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Materials Letters 158 (2015) 155158

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Materials Letters
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/matlet

Detection of the magnetite by giant magnetoimpedance sensor


Tao Wang n, Lei Guo, Chong Lei n, Yong Zhou
Key Laboratory for Thin Film and Microfabrication of Ministry of Education, Department of Micro/Nano Electronics, School of Electronic Information and
Electrical Engineering, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Dongchuan Road 800, Shanghai 200240, China

art ic l e i nf o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 6 April 2015
Received in revised form
27 May 2015
Accepted 30 May 2015
Available online 2 June 2015

Meander-line NiFe/Cu/NiFe lms-based giant magnetoimpedance (GMI) sensor was employed to detect
raw magnetite aiming to develop a sensitive magnetometer for the exploration of magnetite. The GMI
effect was greatly decreased after placing the magnetite on the GMI sensing elements, which was
probably related to the transverse magnetization process becoming strongly inhibited by the stray
magnetic eld. In addition, we observed an interesting phenomenon: the GMI curve on frequency dependency has shifted to a higher frequency when the magnetite was magnetized at the edge of the
sensing elements. Signicant changes in impedance can also be found when the magnetite was placed at
the edge of GMI sensor without using the external magnetic eld, demonstrating the possibility of using
the GMI sensor for preliminary exploration of magnetic minerals.
& 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Keywords:
Detection
Magnetoimpedance
Magnetite
Sensor
Exploration

1. Introduction
Magnetic minerals are the important raw materials of industry.
Raw magnetite, as a typical magnetic mineral, has been used in a
wide variety of applications for many years, including iron and
steel industry, microelectronics, nuclear physics, communication
and sensing technology, and biomedical applications, etc. Therefore, the high-quality exploration of magnetite is very signicant
for the development of industry. Magnetite always exhibits ferrimagnetism due to the non-zero spontaneous magnetic moment in
internal magnetic domain, the constituents of which are Fe3O4 and
some impurities (Si and C, etc.). The spontaneous magnetization in
magnetite can arise a stray magnetic eld that can be detected by
appropriate magnetic sensors. Over the last few decades, the
magnetite explorations were performed by many conventional
magnetic sensors such as uxgate magnetometer [1], protonprecession magnetometer [2], superconducting magnetometer [3],
etc. However, there are still many serious shortcomings in these
conventional magnetic sensors when used for detecting magnetic
minerals, for example, uxgate sensor possesses a large size, the
proton-precession magnetometer can be only available for multipoints measurements, and the superconducting magnetometer
requires high consumption. In recent years, magnetic sensors that
are based upon the giant magnetoimpedance (GMI) effect have
attracted much attention because of their ultrahigh eld-sensitivity over the conventional magnetic sensors. The GMI effect
n

Corresponding authors. Fax: 86 21 34204843.


E-mail addresses: skins@sjtu.edu.cn (T. Wang), leiqhd@sjtu.edu.cn (C. Lei).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.matlet.2015.05.151
0167-577X/& 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

refers to a large change in alternating current (AC) impedance of a


soft magnetic conductor when subjected to an external magnetic
eld [418]. It was found that the sandwich lms [1921] could
have signicant GMI effect even at relatively low frequencies
(o10 MHz), in particular, the meander-line sandwich lms are
highly sensitive to the external magnetic eld [22,23], and are very
suitable for magnetic sensing applications.
While most previous studies mainly focused on exploring the
GMI sensor for detection of magnetic particles [2428] and biosensing applications [2931], there have been no reports on detection of the raw magnetite by GMI sensor so far. In this paper,
two simple methods based on the GMI sensor were used to detect
the magnetite. Experimental results indicated that the GMI sensor
was highly sensitive to the stray magnetic elds of the magnetite.

