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How Do Temperature Data Loggers Work?

How Do Temperature Data Loggers Work?

by Aishwarya Gaikwad

Temperature data loggers (sometimes called thermal data loggers) are electronic devices used to capture temperature data for a specific process, piece of equipment, or environment.  They measure and log temperature changes, often remotely, at predetermined intervals over an extended period.

Dedicated digital temperature data loggers are frequently employed in controlled applications where critical temperature measurements need to be consistently and regularly taken and recorded. They are widely used by highly regulated industries where temperature fluctuations can harm product quality and pose safety risks.

In this short article, we explain how these instruments work.  We also cover their primary features, benefits, and uses, and explore some of the key industry examples that use thermal data loggers.

What is a temperature data logger?

The name says it all – a temperature data logger is a powerful piece of environmental monitoring equipment whose task is to measure and log variations in temperature over time. The basic version is usually a compact, battery-operated device with a built-in temperature sensor, memory chip, and a microprocessor.

Temperature data loggers were originally designed to replace electromagnetic chart recorders.  Since the first temperature dataloggers, this equipment has been much improved with innovation powered primarily by advancements in wireless technology, thermal sensory systems, and microelectronics. This has allowed organizations to produce, store, and distribute temperature-sensitive materials under incredibly dynamic and demanding conditions.

Along the way, much of the resource cost and time associated with earlier temperature monitoring systems have been eliminated.  Meanwhile, temperature monitoring regulations in segments where consumer safety is crucial, including perishable foods, vaccines, and drugs, have also been transformed with data logging technology.

Today’s digital temperature data loggers are versatile, compact, and nearly autonomous devices that can be configured to:

  • Gather and store large volumes of exact temperature data, as well as other environmental parameters like pressure, humidity, or even voltage
  • Transfer data wirelessly via WIFI, cellular networks, or Bluetooth
  • Send out personalized alerts via text, phone call, or email
  • Integrate with software applications and tools for collecting and storing data
  • Work with data analytics for insight and report generation

Temperature data loggers can work as standalone logging devices or they can be a part of a network of data loggers that work in concert to create a holistic environmental monitoring system.

How Do They Work?

As the name hints, these loggers can be used to monitor temperature (and other environmental conditions) in HVAC units, surgery rooms, heat treatment ovens, manufacturing lines, refrigerators, warehouses, and anywhere else there is a need for temperature-assured controls.

The fundamental function of a thermal logger is fairly uncomplicated.  A sensor (or a chain of them) is designed to take consistent and regular temperature measurements at set intervals. Most probes or sensors for thermal loggers use either thermistors or thermocouples.

According to Dickson, you’ll also find special temperature data loggers engineered for submerged operation. Certain logger probes and sensors are designed for monitoring temperatures at the extremes of the scale, such as from -300°F to 2,000°F. No matter the type, the logger interprets temperature information in the form of electrical signals.

Temperature data loggers include a microprocessor that is programmed to turn electrical impulses into machine-readable temperature data, which is then stored on a memory chip. You can configure both what happens to the collected data and the frequency of data collection.

What happens to the environmental data the logger gathers will vary from one device to the next. In older models, the data is stored in an onboard memory and can later be downloaded in bulk using a USD or external drive.

Modern digital data loggers are configured to transmit data directly to a computer, server, or the cloud, through either a wired or wireless connection.  With cloud-based data loggers, relevant personnel can view temperature data in real-time from anywhere in the world using any internet-connected computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Additionally, digital temperature loggers can be set up to signal alarms when temperature deviations occur.  Designated staff will then receive alerts via email, text, paging, or phone call, so they can quickly respond to equipment problems and deviations from required environmental conditions.  Clearly, the advantages dataloggers bring are immense when it comes to protecting assets and product quality.

In real-world applications, these loggers can capture and log either the temperature of the product itself or the ambient (environmental) temperature. They often include a time-stamped reading of the temperature in question. Such temperature data loggers are usually needed to ensure temperature consistency and provide evidential documentation for compliance with relevant regulations.

Some temperature data loggers are so compact that they can be conveniently placed inside an insulated shipping container along with the products.  For this reason, they can be a vital monitoring tool for cold chain logistics.

The pharmaceutical industry is a classic example of where these loggers are used for cold chain monitoring. Specific biopharmaceuticals, such as recently approved Covid-19 vaccines, must be stored and transported within a restricted temperature range to boost shelf life and maintain their efficacy. 

For instance, the reportedly 95% effective Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires ultra-freezing temperature conditions for optimal efficacy and longevity. According to the CDC, vaccine vials sealed with dry ice should arrive at their final destination at temperatures between -80°C and -60°C. However, they can be thawed and kept undiluted in a refrigerator at standard temperatures of 2°C to 8°C for up to 30 days. 

Should temperatures plummet or go above the desired range, the vaccines can become denatured, ineffective, and pose a serious threat to community health. Unfortunately, it is estimated that about half of the vaccines shipped throughout the world are wasted due to inadequate temperature controls and other issues with cold chain logistics, according to QZ

Where is Temperature Data Loggers Necessary?

Anywhere critical temperature conditions need to be monitored or controlled, data loggers play a pivotal role. Here are some of the critical examples of industries that rely primarily on temperature loggers:

  • Healthcare, where they support both patient safety and regulatory compliance
  • Pharmaceutical industry, where they are needed for complete cold chain monitoring
  • Aerospace for equipment health monitoring and compliance with AS9100 and ISO 9001 guidelines
  • Food & beverage
  • General manufacturing

Conclusion

Temperature data loggers are powerful monitoring tools when it comes to compliance and quality control. They are crucial to monitoring and logging temperature data over time to ensure consistency and protect sensitive assets.

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