Hybrid magnetic sensor is 200 times more sensitive

"Our technology can even be applied to flexible applications," says Yang Hyunsoo. (Credit: National University of Singapore)

Scientists have created a magnetic sensor 200 times more sensitive than most sensors currently on the market.

Led by Yang Hyunsoo, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering at the National University of Singapore, the team developed the new sensor from graphene and boron nitride.

Comprising a few layers of carrier-moving channels controlled by a magnetic field, the hybrid sensor shows much higher sensitivity than current silicon and indium antimonide products.

These smaller and lower-cost sensors could potentially be useful for consumer electronics, information and communication technology, biotechnology, and the automotive industry.

When measured at 127 degrees Celsius (260.6 F)—the maximum temperature at which most electronics products operate—the hybrid sensor recorded a sensitivity gain of more than eight-fold over other reported laboratory results, and more than 200 times that of sensors in the market. It also showed little temperature dependence from room temperature to 127 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for hot environments.

The work, which promises cheaper sensor production by eliminating expensive wafers, appears in Nature Communications.

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Yang, who is also affiliated with the university’s Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Institute and the Centre for Advanced 2D Materials, points out that magnetic sensors are everywhere, from home appliances to “counters” that track the number of vehicles in parking lots and drive-through lanes. For instance, a car alone can have up to 30 magnetic sensors to monitor speed, pressure, and position, as well as other functions.

Current sensors’ properties can change due to air-conditioning or heat from the sun, requiring a temperature correction mechanism that adds cost. The new work avoids these issues, allowing for tinier and cheaper electronics.

“Our sensor is perfectly poised to pose a serious challenge in the magnetoresistance market by filling the performance gaps of existing sensors, and finding applications as thermal switches, hard drives, and magnetic field sensors. Our technology can even be applied to flexible applications,” says Yang.

The researchers have filed a patent for the product and have plans to scale up their studies and manufacture industry-size wafers for industrial use.

Source: National University of Singapore