2. Experimental details
The fabrication of the meander-line GMI sensor has been reported elsewhere [32], in order to avoid the direct contact between the magnetite and the sensing elements, a 10 mm positive
photoresist was coated on the soft magnetic thin lms for use as
an insulating layer. The magnetite for testing was the raw ore
purchased from Haoyu Stone Company, and the weight of the
magnetite is about 3 g. The magnetite was characterized by
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and Energy Dispersive
Spectrometer (EDS), and the results are shown in Fig. 1. It can be
inferred from Fig. 1(a) that the magnetite possesses the irregular
surface topography. EDS characterizations [Fig. 1(b) and Table 1]

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T. Wang et al. / Materials Letters 158 (2015) 155158

Fig. 1. (a) SEM and (b) EDS characterizations of raw magnetite.

Table 1
EDS characterizations of raw magnetite.
Element

Weight%

Atomic%

C (K)
O (K)
Si (K)
Fe (L)
Totals

2.92
30.41
2.24
64.43
100.00

7.20
56.29
2.36
34.16
100.00

conrm the Fe and O components of the magnetite. In order to


characterize the GMI effect, the relative change in impedance is
dened as GMI ratio = 100% [Z (H ) Z (Hmax ) ]/Z (Hmax ), where Z
(H) and Z(Hmax) represent the impedance in a longitudinal external magnetic eld and in the maximum longitudinal external
magnetic eld, respectively. During the experiment, the magnetite
was tested at the edge and the top of the GMI sensor, respectively.

3. Results and discussion


Fig. 2(a) and (b) shows the top view and cross-sectional view of
the fabricated GMI sensor, respectively. The schematic diagram of
testing the magnetite at the edge of sensing elements (terminus of
long axis) is shown in Fig. 2(c). The schematic diagram of testing
the magnetite on the top of sensing elements is shown in Fig. 2(d).
The GMI ratios of testing magnetite at the edge of GMI sensor, on
the top of GMI sensor and without testing the magnetite were

represented by Me, Mt, and Mn, respectively. Fig. 3(a) shows the
eld dependence of the GMI ratio at f 1 MHz, obviously, the
changes in GMI ratio can be clearly observed due to the presence
of magnetite. As can be seen from Fig. 3(a), the presence of magnetite on the GMI sensor [Fig. 2(d)] results in an overall decrease in
GMI ratio. The origin of this phenomenon is probably related to
the transverse magnetization process becoming strongly inhibited
by the magnetite's stray magnetic eld. When the magnetite is
tested at the edge of sensing elements (terminus of long axis)
[Fig. 2(c)], it can be found that the GMI ratio increases at rst
(o10 Oe) and then decreases with the external magnetic eld
(410 Oe). The result suggests that the stray magnetic eld has
strengthened the longitudinal magnetic eld near the sensor, and
as a consequence the GMI curve shifts to a lower external magnetic eld. We can clearly see that there are no signicant changes
in GMI ratio above 50 Oe, it is possible that the stray magnetic eld
is strongly overwhelmed by the overlarge external magnetic eld.
The great changes can be observed near the peak value of GMI
ratio, which can be explained by the eddy current model [7]: the
rotational magnetization related to the GMI effect increases with
the increasing of external magnetic eld, and reaches a maximum
value when the external magnetic eld is equivalent to the anisotropy eld. In some sense, the high eld-sensitivity of GMI can
be obtained at around the peak eld, thereby resulting in a high
detection sensitivity. In practical applications, it is necessary to
apply a constant bias magnetic eld on the GMI sensor in order to
obtain the optimum operating-point.

T. Wang et al. / Materials Letters 158 (2015) 155158

157

Fig. 2. (a) Top view of the GMI sensor, (b) cross-sectional view of the GMI sensor, (c) the magnetite was tested at the edge of GMI sensor, and (d) the magnetite was tested on
the top of GMI sensor.

a 140

b
Mn
Me
Mt

250

100

Longitudinal GMI ratio (

Longitudinal GMI ratio (

120

Mn
Me
Mt

300

80
60
40
20

200

150

100

50

0
0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

10

20

He=0 Oe
Blank
Magnetite

45
40

30

40

50

AC frequency (MHz)

External magnetic field (Oe)


45

He=0 Oe
Blank
Magnetite

35

40

30
25
35

20
15
30

10
5
0

25

10

20

30

AC frequency (MHz)

40

50

20

30

40

50

AC frequency (MHz)

Fig. 3. GMI ratio under an external magnetic eld (a) eld dependence (075 Oe) and (b) frequency dependence (150 MHz); frequency dependence of the GMI ratio
without using the external magnetic eld (c) full view and (d) partial enlargement.

