Sensitivity and noise analysis of SAW magnetic field sensors with varied magnetostrictive layer thicknesses
In this work surface acoustic Love wave delay line magnetic field sensors with varying magnetostrictive layer thicknesses are discussed. Amorphous FeCoSiB is used as the sensitive layer with a thickness variation in the range of 25-400 nm. Each sensor is analyzed both by magneto-optical methods as well as electrical signal and noise measurements. In accordance with previously reported simulation results, the impact on the acoustically propagating wave's velocity distinctly increased with thicker magnetostrictive layers leading to magnetic sensitivities as high as 35 rad/T for a delay line coated with 400 nm thick FeCoSiB. Measurements of the sensor-intrinsic phase noise revealed distinct flicker phase noise that scales proportionally with the increase in magnetic sensitivity, thus leading to virtually constant limits of detection (LOD). Assuming that the observed flicker noise is caused by magnetic hysteresis losses due to the high-frequency excitation of the magnetic material, the LOD's independence of the magnetic sensitivity can even be shown analytically. However, it also becomes clear that such sensors need a magnetostrictive coating with a minimum thickness of at least 50 nm such that the signal-to-noise ratio is dominated by the magnetic material and not by fundamental noise contributions of the substrate. On the contrary, layers with thickness above 300 nm lead to distinct higher hysteresis losses that outrun the simultaneous increase in sensitivity, thus leading to a worse overall performance.