The Evolution of Heating Elements

Over the years, heating elements have changed significantly due to advancements in technology and innovation. 

The materials used to make heating elements have also changed, and new manufacturing techniques have been developed. This has resulted in more efficient, durable, and cost-effective heating elements. 

In this article, the Hedin Heaters team will explore the evolution of heating elements over time.

Early Heating Elements

The earliest heating elements can be traced back to the 1800s. They were typically made of metals such as platinum or copper and were primarily used in laboratory settings. These elements were inefficient and tended to break easily due to the high temperatures and stress put on them during use. They were also difficult to regulate, leading to inconsistent temperatures.

Resistance Heating Elements

Advancements in the understanding of electrical resistance led to the invention of resistance heating elements in the late 19th century. These elements are typically made of alloys that exhibit high electrical resistance and high temperature resistance, such as nichrome (a nickel-chromium alloy). When an electric current passes through these materials, they generate heat due to resistance. Resistance heating elements are widely used in applications like electric stoves, toasters, and electric heaters.

Nichrome Wire

In 1905, an alloy called nichrome (nickel-chromium) was invented. This alloy had excellent resistance heating properties. Nichrome wire became the standard material for electric heating elements and is still widely used today. It has high electrical resistance, can withstand high temperatures, and does not corrode easily.

Evolution of Coil and Tubular Heating Elements

The development of new manufacturing techniques led to the evolution of coil and tubular heating elements which became popular in the early 20th century and are still sold by us today. These elements are made by winding a heating wire around a ceramic or metal core and inserting it into a metallic sheath, creating a more durable and efficient heating element. The use of advanced alloys, such as stainless steel or titanium, has also improved the durability and corrosion resistance of heating elements. Our Rod Elements and Cartridge Heaters are the examples of this technology. 

Development of Ceramic Heating Elements

The development of ceramic heating elements in the mid-20th century was a significant breakthrough in heating technology. 

Ceramic heating elements were more durable than their metal counterparts and could reach higher temperatures while maintaining a more stable temperature profile. They were also more energy-efficient, as they could be made thinner and lighter, reducing energy consumption.

Introduction of Quartz Heating Elements

In the 1960s, quartz heating elements were introduced, providing even higher efficiency and faster heating times. Quartz is a highly durable and efficient material that can withstand high temperatures without cracking or breaking. The development of quartz heating elements led to the creation of infrared heating systems, which have become popular in industrial and commercial applications.

PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) Heating Elements

PTC heating elements gained popularity in the late 20th Century. They are composed of special ceramic materials that exhibit a positive temperature coefficient of resistance. This means that their electrical resistance increases significantly with temperature. PTC elements provide self-regulating heating, as their resistance automatically increases as the temperature rises, resulting in reduced power consumption and enhanced safety. PTC heating elements are used in appliances like electric kettles, coffee makers, and automotive seat heaters.

Development of Flexible Heating Elements

Flexible heating elements are another recent innovation in heating technology. These elements are made from thin, flexible materials that can be moulded to fit a variety of shapes and sizes. They are often used in applications that require custom heating solutions or in applications where space is limited. 

Advancements in Controlled Heating Elements

Controlled heating elements are a recent development that use advanced sensors and controllers to regulate temperature and optimise energy consumption. These elements can be programmed to turn on and off automatically, adjust the temperature based on ambient conditions and communicate with other devices in a system. This technology enables precise temperature control and energy efficiency, making it ideal for a wide range of applications. Our cartridge heaters with integrated thermocouples are an example of how the addition of a sensor can make the heater more controlled, more responsive, and more efficient.

The evolution of heating elements over the years has resulted in more efficient, durable, safe and cost-effective solutions. From simple metal wires to ceramic, quartz, coil, tubular, flexible and smart heating elements, the technology has come a long way. The development of new materials, manufacturing techniques, and advanced sensors and controllers have made heating elements more versatile and useful for a wide range of applications, from industrial processes to consumer products.

At Hedin Heaters, we’ve spent more than 80 years specialising in a whole host of heating elements and components. Our vast product range includes cartridge heaters, immersion heaters, mat heaters and much more. Serving customers worldwide, contact our team today to find out more.   


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