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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Not to be confused with Thermopylae.
Thermoelectric effect

Thermoelectric effect
Seebeck effect
Peltier effect
Thomson effect
Seebeck coefficient
Ettingshausen effect
Nernst effect
Thermoelectric materials
Thermoelectric cooling
Thermoelectric generator
Radioisotope thermoelectric generator
Automotive thermoelectric generator
A thermopile is an electronic device that converts thermal energy into electrical energy. It is
composed of severalthermocouples connected usually in series or, less commonly, in parallel.
Thermopiles do not respond to absolute temperature, but generate an output voltage proportional to
a local temperature difference or temperature gradient.
Thermopiles are used to provide an output in response to temperature as part of a temperature
measuring device, such as the infrared thermometers widely used by medical professionals to
measure body temperature. They are also used widely inheat flux sensors (such as the Moll
thermopile and Eppley pyrheliometer)
and gas burner safety controls. The output of a
thermopile is usually in the range of tens or hundreds of millivolts.
As well as increasing the signal
level, the device may be used to provide spatial temperature averaging.

Thermopiles are also used to generate electrical energy from, for instance, heat from electrical

Thermocouple Electric Generators

When any electrical conductor is subjected to a thermal gradient, by heating one end while maintaining the other end
at a low temperature, it will generate a voltage between the hot and cold ends. This is known as the Thomson
effect and is principle used for the direct conversion of heat energy into electrical energy.

The phenomenon of thermoelectricity was first observed in 1821 by by the German physicist Thomas
Johann Seebeck who noticed that when a loop was made from wires using two dissimilar metals, a voltage appeared
between the junctions of the wires if one junction was hotter than the other. Such a loop made with dissimilar metals
became known as a thermocouple and the phenomenon was named the Seebeck effect in his honour. The voltage
generated by the thermocouple is very small and many thermocouples are required to make a practical
thermoelectric generator.

Semiconductor Thermocouples
For over a century thermocouples were made from metallic conductors and though many different metals were
investigated, efficiencies rarely exceeded 3%. With the advent of semiconductors the efficiency of thermoelectric
generators was greatly increased and by the 1950's, generator efficiencies had reached 5% and Peltier cooling from
ambient to below 0C was achieved.
See the section on Semiconductors for an explanation of how thermocouples work.

Thermocouple Performance

The Seebeck Coefficient
Kelvin showed that for small temperature differences the voltage produced between the hot and cold ends of a single
conducting rod is proportional to the temperature difference between the two ends. The proportionality constant S is
now known as the Seebeck coefficient and is defined as:
S = V / T
where T is the temperature difference between the two ends of a material and V is the thermoelectric voltage
generated. It is thus a measure of the magnitude of an induced thermoelectric voltage in response to a temperature
difference across the material.
For most conductors the voltage created is tiny, just a few microvolts per degree difference in temperature. For
semiconductor materials the coefficient may be between 100V/K and 300V/K, in any case still very small. This is
mainly because the kinetic energy of the charge carriers in semiconductors is strongly temperature-dependent,
whereas in metals it is not so strongly temperature-dependent.
More generally the Seebeck coefficient is non-linear, and depends on the material of the conductor, its molecular
structure and the absolute temperature. The Seebeck voltage does not depend on the temperature distribution along
the conductor but only on the temperature difference between the ends. The Seebeck coefficient is often incorrectly
referred to as the thermoelectric power or thermopower (it is a voltage not a power).

Thermoelectric Materials
Ideal thermoelectric materials should have the following properties:
High Seebeck coefficient S - to get the maximum output voltage per degree of temperature difference.
High electrical conductivity - to minimise Joule heating
Low thermal conductivity - to restrict the diffusion of the heat across the device in order to maintain a large
temperature gradient.

For comparison purposes the usefulness of thermoelectric materials for electricity generation as well as for heating
and cooling can be characterised using a figure of merit incorporating these properties.
The figure of merit Z of a thermoelectric material is a measure of its efficiency as an energy conversion component
and is defined as :
Z = S

Materials with high thermoelectric figures of merit are typically heavily doped semiconductors and for many years the
best materials had a figure of merit of around 1. Recent advances in materials science have increased this number to
around 4.

