ESA GNC Conference Papers Repository

Changing the Attitude Towards Magnetoresistance
Persson, A. ; Thornell, G ; Bejhed, R ; Svedlindh, P ; Gunnarsson, K ; Nguyen, H
Presented at:
Karlovy Vary 2011
Full paper:

Magnetometers are one of the most useful instruments on spacecrafts. They are used for both satellite attitude determination and for scientific purposes, such as mapping of Earth’s magnetic field. The most common magnetometer for low-frequency applications is the fluxgate. High-end fluxgates are generally quite bulky, with a mass of around 1 kg, but there exist miniature versions, weighing only around 100 g, but with worse noise figure. Interest in such miniature models has increased with the adaption of the Faster-Better-Cheaper philosophy, and the introduction of small satellite classes. However, downscaling of fluxgates beyond the present 100 g has proven difficult, wherefore other technologies have earned more and more interest, especially those employing different kinds of magnetoresistive effects. Here, a review of different magnetoresistive sensors, and their past, present and potential use in space is presented. Magnetoresistive sensors based on anisotropic, giant, and tunneling magnetoresistance are covered, and extra attention is directed towards sensors based on the planar Hall effect. The latter has the potential of overcoming some of the major disadvantages of other magnetoresistive sensors, such as poor detectivity at low frequencies, and the need for external biasing coils to improve linearity and reduce hysteresis by, e.g., set-reset protocols and magnetic feedback. Moreover, the design of two such planar Hall effect sensors is tailored to meet the requirements set on a magnetometer aimed for, firstly, attitude determination and, secondly, mapping of Earth’s magnetic field. It is concluded that the planar Hall effect sensor is one of the prime candidates for the next generation of miniaturized low-frequency space magnetometers.