Magnetic sensors

Magnetic fields surround us. Changes in current generate changes in the local magnetic field, which, with the right sensors, can be detected and measured. Increasingly sensitive magnetic field detectors can detect smaller levels of electrical charge flow at ever greater distances.

Using quantum technologies enables a dramatic improvement in both the magnetic sensor sensitivity, and reduces the physical size and cost of these improved sensors. This will expand and enhance the range of applications for magnetic field sensors, offering significant capability improvements in established fields of application as well as broadening the potential applications for magnetic sensors.

Magnetic sensors will be used for:

  • Detecting charge flows in micro and nano-electronics
  • Imaging intra and inter-cellular activity in medicine and biochemistry
  • Non-invasive brain activity monitoring in medicine and psychology
  • Improved understandings of novel materials and nano-engineered structures
  • Geo-magnetic survey
  • A range of security applications

Illustration of tablet computer showing scan image of human brain in a hospital with a patient

Key objectives

The Magnetometry activity develops precise magnetic sensors that will operate from submicron to macroscopic scales. As a prototyping activity, it will continue to drive technology translation to mature quantum sensor module or systems using ‘proof-of-principle’ demonstration prior to subsequent development into production prototypes.

A cold-atom magnetic microscope is being developed for 1D-imaging with mm-size field of view at micron resolution and fast dynamic response, as well as an ion array gradient magnetometer device operating at mm-cm scale with noise suppression for functional imaging and device characterisation.

The development of a cm scale magnetic sensor using thermal atoms in microcells is also being investigated, working towards an array device. Among other applications, microcells as a potential room temperature replacement for liquid helium cooled superconducting sensors in brain imaging systems (MEG) will also be developed.