Thermocouple Output Voltage
In practice, to extract useful current from the ends of a conducting rod requires the connection of wires to the end
points, essentially forming a second conductor in parallel between the heat source and the heat sink. The voltage
generated in the wires will thus oppose the voltage generated across the rod and the net voltage generated will be
the difference between the voltages generated across the rod and across the wires. The circuit arrangement
containing two dissimilar metals forms a thermocouple.

The thermoelectric voltage generated in a single conductor is already very small. The connection of wires across the
conductor to extract the electrical energy introduces an opposing voltage in the circuit so that the net useful voltage
available is even smaller.

The diagram below illustrates the voltage developed by the thermocouple.

The voltage difference, V, produced across the terminals of an open circuit made from a
pair of dissimilar metals, A and B, whose two junctions are held at different temperatures,
depends on the temperature difference between the hot and cold junctions, (Th - Tc).
Because both conductors are subject to the same temperature difference the net voltage
generated will be the difference between the voltage generated across each conductor.
Thus the net voltage developed is given by:
V = Tc
(Sb(T) - Sa(T)) dT

where Sa and Sb are the Seebeck coefficients of the metals A and B, and Th and Tc are the
temperatures of the hot and cold junctions.
For small temperature differences the Seebeck coefficients are effectively constant over the
temperature range and the above formula can be approximated as:
V = (Sb - Sa) x (Th - Tc)

This is the physical basis for a thermocouple, which is used often for temperature measurement and in special
circumstances for power generation. See Practical Devices below

Thermoelectric Efficiency
The efficiency of a thermocouple depends on the fundamental properties of the thermoelectric materials used in its
construction and the only way to improve it is to develop new materials with a higher figure of merit. Despite 180
years of experimenting with a myriad of different materials, typical thermoelectric conversion efficiencies are still only
around 3% and efficiencies above 10% have never been achieved. The best efficiencies achieved to date in
spacecraft applications are around 7% to 8%, similar to amorphous Silicon (Si) solar cells, but inferior to the 24%
achieved by solar cells using exotic materials.

There are much more efficient ways of turning heat into electricity than by using thermoelectric devices.

Practical Thermoelectric Devices
Because conversion efficiencies are very low, thermocouple applications are limited mostly to low power devices.
Costs are also very high which further limits their potential uses.

Higher electrical outputs can be achieved in Seebeck applications at the expense of using more heat by increasing
the temperature difference between the hot and cold surfaces. The limiting factors here are the thermal and chemical
stability of the thermoelectric material at high temperatures and the ability to remove the surplus heat from the cold
Similarly the cooling performance of Peltier devices can be improved by using higher currents but the same limiting
factors apply, except that in this case, the surplus heat must be removed from the hot surface.

Low power Applications
Typical thermocouple applications using the Seebeck effect are temperature measurement, heat sensing and
the detection of radiation in bolometers. Thermoelectric batteries powered by body heat are also used in portable
medical monitoring devices.

Since the energy available from a single thermocouple is very small, arrays of thermocouples must be used to
construct thermoelectric devices capable of handing practical amounts of power. Higher power devices can be
made by connecting thermocouples in series to increase the voltage capability and in parallel to increase the
current capacity. Such an array of thermocouples is called a thermopile.

Thermoelectric generators can be used in much the same way as photovoltaic devices and the same electrical
ancillary circuits can be used. For example higher voltage outputs can be achieved by using the array to drive a
DC/DC converter.

Peltier effect thermopiles are essentially heat pumps which pump heat from one side of the device to the
other. They are used to provide thermoelectric cooling however the efficiencies of Peltier effect devices are
typically around 5% to 10%, much less than the 40% to 50% achievable with compressor based
refrigeration units which limits their use to small portable refrigerators and cooling plates.

Seebeck effect thermopiles are used to convert heat energy into electrical energy in thermoelectric
generators (TEGs) with electrical power outputs of 1000 Watts or more.

TEGs have been used for some time in Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) to provide portable
power in spacecraft applications using the heat from the decay of radioactive isotopes such as Plutonium
238. See Nuclear Batteries .