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T. Wang et al. / Materials Letters 158 (2015) 155158

Fig. 3(b) shows the dependence of GMI on frequency (1


50 MHz). It is apparent that an overall decrease can be found in
GMI ratio [Fig. 3(b)] when the magnetite is tested on the GMI
sensor, which is agree with the results depicted in Fig. 3(a) (eld
dependency). The GMI sensor exhibits high detection sensitivity at
around the peak frequency, and the maximum decrease of 218.4%
in GMI ratio is obtained at f 5.1 MHz. This phenomenon can be
explained by the classic eddy current model [7]: in the intermediate frequency (several MHz) range, the GMI effect is dominated by both domain wall motion and magnetization rotation, the
GMI is highly sensitive to the external magnetic eld due to the
strong skin effect, thus, the high detection sensitivity can be obtained in the intermediate frequency range. At low frequency
(o1 MHz), the skin effect is very weak, and the magnetoinductive
effect is the main contribution to the GMI effect, thus resulting in
low detection sensitivity. As frequency is further increased (above
20 MHz), the domain wall motion can be completely suppressed
by the eddy currents, which results in the small changes in GMI
ratio. When the magnetite is placed on the edge of GMI sensor, as
can be clearly seen from Fig. 3(b), the GMI ratio decreases at rst
before the peak frequency (about 5 MHz) and then increases after
the peak frequency (about 5 MHz) due to the presence of magnetite, this trend is exactly contrary to that depicted in Fig.3(a)
(eld dependency). This phenomenon hasnt been observed before, and differs from that reported in previous works in which the
presence of magnetic particles has caused an overall decline [24]
or enhancement [2527] in GMI ratio over the whole high frequency range. However, the underlying mechanism of this phenomenon is still not clear, a precise model needs to be established
to understand it in future work.
In addition, we have made a GMI measurement on the GMI
when the magnetite was placed at the edge of sensing elements
(terminus of long axis) without using the external magnetic eld,
there is about 2 mm between the sensing elements and the
magnetite. It was found that the magnetoimpedance was greatly
increased due to the presence of magnetite at the edge of the
sensor, as shown in Fig. 3(c) and (d). As the magnetite is ferrimagnetic at room temperature possessing the spontaneous magnetization (non-zero combined magnetic moment) in the internal
magnetic domain, and thus producing a small stray magnetic eld.
In a manner of speaking, the stray magnetic eld is roughly
equivalent to a small longitudinal external magnetic eld when
the magnetite is magnetized at the edge of sensor (terminus of
long axis), playing a role in modifying the transverse permeability
of the soft magnetic lms, and therefore leading to an increase in
magnetoimpedance.

4. Conclusion
Measuring the stray magnetic eld of magnetite was achieved
by two simple approaches based on the GMI effect. The whole
decline in GMI ratio was observed when the magnetite was tested
on the top of GMI sensor, which is probably related to the transverse magnetization becoming strongly inhibited by the stray
magnetic eld. The presence of the magnetite at the edge of GMI

sensor has shifted the GMI curve to a lower external magnetic


eld, suggesting that the stray magnetic eld has strengthened the
longitudinal external magnetic eld near the sensing elements.
Finally, a large change in magnetoimpedance was observed in the
presence of magnetite without using the external magnetic eld,
indicating the high sensitivity of GMI sensor, which is of signcant
practical importance for the development of GMI sensor in exploring magnetic minerals.

Acknowledgments
This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 61074168 and 61273065), National Science
and Technology Support Program (2012BAK08B05), Natural Science Foundation of Shanghai (13ZR1420800), the Analytical and
Testing Center in Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the Center for
Advanced Electronic Materials and Devices in Shanghai Jiao Tong
University.

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