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The design, modeling, and simulation of a novel micromachined magnetic field sensor are discussed. The sensor uses an electrostatic resonator whose fundamental resonant frequency is modified by a Lorentz force generated from the interaction of the sensor structure and the present magnetic field. The sensor was fabricated in a standard bulk micromachining process without the need for any additional processing steps. Since the sensor does not employ any magnetic materials, it does not exhibit hysteresis. A comprehensive model of the sensor behavior is derived which encompasses the interactions of the involved physical domains. Validity of the modeling results was verified by finite-element simulations, and later, through experiments. The sensitivities of the fabricated sensors are in the range of 48-87 Hz/T, depending on sensor structure and dimensions. The design of the sensor allows for its fabrication in many standard microelectromechanical system processes and is compatible with CMOS processes. The theoretical minimum detectable signal with current devices is on the order of 217 nT. Methods to improve the sensitivity of the current sensors are suggested. A linear response to a wide range of magnetic fields makes this design suitable for applications where large fields need to be measured with high resolution.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2007