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We present analytical and experimental results on fluxgate magnetometers that make use of a readout technique based on residence times. This approach allows for enhancing sensitivity to weak target signals in particular when the reduction of the sensor dimensions are considered. Our approach, exploiting the inherent nonlinear character of the bistable core dynamics, is based on the time domain characterization of the transitions between the two saturation states of the hysteresis loop that is inherent in the ferromagnetic core dynamics. This readout technique can be implemented with bias signals having lower amplitude and frequency than those used in conventional fluxgate processing schemes, thus reducing the device power requirements. The efficacy of this strategy is shown through an analytical approach and via experimental results which suggests guidelines for optimal device design and realization. The experiments have been carried out on a miniaturized laboratory fluxgate prototype; this device shows numerous desirable characteristics, including very good sensitivity and resolution, as well as ease of operation and a very low cost.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2005