Analysis of thermocouple-based finger contact temperature measurements

Konrad Rykaczewski, Tanmay Dhanote

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The understanding of heat conduction during finger contact with cooler or hotter objects is important for designing many electronic devices and for setting safety standards in a variety of occupational settings. In the most common experimental approach to study this process, a micro-thermocouple is placed at the finger-object interface. However, the interpretation of what this measurement corresponds to is not clear. To this end, we develop a three-dimensional thermal simulation of the finger-thermocouple-substrate configuration. The model predictions match finger cooling measurements in eight distinct cases available in prior literature (finger pressed with 1 N or 9.8 N against a steel or an aluminum substrate held at −2 °C or −10 °C). We demonstrate that the thermocouple can be represented accurately as a truncated sphere with emerging cylindrical wires while a multilayer block model of the finger provides similar results to an anatomically representative model. Our simulations show that in the eight previously studied cooling cases, the average surface temperature of skin that is in contact with the substrate follows nearly the same but offset cooling trend as the thermocouple tip temperature. The value of the offset is predominantly determined by the substrate material, with the thermocouple tip temperature being lower than the average skin surface temperature by 1–5 °C and 3–10 °C for steel and aluminum substrate cases, respectively. This temperature difference results in a moderate to an extreme thermocouple underprediction of the time necessary for the skin surface to reach the experimental safety threshold of 1 °C. Consequently, from the perspective of the safety related applications the thermocouple measurement provides a conservative limit on the contact duration and thereby is suitable for such purposes, but for applications requiring accurate skin temperature measurements alternative experimental approaches should be used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103293
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Finger modeling
  • Skin contact cooling
  • Thermal injury
  • Thermocouple measurements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Developmental Biology


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