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The ability to detect faint magnetic fields is particularly important in physiological mapping of the brain and heart.  The current state of the art makes use of superconducting quantum interface devices (SQUIDS) which requires a pickup coil that must be kept at cryogenic temperatures.  This in turn requires complex and expensive equipment which results in slow market growth in medical fields which use magnetoencephalography (MEG) to diagnose disorders such as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia.  Our invention builds upon and surpasses the capabilities of prior art.  It uses lasers to detect the interaction between alkali metal atoms in a vapor and the magnetic field and does not require the use of cryogenic cooling.  As this laser-pumped atomic magnetometer, also referred to as an optically-pumped magnetometer (OPM), does not generate an electrical field, it does not disturb the magnetic environment around the sample being monitored.

Patent Abstract: 

A magnetometer and method of use is presently disclosed. The magnetometer has at least one sensor void of extraneous metallic components, electrical contacts and electrically conducting pathways. The sensor contains an active material vapor, such as an alkali vapor, that alters at least one measurable parameter of light passing there through, when in a magnetic field. The sensor may have an absorptive material configured to absorb laser light and thereby activate or heat the active material vapor. 


The optically-pumped magnetometer (OPM) deos not require cryogenic cooling. In addition, the OPM does not disturb the magnetic environment around the sample being monitored as it does not create an electrical field. It is far less expensive than the current state of the art (SQUID) and can detect weak magnetic signals.

John Kitching, Svenja Knappe, Jan preusser, Vladislav greginov
Patent Number: 
Technology Type(s): 
Atomic Physics, Advanced Manufacturing Processes, Manufacturing, Health Care, Electromagnetic, Nanometrology, Nanotechnology, Laser Applications
Internal Laboratory Ref #: 
Patent Issue Date: 
December 18, 2018
Lab Representatives
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