More recently the possibility of using thermocouple arrays in automotive applications to recover waste heat
from engine exhaust gases is being investigated. With an exhaust gas temperature of 250C and a coolant
temperature of 50C, power outputs of over 300 Watts have been achieved but this drops to 150 Watts
when the coolant temperature increases to 90 C

An interesting phenomenon applied in the field of instrumentation is the Seebeck effect,
which is the production of a small voltage across the length of a wire due to a difference in
temperature along that wire. This effect is most easily observed and applied with a junction
of two dissimilar metals in contact, each metal producing a different Seebeck voltage along
its length, which translates to a voltage between the two (unjoined) wire ends. Most any
pair of dissimilar metals will produce a measurable voltage when their junction is heated,
some combinations of metals producing more voltage per degree of temperature than

The Seebeck effect is fairly linear; that is, the voltage produced by a heated junction of two
wires is directly proportional to the temperature. This means that the temperature of the
metal wire junction can be determined by measuring the voltage produced. Thus, the
Seebeck effect provides for us an electric method of temperature measurement.
When a pair of dissimilar metals are joined together for the purpose of measuring
temperature, the device formed is called a thermocouple. Thermocouples made for
instrumentation use metals of high purity for an accurate temperature/voltage relationship
(as linear and as predictable as possible).
Seebeck voltages are quite small, in the tens of millivolts for most temperature ranges. This
makes them somewhat difficult to measure accurately. Also, the fact that any junction
between dissimilar metals will produce temperature-dependent voltage creates a problem
when we try to connect the thermocouple to a voltmeter, completing a circuit:

The second iron/copper junction formed by the connection between the thermocouple and
the meter on the top wire will produce a temperature-dependent voltage opposed in polarity
to the voltage produced at the measurement junction. This means that the voltage between
the voltmeter's copper leads will be a function of the difference in temperature between the
two junctions, and not the temperature at the measurement junction alone. Even for
thermocouple types where copper is not one of the dissimilar metals, the combination of the
two metals joining the copper leads of the measuring instrument forms a junction
equivalent to the measurement junction:

This second junction is called the reference or cold junction, to distinguish it from the
junction at the measuring end, and there is no way to avoid having one in a thermocouple
circuit. In some applications, a differential temperature measurement between two points is
required, and this inherent property of thermocouples can be exploited to make a very
simple measurement system.

However, in most applications the intent is to measure temperature at a single point only,
and in these cases the second junction becomes a liability to function.
Compensation for the voltage generated by the reference junction is typically performed by
a special circuit designed to measure temperature there and produce a corresponding
voltage to counter the reference junction's effects. At this point you may wonder, "If we
have to resort to some other form of temperature measurement just to overcome an
idiosyncrasy with thermocouples, then why bother using thermocouples to measure
temperature at all? Why not just use this other form of temperature measurement,
whatever it may be, to do the job?" The answer is this: because the other forms of
temperature measurement used for reference junction compensation are not as robust or
versatile as a thermocouple junction, but do the job of measuring room temperature at the
reference junction site quite well. For example, the thermocouple measurement junction
may be inserted into the 1800 degree (F) flue of a foundry holding furnace, while the
reference junction sits a hundred feet away in a metal cabinet at ambient temperature,
having its temperature measured by a device that could never survive the heat or corrosive
atmosphere of the furnace.
The voltage produced by thermocouple junctions is strictly dependent upon temperature.
Any current in a thermocouple circuit is a function of circuit resistance in opposition to this
voltage (I=E/R). In other words, the relationship between temperature and Seebeck voltage
is fixed, while the relationship between temperature and current is variable, depending on
the total resistance of the circuit. With heavy enough thermocouple conductors, currents
upwards of hundreds of amps can be generated from a single pair of thermocouple
junctions! (I've actually seen this in a laboratory experiment, using heavy bars of copper
and copper/nickel alloy to form the junctions and the circuit conductors.)
For measurement purposes, the voltmeter used in a thermocouple circuit is designed to
have a very high resistance so as to avoid any error-inducing voltage drops along the
thermocouple wire. The problem of voltage drop along the conductor length is even more
severe here than with the DC voltage signals discussed earlier, because here we only have a
few millivolts of voltage produced by the junction. We simply cannot afford to have even a
single millivolt of drop along the conductor lengths without incurring serious temperature
measurement errors.
Ideally, then, current in a thermocouple circuit is zero. Early thermocouple indicating
instruments made use of null-balance potentiometric voltage measurement circuitry to
measure the junction voltage. The early Leeds & Northrup "Speedomax" line of temperature
indicator/recorders were a good example of this technology. More modern instruments use
semiconductor amplifier circuits to allow the thermocouple's voltage signal to drive an
indication device with little or no current drawn in the circuit.
Thermocouples, however, can be built from heavy-gauge wire for low resistance, and
connected in such a way so as to generate very high currents for purposes other than
temperature measurement. One such purpose is electric power generation. By connecting
many thermocouples in series, alternating hot/cold temperatures with each junction, a
device called a thermopile can be constructed to produce substantial amounts of voltage
and current:

