Nanoscale magnetic field sensor

The minuscule new magnetic field sensor will be suitable for mass production (Photo: Spintec/FHNW).

An interdisciplinary team is cooperating closely to develop a novel magnetic field sensor. The planned sensor will be much smaller than commercially available ones, but will nevertheless be suitable for mass production. Under the coordination of Professor Joris Pascal, researchers from the School of Life Sciences, the School of Engineering and industry partner Camille Bauer Metrawatt AG (Wohlen, AG) will combine known principles in search of a way to produce minute magnetometers with potential applications in a variety of fields, including magnetic cameras, quality control or medical technology.

Sensor for magnetic field
A traditional compass is nothing other than a magnetic sensor. The compass needle reacts to the Earth’s magnetic field, causing it to point north. Countless other magnetic field sensors are at work in our everyday life – for the most part, without our realizing it. In a modern automobile, for instance, some 70 magnetic field sensors are responsible for ensuring safety, control and comfort. Mobile phones employ microelectronic magnetic sensors that help determine the device’s location, while in medical technology magnetic sensors are already used to monitor the activity of pacemakers and drug delivery systems.

Nanoscale and suitable for mass production
The team working on the Nano Argovia project Nanocompass now hopes to develop the first nanoscale magnetic field sensor that can be produced using a widely available industrial manufacturing process. To this end, the researchers – led by Professor Joris Pascal (FHNW School of Life Sciences), Professor Stefan Gorenflo (FHNW School of Engineering) and Thomas Keusch (Camille Bauer Metrawatt AG) – will combine two well-known principles: The fluxgate principle, which to date has mostly been used in macroscopic sensors, will be implemented on a spintronic component.

The first nanoscale magnetic field sensor will be extremely compact, requiring very little electricity and allowing industrial mass production. This will make it possible to implement a large number of magnetic field sensors, along with their conditioning and processing electronics, on a single chip, enabling a broad range of applications in numerous fields.

 
“The Nanocompass project opens up new industrial prospects, especially for contactless measurement of electric currents.”

Thomas Keusch, Head of Research & Development, Camille Bauer Metrawatt

Additional information

Camille Bauer Metrawatt AG
School of LIfe Sciences (FHNW)
School of Engineering (FHNW)