SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Robert Swafford
TIME: Monday, October 21, 2013, 9:00 a.m.
PLACE: MRDC Building, 4211
TITLE: Development of a New Generation of Electric Current Sensors through Advances in Manufacturing Techniques and Material Design
COMMITTEE: Dr. Mohammed Cherkaoui, Chair (ME)
Dr. Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb (ME)
Dr. Peter Hesketh (ME)
Dr. Abdallah Ougazzaden (ECE)
Dr. John Zhang (CHEM)


Electrical systems have become ubiquitous, and with them come the need to accurately monitor electric current. The aerospace industry is no exception. Modern aircraft may contain more than one hundred current sensors, each one critical to a properly functioning vehicle. While these sensors function acceptably, several areas have been identified for improvement: size, weight, and cost. Each sensor is bulky, taking up valuable space. They are also costly to manufacture. The existing design is based on the Hall effect, and has remained fundamentally unchanged for decades. With the recent progress in manufacturing techniques and materials, it would be beneficial to reexamine these sensors and determine if improvements can be made using the accomplishments of recent years. Of particular interest are microelectromechanical systems, also known as MEMS. Using a sensor based on MEMS technologies in which design, function, and fabrication are closely intertwined would automatically meet two of the three goals: reducing size and weight. MEMS also have the potential to allow existing systems to be miniaturized. Also of interest are advanced materials, some of which can behave as transducers, linking different physical phenomenon. The goal of this dissertation is to use advances in manufacturing techniques and materials, specifically those discussed above, to design a better current sensor. As part of this goal, several potential solutions were studied and optimized. Finally, proof-of-concept prototypes were fabricated and tested to validate the feasibility of the designs and offer insight into continued sensor development.