Scientists develop magnetometer for low cost, reliable & real-time measurements of magnetic fields

Researchers have demonstrated a low-cost digital system to efficiently measure unknown magnetic fields


Photo by Dan-Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash


Digital signals are the backbone of communication systems processed by hardware systems that transmit and receive the signals with the help of intermediate systems called ‘digital receiver systems’ or DRS. When magnetic matter creates signals, analyzing them with DRS lets scientists study the magnetic fields. Analyzing the properties of the signals, for example, how they vary with time, scientists can measure the fields and study their small fluctuations.

In a new study, scientists from Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bengaluru, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, have devised a more efficient, faster, and low-cost digital receiver system that can make precise measurements of magnetic fields. 

The study was supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) Government of India. It was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. The system costs less than 350$ for all the silicon-based hardware and associated software.

The photograph of the experiment to measure magnetic fields using the DRS device.
[Image Credit: Raman Research Institute]


The hardware of digital receiver systems are built with standard silicon-based memory devices. Computer codes are implemented that make these devices perform mathematical operations on the signal they receive, enabling DRS systems to measure fundamental properties of matter like ‘Spin’. The spin of electrons determines the magnetism of most of the objects around us.

“The electrons’ spin is not constant at room temperatures. They fluctuate,” explains Saptarishi Chaudhuri, associate professor of RRI and a co-author of the study. These spin fluctuations cause what scientists call ‘spin-noise’. By measuring the tiny fluctuations in the magnetic field, the researchers can infer the spin-noise accurately.

The work is an extension of the Ph.D. thesis work of the co-authors Maheswar Swar and Subhajit Bhar of RRI. The researchers heated rubidium atoms to temperatures ranging between 100 and 200 degrees Celsius, causing spin fluctuations. Then, they bombarded the atoms with a laser, which has a property called ‘polarization’. The spin fluctuations caused the laser’s polarization to fluctuate, which the researchers measured using a light detector. The polarization fluctuation is the signal for the digital receiver system. They then designed the system to work in two different modes.

Publication link: https://doi.org/10.1109/TIM.2020.3026843

For more details, V. Mugundhan (mugundhan@rri.res.in); Maheswar Swar (mswar@rri.res.in); Subhajit Bhar (subhajit@rri.res.in), and Saptarishi Chaudhuri (srishic@rri.res.in) can be contacted.
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