With the left and right sets of junctions at the same temperature, the voltage at each
junction will be equal and the opposing polarities would cancel to a final voltage of zero.
However, if the left set of junctions were heated and the right set cooled, the voltage at
each left junction would be greater than each right junction, resulting in a total output
voltage equal to the sum of all junction pair differentials. In a thermopile, this is exactly how
things are set up. A source of heat (combustion, strong radioactive substance, solar heat,
etc.) is applied to one set of junctions, while the other set is bonded to a heat sink of some
sort (air- or water-cooled). Interestingly enough, as electrons flow through an external load
circuit connected to the thermopile, heat energy is transferred from the hot junctions to the
cold junctions, demonstrating another thermo-electric phenomenon: the so-called Peltier
Effect (electric current transferring heat energy).
Another application for thermocouples is in the measurement of average temperature
between several locations. The easiest way to do this is to connect several thermocouples in
parallel with each other. The millivolt signal produced by each thermocouple will average
out at the parallel junction point. The voltage differences between the junctions drop along
the resistances of the thermocouple wires:

Unfortunately, though, the accurate averaging of these Seebeck voltage potentials relies on
each thermocouple's wire resistances being equal. If the thermocouples are located at
different places and their wires join in parallel at a single location, equal wire length will be
unlikely. The thermocouple having the greatest wire length from point of measurement to
parallel connection point will tend to have the greatest resistance, and will therefore have
the least effect on the average voltage produced.
To help compensate for this, additional resistance can be added to each of the parallel
thermocouple circuit branches to make their respective resistances more equal. Without
custom-sizing resistors for each branch (to make resistances precisely equal between all the
thermocouples), it is acceptable to simply install resistors with equal values, significantly
higher than the thermocouple wires' resistances so that those wire resistances will have a
much smaller impact on the total branch resistance. These resistors are
called swamping resistors, because their relatively high values overshadow or "swamp" the
resistances of the thermocouple wires themselves:

