Today I’ve been working on a graphite probe to test the maximum temperature that I can achieve with the solar cooker I made. I went with graphite because it is black and it can handle extremely high temperatures without melting or breaking down. To make the probe I have used some graphite sticks I got from an art supply store and a high temperature thermocouple probe for my multimeter that I got from work.
Drawing graphite and double sided foam tape. The tape is used to hold the graphite in the vice on my drill press.
The specifications of the probe say that it is very accurate when measuring the temperature of a gas or a liquid. Since I am measuring the temperature of a solid, I decided to drill a hole into the graphite, fill it with solder, then insert the probe into it. This way the solder will melt and give accurate readings. I am hoping that I will still get some accuracy when the solder is still solid.
First I stuck some double sided tape onto opposite sides of one of the 8B graphite sticks so I could put it in my vice on my drill press without it shattering. I made sure to leave the backing paper on the tape so that it wouldn’t stick to the face of the vice. I used the 8B to start with because I wasn’t sure if I could manage to drill into graphite without it breaking.
Double sided foam tape (with backing paper left on) is applied to opposite sides of the graphite so the jaws of the vice don’t apply too much force and make the graphite shatter.
Next I put the stick of graphite into the vice as low as it would go and then drilled a hole down the length of it. I started with a 2mm drill bit and worked my way up to a 5mm drill bit. The diameter of the thermocouple is 4mm, so the 5mm hole allows enough room for the solder to surround the probe.
5mm hole drilled to accept the thermocouple with some space around it for solder.
Once the hole was drilled to a reasonable depth, I chopped off strands of 60/40 rosin core solder in the hole until I couldn’t fit any more in.
Hole filled with solder
I then melted the solder using a hot air gun. I had to add more solder afterwards until I had completely filled the hole and then I inserted the probe while the solder was still molten.Then topped off the hole because too much of the solder shot out when the thermocouple went in.
Probe inserted into the graphite and held in with the solder.
I made sure to have the probe connected to the multimeter while the solder cooled so I could read the temperature. After it had cooled to a temperature I could safely handle, I checked that the probe had a good solid connection with the graphite. All that is left to do now is fire up the solar cooker on the next clear day and give the probe a try.
Finished thermocouple probe. I’m not sure how accurate this will end up being because not all of the probe is inside the graphite, which could lead to a lower reading then it should be.