Year/Course: 2008-2009, Lent 2009

Contacts: Dr. Neil Mathur, Materials Science & Professor Jim Scott, Earth Science
Mentors: Andy Milton & Richard Bown, Innovia Technology
Reference: Israel C, Mathur N D, and Scott J F, A one-cent room-temperature magnetoelectric sensor; NATURE MATERIALS 7, 93-94 (2008)

The team of researchers from Materials Science and Earth Sciences have discovered a one-cent, room-temperature magnetoelectric sensor based on existing electric components, which has many potential commercial applications.

Existing low-cost magnetic field sensors are widely used for simple On/Off applications and liquid level sensing. Examples include water-level monitoring in coffee machines and washing machines, and seat occupancy detetction for automotive air-bag control. Magnetic sensors are also used for detecting the position in clamshell mobile phones, the position of car pedals and finger controls in domestic appliances. For these applications the technology must be robust, long-life, non-contact and low-cost. The magnet is usually attached to the moving object (eg a float) and the magnetic sensor switches control circuits on and off. Today these applications represent a multi-billion dollar market for magnetic sensors.

The new sensor is cheaper and smaller than the existing solutions, with the only limitation being that the output requires analysis by a simple microprocessor. It also allows multiple levels to be detected using a single sensor.

The challenge for the i-Team is to investigate existing and potentially new uses of such sensors, and recommend those areas where the new sensor’s advantages make it most commercially attractive.