[Edward], creator of the Cave Pearl project, an underwater data logger, needed a way to measure temperature with a microcontroller. Normally, this problem is most easily solved by throwing a temperature sensor on the I2C bus — these sensors are cheap and readily available. This isn’t about connecting a temperature sensor in your Arduino. This build is about using the temperature sensor in your clock.

The ATMega328p, the chip at the heart of all your Arduino Uno clones, has within it a watchdog timer that clicks over at a rate of 110 kHz. This watchdog timer is somewhat sensitive to temperature, and by measuring this temperature sensor you can get some idea of the temperature of the epoxy blob that is a modern microcontroller. The trick is calibrating the watchdog timer, which was done with a homemade ‘calibration box’ in a freezer consisting of two very heavy ceramic pots with a bag of rice between them to add thermal mass (you can’t do this with water because you’re putting it in a freezer and antique crocks are somewhat valuable).

By repeatedly taking the microcontroller through a couple of freeze-thaw cycles, [Edward] was able to calibrate this watchdog timer to a resolution of about 0.0025°C, which is more than enough for just about any sensor application. Discussions of accuracy and precision notwithstanding, it’s pretty good.

This technique measures the temperature of the microcontroller with an accuracy of 0.005°C or better, and it’s using it with just the interrupt timer. That’s not to say this is the only way to measure the temperature of an ATMega; some of these chips have temperature sensors built right into them, and we’ve seen projects that use this before. However, this documented feature that’s clearly in the datasheet seems not to be used by many people.

Thanks [jan] for sending this in.

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