Because thermocouple junctions produce such low voltages, it is imperative that wire
connections be very clean and tight for accurate and reliable operation. Also, the location of
the reference junction (the place where the dissimilar-metal thermocouple wires join to
standard copper) must be kept close to the measuring instrument, to ensure that the
instrument can accurately compensate for reference junction temperature. Despite these
seemingly restrictive requirements, thermocouples remain one of the most robust and
popular methods of industrial temperature measurement in modern use.
The Seebeck Effect is the production of a voltage between two dissimilar, joined
metals that is proportional to the temperature of that junction.
In any thermocouple circuit, there are two equivalent junctions formed between
dissimilar metals. The junction placed at the site of intended measurement is called
the measurement junction, while the other (single or equivalent) junction is called
the reference junction.
Two thermocouple junctions can be connected in opposition to each other to
generate a voltage signal proportional to differential temperature between the two
junctions. A collection of junctions so connected for the purpose of generating
electricity is called a thermopile.
When electrons flow through the junctions of a thermopile, heat energy is
transferred from one set of junctions to the other. This is known as the Peltier Effect.
Multiple thermocouple junctions can be connected in parallel with each other to
generate a voltage signal representing the average temperature between the
junctions. "Swamping" resistors may be connected in series with each thermocouple
to help maintain equality between the junctions, so the resultant voltage will be
more representative of a true average temperature.
It is imperative that current in a thermocouple circuit be kept as low as possible for
good measurement accuracy. Also, all related wire connections should be clean and
tight. Mere millivolts of drop at any place in the circuit will cause substantial
measurement errors.
Sensor Terminology
Every sensor is designed to work over a specified range. The design ranges are usually fixed,
and if exceeded, result in permanent damage to or destruction of a sensor. It is customary to
use transducing elements over only the part of their range where they provide predictable
performance and often enhanced linearity.
When making a measurement it is necessary to start at a known datum, and it is often
convenient to adjust the output of the instrument to zero at the datum. It, therefore, is a value
ascribed to some defined point in the measured range.
Zero Drift
The signal level may vary from its set zero value when the sensor works. This introduces an
error into the measurement equal to the amount of variation, or drift as it is usually termed.
Zero drift may result from changes of temperature, electronics stabilizing, or aging of the
transducer or electronic components.
Sensitivity of a sensor is defined as the change in output of the sensor per unit change in the
parameter being measured. The factor may be constant over the range of the sensor (linear), or
it may vary (nonlinear).
Resolution is defined as the smallest change that can be detected by a sensor.
The time taken by a sensor to approach its true output when subjected to a step input is
sometimes referred to as its response time. It is more usual, however, to quote a sensor as
having a flat response between specified limits of frequency. This is known as the frequency
response, and it indicates that if the sensor is subjected to sinusoidally oscillating input of
constant amplitude, the output will faithfully reproduce a signal proportional to the input.
The most convenient sensor to use is one with a linear transfer function. That is an output that
is directly proportional to input over its entire range, so that the slope of a graph of output
versus input describes a straight line.
Hysteresis refers to the characteristic that a transducer has in being unable to repeat faithfully,
in the opposite direction of operation, the data that have been recorded in one direction
(Figure 2).

If a meaningful measurement is to be made, it is necessary to measure the output of a sensor in
response to an accurately known input. This process is known as calibration, and the devices
that produce the input are described as calibration standards.
Span (input)
A dynamic range of stimuli which may be converted by a sensor id called a span or an input full
scale (FS). It represents the highest possible input value which can be applied to the sensor
without causing unacceptably large inaccuracy (shown in Figure 3).

Full Scale Output
Full scale output (FSO) is the algebraic difference between the electrical output signals
measured with maximum input stimulus and the lowest input stimulus applied. This must
include all deviations from the ideal transfer function. For instance, the FSO output in Figure 3 is
represented by SFS.
A very important characteristic of a sensor is accuracy which really means inaccuracy.
Inaccuracy is measured as a ratio of the highest deviation of a value represented by the sensor
to the ideal value. It may be represented in terms of measured value (Delta, shown in Figure 3)

Sensors in the Industrial Environment
In the laboratory the atmosphere is relatively free from contaminants, the temperature is
relatively stable, the area is free from vibration, and personnel are specialized in handling the
equipment they are using. The industrial measure is often made under reverse conditions. The
produced signal must be capable of transmission to recording equipment which may be a
considerable distance away. The wiring between the two may be induced much electrical noise.

The Hall Effect Sensor
We could not end this section on Magnetism without a mention about magnetic sensors and
especially the Hall Effect Sensor. Magnetic sensors convert magnetic or magnetically encoded
information into electrical signals for processing by electronic circuits, and in the Sensors and
Transducers tutorials we looked at inductive proximity sensors and the LDVT as well as solenoid
and relay output actuators.
Magnetic sensors are solid state devices that are becoming more and more popular because they can be
used in many different types of application such as sensing position, velocity or directional movement.
They are also a popular choice of sensor for the electronics designer due to their non-contact wear free
operation, their low maintenance, robust design and as sealed hall effect devices are immune to vibration,
dust and water.
One of the main uses of Magnetic Sensors is in automotive systems for the sensing of position, distance
and speed. For example, the angular position of the crank shaft for the firing angle of the spark plugs, the
position of the car seats and seat belts for air-bag control or wheel speed detection for the anti-lock
braking system, (ABS).
Magnetic sensors are designed to respond to a wide range of positive and negative magnetic fields in a
variety of different applications and one type of magnet sensor whose output signal is a function of
magnetic field density around it is called the Hall Effect Sensor.
Hall Effect Sensors are devices which are activated by an external magnetic field. We know that a
magnetic field has two important characteristics flux density, (B) and polarity (North and South Poles).
The output signal from a Hall effect sensor is the function of magnetic field density around the device.
When the magnetic flux density around the sensor exceeds a certain pre-set threshold, the sensor
detects it and generates an output voltage called the Hall Voltage, VH. Consider the diagram below.
Hall Effect Sensor Principals

