An improvement in the design and fabrication of sensing coils of superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID) magnetometers has been proposed to increase sensitivity. It has been estimated that, in some cases, it would be possible to increase sensitivity by about half or to reduce measurement time correspondingly.
The pertinent aspects of the problems of design and fabrication can be summarized as follows: In general, to increase the sensitivity of a SQUID magnetometer, it is necessary to maximize the magnetic flux enclosed by the sensing coil while minimizing the self-inductance of this coil. It is often beneficial to fabricate the coil from a thicker wire to reduce its selfinductance. Moreover, to optimize the design of the coil with respect to sensitivity, it may be necessary to shape the wire to other than a commonly available circular or square cross-section. On the other hand, it is not practical to use thicker superconducting wire for the entire superconducting circuit, especially if the design of a specific device requires a persistent- current loop enclosing a remotely placed SQUID sensor. It may be possible to bond a thicker sensing-coil wire to thinner superconducting wires leading to a SQUID sensor, but it could be difficult to ensure reliable superconducting connections, especially if the bonded wires are made of different materials.
The proposed improvement would constitute a partial solution of some of the problems summarized above. The main idea is to mold the sensing coil in place, to more nearly optimum cross sectional shape, instead of making the coil by winding standard prefabricated wire. For this purpose, a thin superconducting wire loop that is an essential part of the SQUID magnetometer would be encapsulated in a form that would serve as a mold. A low-melting- temperature superconducting metal (e.g., indium, tin, or a lead/tin alloy) would be melted into the form, which would be sized and shaped to impart the required cross section to the coil thus formed. The figure depicts an example of a design incorporating the proposed improvement.
This work was done by Konstantin Penanen, Inseob Hahn, and Byeong Ho Eom of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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