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A sensor (also called detector) is a converter that measures a physical quantity and converts it into a signal which can be read by an observer or by an instrument. for example, a mercury-in-glass thermometer converts the measured temperature into expansion and contraction of a liquid which can be read on a calibrated glass tube. a thermocouple converts temperature to an output voltage which can be read by a voltmeter. for accuracy, most sensors are calibrated against known standards.