a tiny magnetometer

In the summer of 2014 (August-September) I began working in Ecuador as a "prometeo"  for Instituto Nacional de Investigación Geológico Minero Metalúrgico (INIGEMM), basically the Ecuador Geological Survey. I'm helping younger geologists in their new task of remapping the geology of the entire country. The new maps are to be of higher resolution and digital to replace the hodgepodge of old paper ones. One of the stated purposes of this effort is to provide the high quality information needed for the government to evaluate the mineral resources country-wide and to identify various geologic and environmental hazards.

While in the field near the Peru border last summer we were searching for geologic contacts appearing on the older maps in regions of dense vegetation and rough terrain. One thing the geologists often did when inspecting a new found rock sample was to place a magnet suspended by a string nearby the sample to note the presence or absence of ferromagnetic minerals, an important distinguishing characteristic of the rocks found here in the Andes. My colleague Vicente Balseca and I, who were acting as mentors in this endeavor, were discussing the problem of finding geologic contacts. In our discussions, I came up with the idea of building an inexpensive hand-held magnetometer, to help these small mapping teams in their work. Thus was born the "tiny magnetometer" or "mag de la mano."

My first stint in Ecuador lasted 6 weeks after which I returned home to Vermont to resume my normal life. On my kitchen table during my weekend spare time I developed a prototype magnetometer at a cost of around $300 and effort of about 6 months. Now it is May 2015 and I am back in Quito to work as a prometeo for 5 more weeks with the finished instrument in hand.

In this blog I will try to document our trials and errors with this device and in the accompanying wiki I will reveal the design for all to use under the license accompanying this blog. For lack of a better term, this constitutes an open-design project. At the end of my stay here, I will donate the prototype to INIGEMM with the idea that I can use the data and case studies from its future use in my documentation and to guide future improvements and feed future developments.

As the time goes on and after you see both the good and the bad described here, if you see potential for this instrument in your own work I can help put one in your hands, either by helping you make your own or perhaps bringing this to a more professional level.

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