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**Contactless position sensor using magnetic saturation
**

Bertrand Legrand a,b,∗ , Yves Dordet a , Jean-Yves Voyant b , Jean-Paul Yonnet b

b

Siemens VDO Automotive S.A.S., 1 Avenue Paul Ourliac, 31036 Toulouse, France Laboratoire d’Electrotechnique de Grenoble, ENSIEG, UMR INPG-UJF/CNRS 5529, 38402 Saint-Martin-d’Hères, France

a

Abstract This paper describes different structures for the realization of a contactless position sensor when restricting to a magnet as the target and an inductance as the sensing element. The principle of measurement is the local saturation of an inductance core by a magnet. A sensor model is explained using Maxwell equations on the magnetic circuit. Some response curves are also presented in order to validate the model. The experimental results obtained on a prototype of linear position sensor are given. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Position sensor; Permanent magnet; Impedance measurements

1. Introduction Modern vehicles need numerous sensors in order to control actuators enhancing motor performances, safety and passengers comfort [1]. This paper describes magnetic sensors for position detection. The principle of measurement is the local saturation of an inductance core by a magnet [2]. It is presented in the ﬁrst part of the paper by using a model based on a reluctance network. Then the effect of eddy-currents will be explained and explicitly calculated. Finally, comparisons are made with ﬁnite-elements simulations and measurements on prototypes.

through the air-gap between the two branches. The operative air-gap is delimited on the left side by the core and on the right side by the saturated area which depends on the magnet position. The theoretical inductance of the coil is then calculated with the reluctance of the complete ﬂux path deﬁned in the Fig. 2. When neglecting eddy-currents, leakage ﬂux and using a high permeability magnetic material, the reluctance R of the circuit is restrained to the operative air-gap zone (length α, thickness g, width w) [4]. The inductance is clearly proportional to the magnet position α. L= µ0 N 2 w = µ0 N 2 α R g (1)

2. Sensor principle The magnetic structure of the sensor is presented in Fig. 1; it contains a U-shaped magnetic circuit, a concentrated coil is wounded around the core linking the upper and the bottom branches on their left extremities. Both coil and magnetic circuits create an inductance which is measured by an electronic device [3]. A magnet (considered as the target) moves along the trajectory T above the magnetic circuit and saturates part of it. Consequently, the inductance of the coil is modiﬁed depending on the magnet position. The coil is supplied with an alternate current (frequency f). The magnetic ﬂux created by the coil circulates in the magnetic circuit as presented in Fig. 2. The ﬂux path goes

∗ Corresponding author. E-mail address: bertrand.legrand@leg.ensieg.inpg.fr (B. Legrand).

In order to reduce non-linearities, a differential structure (length l, shown in Fig. 3) can be use, and the response signal of the sensor is then directly proportional to the difference of the two inductances of the two coils (L1 and L2 ). w Vout = k(L1 − L2 ) = µ0 N 2 (2α − ) (2) g 3. Sensor model and ﬁeld calculation For a quick response and noise rejection, the sensor is operated at relatively high frequency (5–10 kHz) when compared to classical 50–60 Hz. The effect of eddy-currents is then of high inﬂuence on the instantaneous ﬁeld distribution [5] and sensor linearity. Each sensor has to be adapted to its precise application depending on the required stroke, linearity and time response.

0924-4247/$ – see front matter © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/S0924-4247(03)00154-7

Flux2D software reinforce this asymmetrical phenomenon in the branch because the case study is assumed inﬁnitely long in the z-axis direction. the core eddy-currents do not act on the sensor linearity. The one-side ﬂux in the branches is nevertheless an assumption. Calculations are performed using the classic Maxwell’s equations set (3) applied to a ferromagnetic material (physical characteristics given in Eq. as said before. On this ﬁgure. The ﬂux is considered purely longitudinal along x-axis in the branch. materials (ferrite. but in one-side of the branches. neglecting end-effects on the sensor width. and will be neglected in the following calculations. and vice versa). y) (4) dB dt (3) Fig. numbers of coils turns. 4 shows the magnitude and orientation of the ﬂux distribution at different particular time of the excitation current wave. The adaptation of the sensor to a particular application would therefore be arduous without precise knowledge of eddy-currents distribution in branches. sensor width. working frequency. Each sensor will be a compromise between branch thickness. This is due to the particular place of ﬂux source and return path which both are situated on the same surface of branches (i. Differential structure. Basic principle of the sensor. Main ﬂux path in the sensor. 3. 1. level of voltage signals. These results are calculated using the magneto-dynamic calculation module which takes into account eddy-currents. Legrand et al. etc. On one hand. J = 0 0 0 jz (x. 0 Hx (x. We will use numerical modelisation results obtained with ﬁnite element software (Flux2D) for a quick introduction Fig. etc. Combining equation sets (3) and (4) with the notation in (5) gives the classic diffusion equation and solution form given in (6) and (8). y) H = (5) . 2. It must be pointed out that the wave propagates mostly on the internal surfaces of branches. we will seek for an analytical expression of the ﬂux in the branches.e. / Sensors and Actuators A 106 (2003) 149–154 Fig. (4)). Electromagnetic values are supposed homogeneous along the z-axis. but act only on the level of signal. [6]). . On the other hand. taking account into eddy-currents. level of induction in the core and branches. Currents J are therefore exclusively oriented on z-axis (reality is of course more complicated). eddy-currents in branches have to be calculated. Fig. bottom surface of the upper branch. This calculation hypothesis gives results which are close either to numerical Flux2D determinations but also to experimental measurements. it is straight-forward that ﬂux in branches behave like a progressive wave which propagates along the length of the branch while the magnitude of the wave is progressively decreasing (phase is also progressively shifting along the branch).150 B. permalloy. For easier calculations. Maxwell’s equations: Rot(E) = − div(B) = 0 J = Rot(H) div(J) = ρ Material equations: B = µ0 µfer H J = σE ρ=0 Material properties of the branches are considered linear in the active length of the sensor and ﬁelds are neglected in zones saturated by the magnet. air-gap thickness. and justiﬁcation of our analytical hypothesis.

