Paragraf’s Graphene Hall-Effect Sensors Are Space Bound

October 05, 2020 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.

Paragraf’s graphene hall-effect sensors (GHS) has been deemed mission-ready for high-radiation applications in space by the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

The NPL is the UK’s National Metrology Institute that provides measurement and tests devices across multiple applications that contribute to life. Recently, tests were conducted by NPL on an industry-first, graphene hall effect sensor (GHS). 


Paragraf has created a way to deposit graphene on silicon and other common substrates with conventional manufacturing processes.
Paragraf has created a way to deposit graphene on silicon and other common substrates with conventional manufacturing processes. Image used courtesy of Paragraf. 


The examinations showed that the sensor was able to operate while being exposed to a neutron dose of 241 mSv/hour. Which is about 30,000 times the expected typical neutron dose rate in the International Space Station. Paragraf, a research and development lab that was derived from the Department of Materials Science at Cambridge University, has made it a mission to produce step-change graphene-based technologies such as the GHS. 


The Potential Impact from Paragraf’s Graphene Hall-Effect Sensor

A hall-effect sensor is a device used to measure the magnitude of a magnetic field. It can be used for positioning, speed detection, and current sensing applications. Like most electrical devices, an ordinary hall-effect sensor would not be able to withstand extreme conditions, such as being in space and still maintaining appropriate operating temperatures. Most standard sensors are made from silicon and other semiconductor materials, which do not react well to neutron radiation that is located in space or nuclear plants. 

To have silicon sensors in space, developers would need to enclose the device in a radiation-hardened packaging which ensures a costly and complex design. Paragraf’s GHS With an average temperature of 2.7 Kelvin, space conditions become the ultimate test for electronics. Paragraf is a technology company delivering commercial quality, graphene-based electronic devices. Their sensor is able to operate from 1.8 to 353 Kelvin while not being interrupted by a neutron dose of 241 mSv/hour, which was proved by NPL’s testing.

The Co-Founder of Paragraf, Ivor Guiney expressed how the sensor is able to utilize the two-dimensional material to achieve high field resolution, “Owing to the exceptional mechanical strength and high transparency of graphene, our Hall Effect sensor can be used reliably in high-radiation applications without requiring packaging. This is key to improving reliability and durability while reducing manufacturing costs and time to market.

The unique nature of graphene minimizes the planar Hall effect and creates excellent electron mobility to provide results in magnetic-field operational ranges. Paragraf’s GHS can provide precise instrument positioning while efficiently dissipating 5 pW of heat and staying at a low operational current of 10nA. 


More Tests Ahead for Graphene Device

Paragraf has found the formula for producing single-atom-thick, two-dimensional materials, including graphene, directly onto crystalline substrates such as silicon and gallium-nitride.

Héctor Corte-León, a research scientist at NPL shared his enthusiasm on the test results for Paragraf’s GHS, “Our first set of findings is very promising, and we are now expecting more positive outcomes over the next few months. Testing graphene-based electronics is key to demonstrating whether they can be used in harsh environments where, traditionally, their deployment has been limited.”

Paragraf is currently being funded by Innovate UK, an agency that works with people, companies, and partner organizations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy. With NPL’s approval, Paragraf’s graphene hall-effect sensor is clearly one step closer to its first space voyage.