Hall Effect Sensors consist basically of a thin piece of rectangular p-type semiconductor material such
as gallium arsenide (GaAs), indium antimonide (InSb) or indium arsenide (InAs) passing a continuous
current through itself. When the device is placed within a magnetic field, the magnetic flux lines exert a
force on the semiconductor material which deflects the charge carriers, electrons and holes, to either side
of the semiconductor slab. This movement of charge carriers is a result of the magnetic force they
experience passing through the semiconductor material.
As these electrons and holes move side wards a potential difference is produced between the two sides
of the semiconductor material by the build-up of these charge carriers. Then the movement of electrons
through the semiconductor material is affected by the presence of an external magnetic field which is at
right angles to it and this effect is greater in a flat rectangular shaped material.
The effect of generating a measurable voltage by using a magnetic field is called the Hall Effect after
Edwin Hall who discovered it back in the 1870s with the basic physical principle underlying the Hall effect
being Lorentz force. To generate a potential difference across the device the magnetic flux lines must be
perpendicular, (90
) to the flow of current and be of the correct polarity, generally a south pole.
The Hall effect provides information regarding the type of magnetic pole and magnitude of the magnetic
field. For example, a south pole would cause the device to produce a voltage output while a north pole
would have no effect. Generally, Hall Effect sensors and switches are designed to be in the OFF, (open
circuit condition) when there is no magnetic field present. They only turn ON, (closed circuit condition)
when subjected to a magnetic field of sufficient strength and polarity.
Hall Effect Magnetic Sensor
The output voltage, called the Hall voltage, (VH) of the basic Hall Element is directly proportional to the
strength of the magnetic field passing through the semiconductor material (output H). This output
voltage can be quite small, only a few microvolts even when subjected to strong magnetic fields so most
commercially available Hall effect devices are manufactured with built-in DC amplifiers, logic switching
circuits and voltage regulators to improve the sensors sensitivity, hysteresis and output voltage. This also
allows the Hall effect sensor to operate over a wider range of power supplies and magnetic field
The Hall Effect Sensor

Hall Effect Sensors are available with either linear or digital outputs. The output signal for linear
(analogue) sensors is taken directly from the output of the operational amplifier with the output voltage
being directly proportional to the magnetic field passing through the Hall sensor. This output Hall voltage
is given as:

VH is the Hall Voltage in volts
RH is the Hall Effect co-efficient
I is the current flow through the sensor in amps
t is the thickness of the sensor in mm
B is the Magnetic Flux density in Teslas
Linear or analogue sensors give a continuous voltage output that increases with a strong magnetic field
and decreases with a weak magnetic field. In linear output Hall effect sensors, as the strength of the
magnetic field increases the output signal from the amplifier will also increase until it begins to saturate by
the limits imposed on it by the power supply. Any additional increase in the magnetic field will have no
effect on the output but drive it more into saturation.
Digital output sensors on the other hand have a Schmitt-trigger with built in hysteresis connected to the
op-amp. When the magnetic flux passing through the Hall sensor exceeds a pre-set value the output from
the device switches quickly between its OFF condition to an ON condition without any type of contact
bounce. This built-in hysteresis eliminates any oscillation of the output signal as the sensor moves in and
out of the magnetic field. Then digital output sensors have just two states, ON and OFF.

