Over the last decade or so, graphene has gained an ever-increasing amount of press attention, due to the incredible properties it possesses and its potential to enhance all manner of different products. Comprising a monolayer carbon lattice with strong atomic bonds, graphene’s key attributes include high levels of mechanical stability (having tensile strength 200x that of steel), outstanding electrical conductivity (an order of magnitude higher than copper) plus extraordinary thermal conductivity (currently the highest of any known material).
The much talked about prospect of it boosting performance in electronic devices is, however, yet to be leveraged effectively. The reason for this stems from the way in which this material is manufactured and processed. An innovative new approach to graphene fabrication is now set to change things, with the first place where it will see significant commercial traction being magnetic sensors.
A long-established stalwart of electronic system design, the Hall-Effect sensor serves a pivotal role in a wide variety of different application spaces. These sensors are used to determine the magnetic fields present within their surrounding environment, and through this the positioning or movement of mechanical apparatus (such as the steering column of an automobile or the rotor in an industrial motor drive system). Elsewhere these units are employed to monitor the currents passing through electrical infrastructure (generated by photovoltaic panels, for instance).
This is a major league business - the already sizeable global magnetic sensor market (of which Hall-Effect sensors represent the majority) is steadily growing, predicted to be worth $3.5 billion by 2025 (according to research compiled by analyst firm Global Market Insights). Despite their widespread usage, there is still scope to increase Hall-Effect sensor application usage, particularly with higher performance devices, and this is a clear opportunity for graphene to show its value.
Hall-Effect Sensor Challenges
Something that has always proved problematic with conventional Hall-Effect sensors is that the sensing element is three-dimensional (3D). Its depth leads to