Some improvements have been made in the design and fabrication of blackbody sensors (BBSs) used to measure the temperature of a heater core in a vacuum furnace. Each BBS consists of a ring of thermally conductive, high-melting-temperature material with two tantalum-sheathed thermocouples attached at diametrically opposite points. The name “blackbody sensor” reflects the basic principle of operation. Heat is transferred between the ring and the furnace heater core primarily by blackbody radiation, heat is conducted through the ring to the thermocouples, and the temperature of the ring (and, hence, the temperature of the heater core) is measured by use of the thermocouples.
Two main requirements have guided the development of these BBSs: (1) The rings should have as high an emissivity as possible in order to maximize the heat-transfer rate and thereby maximize temperature-monitoring performance and (2) the thermocouples must be joined to the rings in such a way as to ensure long-term, reliable intimate thermal contact. The problem of fabricating a BBS to satisfy these requirements is complicated by an application-specific prohibition against overheating and thereby damaging nearby instrumentation leads through the use of conventional furnace brazing or any other technique that involves heating the entire BBS and its surroundings. The problem is further complicated by another application-specific prohibition against damaging the thin tantalum thermocouple sheaths through the use of conventional welding to join the thermocouples to the ring.