Hall effect sensor

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The magnetic piston (1) in this pneumatic cylinder will cause the Hall effect sensors (2 and 3) mounted on its outer wall to activate when it is fully retracted or extended.
Engine fan with Hall Effect sensor
Commonly used circuit symbol

A Hall effect sensor is a transducer that varies its output voltage in response to a magnetic field. Hall effect sensors are used for proximity switching, positioning, speed detection, and current sensing applications.

In its simplest form, the sensor operates as an analog transducer, directly returning a voltage. With a known magnetic field, its distance from the Hall plate can be determined. Using groups of sensors, the relative position of the magnet can be deduced.

Electricity carried through a conductor will produce a magnetic field that varies with current, and a Hall sensor can be used to measure the current without interrupting the circuit. Typically, the sensor is integrated with a wound core or permanent magnet that surrounds the conductor to be measured.

Frequently, a Hall sensor is combined with circuitry that allows the device to act in a digital (on/off) mode, and may be called a switch in this configuration. Commonly seen in industrial applications such as the pictured pneumatic cylinder, they are also used in consumer equipment; for example some computer printers use them to detect missing paper and open covers. When high reliability is required, they are used in keyboards.

A wheel topped with two magnets that pass by a Hall effect sensor

Hall sensors are commonly used to time the speed of wheels and shafts, such as for internal combustion engine ignition timing, tachometers and anti-lock braking systems. They are used in brushless DC electric motors to detect the position of the permanent magnet. In the pictured wheel with two equally spaced magnets, the voltage from the sensor will peak twice for each revolution. This arrangement is commonly used to regulate the speed of disk drives.

Hall probe[edit]

A Hall probe contains an indium compound semiconductor crystal such as indium antimonide, mounted on an aluminum backing plate, and encapsulated in the probe head. The plane of the crystal is perpendicular to the probe handle. Connecting leads from the crystal are brought down through the handle to the circuit box.

When the Hall probe is held so that the magnetic field lines are passing at right angles through the sensor of the probe, the meter gives a reading of the value of magnetic flux density (B). A current is passed through the crystal which, when placed in a magnetic field has a "Hall effect" voltage developed across it. The Hall effect is seen when a conductor is passed through a uniform magnetic field. The natural electron drift of the charge carriers causes the magnetic field to apply a Lorentz force (the force exerted on a charged particle in an electromagnetic field) to these charge carriers. The result is what is seen as a charge separation, with a build up of either positive or negative charges on the bottom or on the top of the plate. The crystal measures 5 mm square. The probe handle, being made of a non-ferrous material, has no disturbing effect on the field.

A Hall probe can be used to measure the Earth's magnetic field. It must be held so that the Earth's field lines are passing directly through it. It is then rotated quickly so the field lines pass through the sensor in the opposite direction. The change in the flux density reading is double the Earth's magnetic flux density. A Hall probe must first be calibrated against a known value of magnetic field strength. For a solenoid the Hall probe is placed in the center.

Hall effect sensor interface[edit]

Hall effect sensors may require analog circuitry to be interfaced to microprocessors. These interfaces may include input diagnostics, fault protection for transient conditions, and short/open circuit detection. It may also provide and monitor the current to the hall effect sensor itself. There are precision IC products available to handle these features.

Working Principle of Hall Sensors[edit]

When a beam of charged particles passes through a magnetic field, forces act on the particles and the beam is deflected from its straight line path. The beam of charged particles refers to the electrons flowing through a conductor. When a current carrying conductor is placed in a magnetic field perpendicular to the path of the electrons, the electrons are deflected from its straight line path. Therefore, one side of the conductor becomes negative portion and the other side becomes positive one. The transverse voltage is measured and is known as Hall Voltage.

The charge separation continues until the force on the charged particles from the electric field balances the force produced by magnetic field. If the current is constant, then the Hall voltage is a measure of the magnetic flux density. There are two forms of Hall Effect Sensors. One is linear where the output voltage linearly varies with the magnetic flux density. The other is known as threshold where there is a sharp drop of output voltage at a particular magnetic flux density.

Advantages of Hall Sensors[edit]

Applications of Hall Sensor[edit]

The Hall sensor is used in some automotive Fuel Level Indicators. A permanent magnet is mounted on the surface of a floating object. The current carrying conductor is fixed on the top of the tank lining up with the magnet. When the level of fuel rises, more amount of magnetic field is applied on the current resulting in higher Hall voltage. As the fuel level decreases, the Hall voltage will also decrease. The fuel level is indicated and displayed by proper signal condition of Hall voltage.

The Hall sensor is also used in the brushless DC motor to sense the position of the rotor and to switch the transistor in the right sequence.