Thursday, July 14, 2011

Baolab Microsystems Develops GPS Sensors Using Simple Manufacturing Processes

Location based services in mobile phones are not new. Many apps and functions come embedded in even the simplest and cheapest cell phones. To enjoy such applications, you do not necessarily require purchasing an iphone. With the latest technologies we can easily track a person, his velocity, his direction of approach and other details. Today’s mobile phones also have sensors integrated in them, which can sense a shake/motion and a mere flick can enable us to control them. Adding or rather improving upon the original sensors, Spain based baolab Microsystems has found out a way to make the sensors cheaper and smaller.

The digital compass sensors built by Baolab work on the principle of Lorentz force. The concept says, that whenever a current is flowing through a conducting material, the magnetic field associated with the system will generate a force. Thinking on the same lines, the developers must have felt that they anyhow want to measure the magnetic field, so why not measure it on the basis of force generated in the process? The idea thus came out to be simple than the conventional GMS system. While the traditional GPS module is manufactured using a process called complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor manufacturing (CMOS manufacturing)The process involves, the use of Hall effect and not the Lorentz force. However, CMOS manufacturing is not as easy as it looks. Though we can make a circuit initially, integrating magnetic field concentrators  externally is a complex job.
Baolab developed a circuit by etching out nanoscale micro-electromechanical system (MEMS) from the conventional chip. the MEMS device has spring suspended aluminum mass . As per the theory just mentioned above, a force produced by current flowing through mass helps in measuring magnetic field. This does not require any magnetic concentrators rather, it avoids such complexities. the device is useful even if the magnetic field associated is very small. Baolab provides us with a set of three such circuits which can easily measure the earth’s magnetic field and its orientation. Moreover, the manufacturing process gives us a cheaper alternative of production of these GPS sensors.
The new method can lead us in simplification of many more complex motion sensor problems and other advance applications. It can also be used in things like running shoes and tennis rackets. Baolab Microsystems is hopeful of bringing this technology in a working mode from next year on wards in all GPS applications.

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