Hall-Effect Sensors: Theory and Application
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There are two basic types of digital Hall effect sensor, Bipolar andUnipolar. Bipolar sensors require a
positive magnetic field (south pole) to operate them and a negative field (north pole) to release them while
unipolar sensors require only a single magnetic south pole to both operate and release them as they
move in and out of the magnetic field.
Most Hall effect devices can not directly switch large electrical loads as their output drive capabilities are
very small around 10 to 20mA. For large current loads an open-collector (current sinking) NPN
Transistoris added to the output.
This transistor operates in its saturated region as a NPN sink switch which shorts the output terminal to
ground whenever the applied flux density is higher than that of the ON pre-set point.
The output switching transistor can be either an open emitter transistor, open collector transistor
configuration or both providing a push-pull output type configuration that can sink enough current to
directly drive many loads, including relays, motors, LEDs, and lamps.
Hall Effect Applications
Hall effect sensors are activated by a magnetic field and in many applications the device can be operated
by a single permanent magnet attached to a moving shaft or device. There are many different types of
magnet movements, such as Head-on, Sideways, Push-pull or Push-push etc sensing movements.
Which every type of configuration is used, to ensure maximum sensitivity the magnetic lines of flux must
always be perpendicular to the sensing area of the device and must be of the correct polarity.
Also to ensure linearity, high field strength magnets are required that produce a large change in field
strength for the required movement. There are several possible paths of motion for detecting a magnetic
field, and below are two of the more common sensing configurations using a single magnet:Head-on
Detection and Sideways Detection.
Head-on Detection

As its name implies, head-on detection requires that the magnetic field is perpendicular to the hall effect
sensing device and that for detection, it approaches the sensor straight on towards the active face. A sort
of head-on approach.
This head-on approach generates an output signal, VHwhich in the linear devices represents the strength
of the magnetic field, the magnetic flux density, as a function of distance away from the hall effect sensor.
The nearer and therefore the stronger the magnetic field, the greater the output voltage and vice versa.
Linear devices can also differentiate between positive and negative magnetic fields. Non-linear devices
can be made to trigger the output ON at a pre-set air gap distance away from the magnet for indicating
positional detection.
Sideways Detection

The second sensing configuration is sideways detection. This requires moving the magnet across the
face of the Hall effect element in a sideways motion.
Sideways or slide-by detection is useful for detecting the presence of a magnetic field as it moves across
the face of the Hall element within a fixed air gap distance for example, counting rotational magnets or the
speed of rotation of motors.
Depending upon the position of the magnetic field as it passes by the zero field centre line of the sensor,
a linear output voltage representing both a positive and a negative output can be produced. This allows
for directional movement detection which can be vertical as well as horizontal.
There are many different applications for Hall Effect Sensors especially as proximity sensors. They can
be used instead of optical and light sensors were the environmental conditions consist of water, vibration,
dirt or oil such as in automotive applications. Hall effect devices can also be used for current sensing.
We know from the previous tutorials that when a current passes through a conductor, a circular
electromagnetic field is produced around it. By placing the Hall sensor next to the conductor, electrical
currents from a few milliamps into thousands of amperes can be measured from the generated magnetic
field without the need of large or expensive transformers and coils.
As well as detecting the presence or absence of magnets and magnetic fields, Hall effect sensors can
also be used to detect ferromagnetic materials such as iron and steel by placing a small permanent
biasing magnet behind the active area of the device. The sensor now sits in a permanent and static
magnetic field, and any change or disturbance to this magnetic field by the introduction of a ferrous
material will be detected with sensitivities as low as mV/G possible.
There are many different ways to interface Hall effect sensors to electrical and electronic circuits
depending upon the type of device, whether digital or linear. One very simple and easy to construct
example is using a Light Emitting Diode as shown below.
Positional Detector

This head-on positional detector will be OFF when there is no magnetic field present, (0 gauss). When
the permanent magnets south pole (positive gauss) is moved perpendicular towards the active area of the
Hall effect sensor the device turns ON and lights the LED. Once switched ON the Hall effect sensor
stays ON.
To turn the device and therefore the LED OFF the magnetic field must be reduced to below the release
point for unipolar sensors or exposed to a magnetic north pole (negative gauss) for bipolar sensors. The
LED can be replaced with a larger power transistor if the output of the Hall Effect Sensor is required to
switch larger current loads.