How PTC Heating Element Technology Works

How PTC Heating Element Technology Works

Publicado por Adelle Webber en

What is PTC ceramic heating technology?

PTC Heating Technology

PTC (positive temperature coefficient) technology replaces traditional resistance wire with solid-state ceramic chips.  The specially designed ceramic materials are a tremendous improvement over coiled wire heaters.

This blog post will look at PTC heating elements and explain how they heat up quickly and evenly. We'll also discuss some of the benefits of PTC technology and provide tips for choosing the right heating element for your application. Stay tuned!

  1. What kind of heating is PTC?
  2. How PTC technology works?
  3. The benefits of using a PTC heating element
  4. Applications for PTC heating elements
  5. Manufacturing process of a PTC heating element
  6. Comparison between traditional heaters and PTC heaters

 What kind of heating is PTC?

A PTC heating element is a ceramic resistor that increases its resistance as the temperature increases. These small, high-watt density, energy-efficient heating elements allow for excellent heat production and transfer in tiny places.

These unique heating devices are used in various applications where quick, even heating is required, such as traffic control systems, medical equipment, communications, farm, industrial equipment, aerospace, transportation, and even the latest electric automobiles.

The essential elements are small disks of chemically treaded ceramic materials with rare earth elements that produce their heating and resistive characteristics.  The ceramic disks embedded into aluminum or stainless steel heat transfer structures transfer the heat from the discs into the air or onto other materials.  

More about what these unique heating devices do.

 How does PTC technology work?

The small ceramic disk is a semiconductor that resists current flow. As current flows through the device, the resistance causes the device to generate heat. First, the heat generated transfers to the small disc's heat sink. Next, the heat is transferred to the surrounding air, surface, or material to be heated.

The positive temperature coefficient and PTC characteristics make these PTC heating elements unique. In addition, as the temperature increases, the resistance increases, reducing the amount of current and heat produced without the need for external control circuitry.

The PTC ceramic heating element initially has a low resistance to current flow, allowing for rapid initial heating. As the temperature and resistance increase, the flow of current decreases controlling the heat at a predetermined temperature limit.

The amount of initial current/resistance changes with ambient temperature.  If the surrounding temperature is low, the current is high, or resistance is low.  If the temperature is high, there is a direct correlation between it and the amount of initial heating.

The heating power or watt density is much greater than the typical resistive wire heater taking up less space for the same heat output—more on how PTC heating elements work.

The benefits of using a PTC heating element

PTC heating elements have several advantages over other types of heating elements. For example, they are much more efficient than resistive heating elements since they only produce heat to the desired temperature and minimize the current or power requirements.

PTC heating elements also have an automated feature that prevents them from overheating. The resistance of the material increases as the temperature rises, which in turn decreases the current flowing through the heating element.  

The same self-controlling feature makes them much safer to use than resistive heating elements, as they will not overheat and start a fire.

Without external temperature control devices, you can use these in very confined spaces such as medical devices, ATMs, traffic controls, and even satellites.

There is no mean time to failure with PTC heating elements.  They are solid-state devices that don’t deteriorate over time.  

The ceramic disk also has a high voltage isolation characteristic reducing the need for external grounding or insulation.

The PTC heating element components come prewired, ensuring safety and operational integrity.

Read our FAQs on PTC heating element devices.

 Applications for PTC heating elements

PTC heating elements can be used in a variety of applications, such as:

  • - ATMs, traffic lights and controls, ticket machines, security cameras
  • - HVAC, SCADA, gas/oil transmission, and communications.
  • - Industrial manufacturing processes, planes, trains, and automobiles
  • - Electric vehicles
  • - Farm & industrial construction equipment
  • - Medical devices and lab equipment

PTC heating elements are well suited for applications where quick, even heating is required. They are also safe to use, as they will not overheat and start a fire.

You can install the heater in applications where oxygen, flammable liquids, or other combustible materials can contact the heating surfaces.

The heating characteristics and size make the heaters ideal for controlling temperature to prevent moisture and condensation from forming inside electrical enclosures exposed to heat and cold environmental extremes.

The small ceramic discs are all designed except for their temperature and voltage characteristics.  The configuration of the heat transfer housing containing the heating element is designed for specific applications.  

Learn how PTC heating elements are heating the industry.

The different configurations of the heating systems are explained in the manufacturing process.

 The manufacturing process of a PTC heating element

A single PTC ceramic disk is of little value until paired with a suitable heat transfer device and connected to a power supply how the disks are made.

Connecting the voltage supply wire leads and embedding them in a heat transfer configuration requires precise manufacturing capabilities.  

Quality manufacturing ensures the safety and longevity of the PTC element. 

PTC heating types are explained here in more detail.

PTC Surface heaters.

PTC surface heater used in food processing application

An application example is attaching the heater to food processing sealers or conveyors to maintain temperatures. A finned housing encloses the PTC heating element that can be fastened directly to the surface to be heated.


PTC Air Heaters

Installing PTC air heater in ductwork

Honeycombed or matrix structure that allows airflow via an external fan in ductwork use PTC heating elements.  Heat transfer is by the air passing through the matrix efficiently at high speeds, such as in HVAC systems.


PTC Convection Heaters

Where there is a natural flow of air that supports convection, these finned components are mounted such that when heating the surrounding air, it will rise naturally without a fan.  

ptc convection application

The heated air rises at the bottom of an electrical enclosure, and cooler air descends to maintain the desired temperature.

Convection heaters and surface heaters are often referred to as PTC finned heaters due to their aluminum fins helping transfer heat to the surrounding air from the PTC heating element.

fan heater application

PTC Fan heaters

In devices like egg incubators or small medical devices, heated air circulated maintains a constant temperature throughout the enclosure.  

A built-in fan with a separate electrical circuit helps push the heated air out of the elements to the surrounding area.


PTC Cartridge Heaters

cartridge heater application

Where heat needs to be transferred through a container wall to inside materials or deep inside manufacturing die for plastics, the cartridge heater is good. 

The heat is transferred evenly in a 360 pattern from the tubular structure into a drilled hole.

Comparison between traditional heaters and PTC heaters

Positive temperature coefficient PTC heating elements are a great alternative to traditional heating elements. They are more cost-effective and energy-efficient than conventional resistive heaters.

PTC heating elements also have an automated feature that prevents them from overheating. The resistance of the material increases as the temperature rises, which in turn decreases the current flowing through the heating element.  

The automated self-regulating feature keeps the device from overheating and helps maintain a specific temperature for the application.

PTC heating elements are also much safer to use than traditional heating elements, as they will not overheat and start a fire.  Nor do they burn oxygen in the heating process.

There are many benefits to using PTC heating elements, but there are a few things to consider when choosing one for your application.

Do you have any questions about PTC heating element technology? 

PTC heating elements are an excellent option for many different types of applications. Consider using a PTC heating element if you're looking for an efficient and safe way to heat your components, materials, and space.

To find the right heater for your application or get your questions answered about these unique heating elements, call - 1-864-607-9047 and talk directly to one of our thermal control engineers.  We will work with you to find the best use of a PTC heating element.

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