skin depth δ. t) = K= 1+j µfer gδ NI g + (gw/µc Sc K) √ e− √ Kx+jωt uy (9) (10) (7) + C2 (x)e ((1+j)/δ)y Hx = C1 (x)e (8) Field Hx is symmetrical in its general form. we found the ﬁnal expression for the ﬂux in the air-gap: Hair (x. Ampere’s theorem and ﬂux loop (L).B. δ= 2 µ0 µfer σω −((1+j)/δ)y ﬂux conservation and Ampere’s theorem on a loop (L) which follows the surface of the branch (Fig. In our case. 4. (7) and then the magnetic ﬁeld in the branches is given in Eq. / Sensors and Actuators A 106 (2003) 149–154 151 Fig.1 mm). 5). (8). . conductivity σ and air-gap length are taken into account. This result is correct as long Fig. 5. Using The attenuation of ﬂux along branch is then well described and roles of pulsation ω. jµσωHx = δHx δy (6) Skin depth is deﬁned by the Eq. we have assumed that term C2 (x) can be neglected in order to reproduce a ﬂux on only one-side of the branch. core surface Sc . Instantaneous ﬂux vectors at different phase-times and high frequency excitation (skin depth δ of approximately 0. relative permeability µfer . Legrand et al.

Magnetic ﬁeld in the air-gap (Flux2D results) at phase: 45. We can notice that phase/time-variations and attenuation are well reproduced by the analytical model. The analytical expression of ﬂux in the air-gap gives time or phase dependent numerical results shown in Fig. 90. 90. This length is much greater than the skin depth δ allowing sensor measurements on many centimeters. Real part of root square of K is the attenuation length constant of the ﬂux wave along x-axis. Legrand et al. as magnetic saturation is not reached in the skin depth of branches where induction is concentrated. These analytical results may be compared to Flux2D results drawn in Fig. Fig. 6. Magnetic ﬁeld in the air-gap (Model results) at phase: 45.152 B. 7. 6. / Sensors and Actuators A 106 (2003) 149–154 Fig. 135 and 180◦ . 7. . 135 and 180◦ .

Inductance variations for two coils of a differential sensor. Inductance variation for one coil. 8. Fig. / Sensors and Actuators A 106 (2003) 149–154 153 Fig. Legrand et al. 9. .B.

Chapman & Hall. / Sensors and Actuators A 106 (2003) 149–154 Fig. London. Webster. Holt. This sensor used . The measured inductance L against position α is shown on Fig. Sensors and Automobile. The exponential form of this curve is due to eddy-currents which counteract the ﬂux distribution along the branches. Oxford. including eddy-current effects at high frequencies. Pallàs-Areny. Automotive Engineering International. 5. pp. 8 for a single magnet. Heyden. [2] G. Conclusion An innovative type of sensor based on the saturation of a magnetic circuit has been presented. Fig. 1947. magnets to create a local saturation of the ﬂux path in an inductance coil. Stoll. 57–62. London. vol. Electromagnetic Devices. Roters. 1998. New York.154 B. 2001. [6] Vacuumschmelze GmbH. References [1] D. 10. p. [5] R. Wiley. 3. Paris. Soft Magnetic Materials. 277–327. pp. 1974. 264. This model ﬁts well the experimental results. Sensors and Signal Conditioning.L. pp. And in this case Fig. The value of the inductance depends on the position of the magnet.. We have obtained a stroke of 120 mm with a 200 mm sensor length. 10 shows an approximately linear output. Dunod.G. 4. [4] H. Clarendon Press. Asch. Difference of the inductances for a differential sensor. 28–33. 9 shows the variation of the two inductances for a sensor in a differential mode. September 1998. This non-linearity is well suppressed using a differential structure as shown in Fig. 319–394. 1979. The linearity and stroke is enhanced when decreasing frequency but response time of the sensor is then increased. Legrand et al. The Analysis of Eddy Currents. pp. Les capteurs en instrumentation industrielle. A complete modelisation of the sensor was explained. 106 (9). J. Experimental results We have built a set of prototypes and made several measurements. [3] R. 116–139. et al.C.

Electromagnetism

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