14 December 2017
InnovateUK funding project QBARKA for microstructural characterization using quantum-enabled Burkhouse noise analysis
The Quantum Technology program of UK Government agency InnovateUK has awarded funding to support the project QBARKA (‘Microstructural characterization using Quantum enabled Burkhouse noise Analysis’), which will focus on developing a new technique to enable ultra-high-resolution magneto-imaging of metallic microstructure by exploiting the Barkhausen effect in ferromagnetic materials.
The project consortium comprises the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) - a joint venture founded in 2015 between Cardiff University and epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK – together with Advanced Hall Sensors Ltd (AHS) of Manchester, UK (which makes magnetic sensor products based on quantum effects in gallium arsenide materials), Microsemi Corp Aliso Viejo, CA, USA (which has a packaging business in South Wales that makes modules for high-reliability, harsh-environment datacoms, medical implant and aerospace applications), and independent research and technology organization TWI of Cambridge, UK.
Magnetic Barkhausen noise (BHN) measurements are currently used in non-destructive inspection of stress/strain and microstructures in a range of materials. BHN occurs when a magnetic ﬁeld is applied to a ferromagnetic material, and is generated by the sudden irreversible motion of magnetic domain walls as they are released from microstructural obstacles such as dislocations and grain boundaries. It can provide high-resolution microstructure-related information, but existing detection techniques do not have the resolution (spatial or magnetic) to extract the wealth of data available.
The project will leverage core technology based on compound semiconductor quantum-well Hall-effect (QWHE) magnetic sensing technology developed by AHS. “These sensors have several advantages over incumbent technology: miniaturized size, sensitivities independent of frequency, and a very wide dynamic range,” says AHS founder Mohamed Missous, a professor of semiconductor devices & materials at the University of Manchester and inventor of the technology. “The technology offers a novel solution to enable a new paradigm in high-resolution microstructural analysis of materials,” he adds.
“Magnetic field sensors are key enabling technologies for a wide range of metrology, imaging, industrial and automotive sensing applications where demand is proliferating rapidly,” comments CSC director Wyn Meredith. “The consortium (AHS, CSC, Microsemi and TWI) has been constructed to address both the key markets and the development and manufacturing supply chain.’