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A PCB Sensor for Magnetic Materials
Keywords: Sensor, Packaging, Magnetic
Printed circuit board (PCB) sensors are a sensor technology where the layout of traces on a PCB has been optimized so that the traces electromagnetically interact with the surrounding environment. These types of sensors can be manufactured at very low cost using standard commercially available low-cost printed circuit board fabrication. Exposed conductive electrodes on the circuit board are useful for measuring the electrical conductivity of the surrounding environment, and these sensors have been used in applications such as salinity measurement and dissolved ion content measurement of aqueous solutions. Insulated interdigitated electrode sensors are useful for capacitively analyzing the surrounding environment, and these sensors have been used to detect the presence of liquid water and to measure the moisture content of substances in physical contact with the sensor. Additionally, by measuring the complex impedance of the capacitive sensor over a wide frequency range, information concerning the chemical composition of the substance in contact with the sensor can be determined. In addition to conducive and capacitive PCB sensors, the third type of PCB sensor would be an inductive sensor. Although it is challenging to realize 3D coils in PCB technology, planar inductors can be realized in a single Cu layer on a PCB, and insulated from the environment using a cover layer of polymeric solder mask. This type of electrode structure can inductively couple with magnetic materials in close proximity to the sensor. A variety of magnetic materials exist, including iron, nickel and cobalt. Additionally, many alloys of these elements are also magnetic. Of particular interest are corrosion products with magnetic properties, such as iron(III) oxide, Fe3O2, also known as common rust. A thin layer of iron(III) oxide powder deposited on the sensor’s active area results in a measureable increase in the sensor’s inductance. As such, an inductive PCB sensor could be a low-cost option for detecting the presence of some corrosion products in its operating environment.
Dr. Robert N. Dean, McWane Endowed Professor
Auburn University
Auburn, AL
USA


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