Welcome to practical physicsPracticle physics - practical activities designed for use in the classroom with 11 to 19 year olds

The effect of temperature on a thermistor

Class practical

This experiment, for advanced level students, shows that the current through a thermistor increases with temperature, as more charge carriers become available.

Apparatus and materials

timer or clock

Leads, 4 mm

Crocodile clip holder

Thermometer -10°C to 110°C

Thermistor - negative temperature, coefficient, e.g. 100 ohm at 25°C (available from Rapid Electronics).

Power supply, 5 V, DC or four 1.5 V cells

Beaker, 250 ml

Kettle to provide hot water

Digital multimeter, used as a milliammeter

Heat-resistant mat

Power supply, low voltage, DC, continuously variable or stepped supply with rheostat (>1 A)

Health & Safety and Technical notes

Read our standard health & safety guidance

A thermistor may be described as: 

  • ntc 'negative temperature coefficient': its resistance decreases as the temperature increases 
  • ptc 'positive temperature coefficient': its resistance increases as the temperature increases  

If you have both types available, students may be interested in comparing them. 



a Set up the circuit as shown below.  

A circuit

b Pour boiling water into the beaker and take readings of the current through the thermistor as the temperature falls. Record the results. 
c Plot a graph of current/ mA (y-axis) against temperature/ °C (x-axis). 
d Assuming that the voltage is constant, describe how the conductance or resistance varies with temperature. 

Teaching notes

1 The thermistor is made from a mixture of metal oxides such as copper, manganese and nickel; it is a semiconductor. As the temperature of the thermistor rises, so does the conductance. 


2 The increase in conductance is governed by the Boltzmann factor. Whether or not your students need to understand Boltzmann, they should be able to grasp that 

  • as the temperature goes up, the resistance goes down  
  • in this case, it happens because more charge carriers are released to engage in conduction. 

This experiment comes from AS/A2 Advancing PhysicsIt has been re-written for this website by Lawrence Herklots, King Edward VI School, Southampton.



Advancing Physics

Rapid Electronics


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