Mag(net)ic: The sensory organs of cars

July 19, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Today's automobiles are growing safer and more comfortable with every new generation. Numerous active solutions have been developed to complement and enhance passive safety features such as increased chassis rigidity. Longer-established safety systems including ABS and ESP are now standard features even in compact cars, while more modern developments like lane departure systems are becoming increasingly widespread.

The most striking new features are the numerous "assistant systems" that make driving increasingly convenient, including parking assist systems, adaptive headlamps, automatic distance control and many more.

But all active in-car systems have one thing in common: they operate on the basis of signals that detect the current status of the vehicle and serve as the starting-point for further automatic or manual actions.

If we think of the control electronics as the 'brain' of the car, the sensors are its 'senses'. They measure an enormous range of influences that impact on the car's performance.

As with human beings, clear sensory impressions can make all the difference in avoiding incorrect, or even dangerous, reactions. Vehicle sensors must therefore fulfil a list of complex requirements, such as:

  • Accuracy
  • Temperature stability
  • Durability (resistance to dirt, moisture etc.)
  • Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)
  • Long service life and resistance to wear

Because electronic components are among the most sensitive components in a car, resistance to wear is a key property for sensors. Contactless sensors such as magnetic signal transmission naturally have an advantage in this respect. The sensor elements can be enclosed in gas-tight housings to protect them from external environmental influences. To allow the major benefits of magnetic sensor methods to be fully exploited, the selection of advanced magnetic materials is critical.

Vacuumschmelze GmbH & Co. KG (VAC) in Hanau specialises in the production of magnetic materials and the development of advanced products based on them. The amorphous and crystalline Fe, Ni and Co-based alloys produced by the company are extensively proven, specifically in an array of sensor-based automotive applications including, but not restricted to;

Resolvers made from Permenorm 5000 H2 as angle sensors in electric motors.

  • Components made from the ductile permanent magnetic alloy Crovac 12 for switch-point sensors in turbochargers.
  • Vitrovac amorphous alloy assemblies for use in the antennae of keyless entry-and-go systems.
  • Soft magnetic components for linear position sensors
  • Cores and components for
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