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Howstuffworks "VLF Metal Detectors"

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by Jeff Tyson
Inside This Article
1. Introduction to How Metal Detectors
Work
2. Anatomy of a Metal Detector
3. VLF Technology
4. VLF Phase Shifting
5. PI Technology

6. BFO Technology
7. Buried Treasure
8. Detective Work
9. Lots More Information
10. See all Gadgets articles

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VLF Technology
Very low frequency (VLF), also known as induction balance, is probably the
most popular detector technology in use today. In a VLF metal detector, there
are two distinct coils:

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Transmitter coil - This is the outer coil loop. Within it is a coil of


wire. Electricity is sent along this wire, first in one direction and
then in the other, thousands of times each second. The number
of times that the current's direction switches each second
establishes the frequency of the unit.

Receiver coil - This inner coil loop contains another coil of wire.
This wire acts as an antenna to pick up and amplify frequencies
coming from target objects in the ground.

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Photo courtesy Bounty Hunter

This LandRanger metal detector from Bounty Hunter uses VLF.

The current moving through the transmitter coil creates an electromagnetic


field, which is like what happens in an electric motor. The polarity of the
magnetic field is perpendicular to the coil of wire. Each time the current
changes direction, the polarity of the magnetic field changes. This means that
if the coil of wire is parallel to the ground, the magnetic field is constantly
pushing down into the ground and then pulling back out of it.
As the magnetic field pulses back and forth into the ground, it interacts with
any conductive objects it encounters, causing them to generate weak
magnetic fields of their own. The polarity of the object's magnetic field is
directly opposite the transmitter coil's magnetic field. If the transmitter coil's
field is pulsing downward, the object's field is pulsing upward.

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The animation above demonstrates VLF technology.

The receiver coil is completely shielded from the magnetic field generated by
the transmitter coil. However, it is not shielded from magnetic fields coming
from objects in the ground. Therefore, when the receiver coil passes over an
object giving off a magnetic field, a small electric current travels through the
coil. This current oscillates at the same frequency as the object's magnetic
field. The coil amplifies the frequency and sends it to the control box of the
metal detector, where sensors analyze the signal.
The metal detector can determine approximately how deep the object is buried
based on the strength of the magnetic field it generates. The closer to the

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/metal-detector2.htm

29/09/2007

Howstuffworks "VLF Metal Detectors"

Page 2 of 2

surface an object is, the stronger the magnetic field picked up by the receiver
coil and the stronger the electric current generated. The farther below the
surface, the weaker the field. Beyond a certain depth, the object's field is so
weak at the surface that it is undetectable by the receiver coil.
In the next section, we'll see how a VLF metal detector distinguishes between
different types of metals.
PREVIOUS
Inside This Article
1. Introduction to How Metal Detectors
Work
2. Anatomy of a Metal Detector
3. VLF Technology
4. VLF Phase Shifting
5. PI Technology

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6. BFO Technology
7. Buried Treasure
8. Detective Work
9. Lots More Information
10. See all Gadgets articles

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http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/metal-detector2.htm

29/09/2007