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Hall effect sensor

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200px-Cylinders with Hall sensors

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.

A Hall effect sensor is an electronic device that varies its output voltage in response to changes in magnetic field density. Hall 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.

Hall sensor tach

Hall sensors are commonly used to time the speed of wheels and shafts, such as for internal combustion engine ignition timing or tachometers. In the pictured wheel carrying 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 diskette drives.

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