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A fluxgate magnetometer is a sensor capable of measuring the orientation and intensity of magnetic flux lines. Although traditionally used in geological prospecting, underwater navigation and land navigation, fluxgate magnetometers are also used in robotic space probes while analyzing magnetic fields of planets, including Earth.
Saturation of magnetic materials is the principle on which fluxgate magnetometers operate. The designs of the fluxgate magnetometer broadly are categorized into two types, namely: ones employing ring cores and ones employing rod cores. Fluxgate magnetometers make use of a ferromagnetic core which is surrounded by two coils of wire. The configuration is similar to that of a transformer. Alternating current is passed through one coil, which is called the primary. This produces an alternating magnetic field in the other coil, which is the secondary. Measurement of the phase and intensity of the alternating current in the secondary is possible. Any change in the external magnetic field brings about a change in the output of the secondary coil. The change can also be measured to analyze the intensity and orientation of the flux lines.
Fluxgate magnetometers are used in geological navigation methods, including global positioning systems. They are also used in detecting slow-moving magnetic fields, and super-low-power applications. Paired in a gradiometer configuration, fluxgate magnetometers are widely used in surveys related to archaeology.