The heat capacity is the amount of heat that is required
to change the body temperature of a thermistor by
1˚C. Ceramics, such as PTC thermistors, have a heat
capacity per unit volume of approximately 50 J/in3/˚C.
For example, for MS P/N P2010D120X102F, the part
is nominally 0.2" in diameter by .10" thick. The heat
capacity, H, would then be calculated by:
H = 50 * (φ2 x 0.7854 x Thk)
H = 50 * 0.22 x 0.7854 x .10 = 0.16 W-s/in3/˚C
1028 Graphite Road, St. Marys, PA 15857
Ph: 814.834.1541 Fax: 814.834.1556
PTC Thermistors
Engineering Notes
10 6
10 5
0 V/mm
40 V/mm
V (volts)
Figure 10: Plot of I versus V for a PTC Thermistor
Static voltage-ampere curve
The curve of current versus voltage (I/V) defines the
relationship between these two parameters at any point
of thermal equilibrium. From the curve shown in Figure
10, it is clear that the resistance and, thus temperature
of the PTC, are affected by the ambient temperature as
well as the ability of the thermistor to dissipate heat.
Load lines may then be plotted to represent the various
load conditions and how the operation of the circuit is
affected. One important parameter to note is IL, the
limit current, that defines the maximum current that
can pass through the PTC before it starts to limit current. The value of IL will correspond to the minimum
resistance value of the PTC, R min.
PTC ceramic materials exhibit a resistance vs temperature plot that is dependent upon the applied voltage. For
any PTC thermistor, the resistance of the part decreases
as the voltage across the part increases. Figure 11 shows
how the resistance of the part varies with different voltage gradients across the part. For different voltages,
the resistance of the part due to voltage dependence
can be as much as an order of magnitude.
34 Temperature Sensor Products
Voltage dependence
Figure 11: Voltage Dependence for a PTC Thermistor
Voltage ratings
For each PTC thermistor, a maximum operating
voltage Vmax is listed. This value of Vmax represents the
maximum normal steady-state voltage allowed across
the part so as not to affect the long term stability of
the PTC thermistor. While the Vmax ratings have a
substantial amount of safety margin in them, it is
possible to cause an overvoltage failure in a PTC
thermistor. This occurs when the PTC is driven beyond
the PTC region of the resistance versus temperature
curve. Above a maximum resistance value, the resistance
of the PTC actually decreases with increasing temperature. When the PTC is powered into this range, the result is
usually a failure in the part unless power is immediately
removed. Therefore, it is important to remain within
the suggested voltage ratings for a PTC thermistor.
Series or parallel connection of PTC thermistors
For those situations, where a sufficiently low value of R 25
cannot be obtained with a single device, it is permissible
to connect in parallel two or more PTC thermistors.
This has the affect that the PTCs share the current load
in the circuit. Series connection of PTC thermistors
for self-heated applications is not recommended unless
a very good thermal connection can be ensured for all
of the parts. If this is not the case, one part will switch
before the others, limiting current, and almost all of the
voltage will be dropped across this device, not allowing
enough power to switch any of the remaining devices.
1028 Graphite Road, St. Marys, PA 15857
Ph: 814.834.1541 Fax: 814.834.1556
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