Hygrometer || 3 Important Types of Hygrometer


Hygrometer Definition

A hygrometer is an instrument used to measure the amount of water vapor in air, in soil, sometimes known as a micrometer screw gauge, is a device incorporating a calibrated screw extensively used for accurate measurement in mechanical engineering, lab-specific measurements, and other metrological instruments such as dial, vernier, and digital calipers in confined spaces.

History and Ancient Hygrometer

• The Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci designed the hygrometer at 1480A
• Polymath Johann Heinrich Lambert invented a more advanced hygrometer in 1755.
• Later, Swiss physicist and Geologist Horace Saussure were devised and utilized to measure humidity using human hair-based hygrometer.
• In the late Seventeenth century, a device were called by some expert’s hygroscopes; from that word “hygroscopes” hygroscopic and hygroscopy has derived and become popular, and still use as “hygrometer”.

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Horace Saussure
Jens Juel, Horace-Bénédict de Saussure, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Type of Hygrometer

Many hygrometers are available in the market for humidity measurement, meteorological, Atmospheric Science applications.

  • Hair Tension Type
  • Metal/Pulp Type
  • Electronic Type
  • Mechanical Type
  • Crude Type
  • Gravimetric Type
  • Psychrometer Type

Metal-paper coil type:

The metal-paper type provides a dial indicator of humidity fluctuations. It is an inexpensive apparatus, and its precision is limited though, accuracy variation is about 10 percent. In such metal coil devices, a paper strip attached with it causing the coil absorbs water vapour. These modifications (analogous to a bimetallic thermometer) create a sign on a dial. A metallic needle is around the front.

Hair Tension Hygrometers:

Hair Tension Hygrometers type utilize the animal or human hair under some tension created using some arrangements. 

The conventional apparatus like folk-art device works on this principle. Other and whalebone substances or high elastic material might be utilized instead of hair for this type of device.

Hair Tension Hygrometers image source : slideshare presentation Bavaneethan Yokananth

Sling Psychrometer:

A sling psychrometer, which utilizes two thermometers, one is spun in airflow until both temperatures steady. Sling Psychrometer is used for field applications but has been substituted by more suitable detectors nowadays. A whirling psychrometer employ exactly the identical principle like psychrometer; dual thermometers are installed there like a football rattle.

Psychrometer (Wet-and-Dry-Bulb Thermometer)

A psychrometer, or a moist and dry-bulb thermometer, is made up of with two thermometers with pre calibration and one which is stored moist or wet with soapy water onto a sock or thump. At temperatures above the freezing point of water, the flow of water in the noodle decreases the temperature, the wet bulb thermometer will keep a lower temperature compared to the other thermometer. To be more accurate, when the air temperature is below freezing, but the wet-bulb needs to be coated with a layer of ice. The temperature will be lower in this. However, this might need minutes of operation of the psychrometer, as a consequence of the heating during sublimation process.

Electronic Type Hygrometer:

There are four types of electronic hygrometers are used for standard measurement as per their characteristics, as follows 

  • Capacitive Type
  • Resistive Type
  • Thermal Conductive Type
  • Chilled Mirror Dew Point Type

Capacitive Type

The capacitive detectors are utilized for applications when price, space, or brittleness are pertinent. The impact of humidity to a plastic or metal oxide material’s dielectric constant is quantified. With calibration, these detectors have an accuracy of ±2 percent. Without calibration, the accuracy may flop two to three times. Sensors are powerful against impacts like heat and sharp fluctuation in temperatures. Sensors are susceptible to pollution drift and aging effects, but they are acceptable for many too.


The change in resistance of a substance because of humidity is quantified in this type of variant. Resistive substances are conductive polymers and salts. The material substantial properties will depend equally on heat and humidity, which means that the sensor has to be used with a temperature detector. Detectors are somewhat less sensitive than capacitive detectors type, So it needs complicated circuitry to be more accurate, the shift in material possessions is significantly less. The precision and robustness against corrosion change based upon the resistive material that is selected. The condensation-resistant robust detectors with flexibility exist with a precision and accuracy up to three percent relative humidity.


In thermal hygrometers, the variation in thermal conductivity of air due to moisture is determined using thermal conductivity-based sensor and these sensors mainly applied for absolute humidity measurement purpose.

Chilled mirror dew point hygrometer

Chilled mirror dew point hygrometers are a few of the instruments have very good accuracy for standard measurements of relative humidity.

Chilled mirror dew point hygrometer uses optoelectronic mechanism and a heated mirror to detect heat on the surface of the mirror. Digital feedback controls the temperature of the mirror to keep a dynamic balance between condensation and evaporation, measuring the dew point temperature.

The Chilled mirror dew point hygrometer has to be cleaned frequently, a proficient operator and has to calibrated also for accurate operation. So, they tend toward heavy drifting in surroundings where smoke or air may be present.

Gravimetric Hygrometer

This measure mass of an air sample in contrast to an equal volume of dry air to determine the moisture content of the atmosphere. This type of hygrometer device mainly used for calibrating devices to maintain Transfer Standards. 

This type of measurements is in use in the united states, Japan, the EU and the UK with variable measuring standards. 

Optical Hygrometer

An optical type meter calculates the absorption of light by water from the air. A light emitter and a light detector are prearranged with a quantity of atmosphere amongst emitter and receiving sensor. These device follow Beer-Lambert law.

Optical types comprise

  • The differential absorption hygrometer (employing light emitted by two lasers effective at different wavelengths, one absorbed by humidity).
  • The krypton hygrometer (with 123.58 nm light emitted by krypton)
  • The Lyman-alpha hygrometer (by means of Lyman-alpha light emitted by hydrogen)

Psychrometric meter

Weather stations will utilize a psychrometric meter to calculate relative humidity and the dew point since this can be an accurate option. A psychrometric meter uses two thermometers for the standard measurements. This meter utilizes two thermometers for measurements.

Weather channels will use a psychrometric meter to compute relative humidity and the dew point because this is sometimes a true alternative. The thermometers are mounted in a Stevenson Screen or using a sling psychrometer. It’s a device that retains the two thermometers to assess the moisture content of the atmosphere.

About Dr. Subrata Jana

I am Subrata, Ph.D. in Engineering, more specifically interested in Nuclear and Energy science related domains. I have multi-domain experience starting from Service Engineer for electronics drives and micro-controller to specialized R&D work. I have worked on various projects, including nuclear fission, fusion to solar photovoltaics, heater design, and other projects. I have a keen interest in the science domain, energy, electronics and instrumentation, and industrial automation, primarily because of the wide range of stimulating problems inherited to this field, and every day it’s changing with industrial demand. Our aim here is to exemplify these unconventional, complex science subjects in an easy and understandable to the point manner.
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