Electromagnetic interference problems can be a real headache to debug. If you need to prove what causes your WiFi to slow down or your digital TV signal to drop, then the ability to measure electromagnetic fields (EMF) can be a big help. Professional equipment is often very expensive, but building an EMF detector yourself is not even that difficult: just take a look at Arduino expert [Mirko Pavleski]’s convenient hand-held electromagnetic field detector.
The basic idea is quite simple: connect an antenna directly to an Arduino’s analog input and visualize the signal that it measures. Because the input of an ADC is high impedance, it is very sensitive to any stray currents that are picked up by the antenna. So sensitive in fact, that a resistor of a few mega-Ohms to ground is required to keep the sensor from triggering on any random kind of noise. [Mirko] made that resistance adjustable with a few knobs and switches so that the detector can be used in both quiet and noisy environments.
Making the whole device work reliably was an interesting exercise in electromagnetic engineering: in the first few iterations, the detector would trigger off its own LEDs and buzzer, trapping itself in a never-ending loop. [Mirko] solved this by encasing the Arduino inside a closed, grounded metal box with only the required wires sticking out. The antenna’s design was largely based on trial-and-error; the current setup with a 7 cm x 3 cm piece of aluminium sheet seemed to work well.
While this is not a calibrated professional-grade instrument, it should come in handy to find sources of interference, or even simply to locate hidden power cables. You can view this as a more advanced version of [Mirko]’s Junk Box EMF Detector; if you have a second Arduino lying around, you can use that one to generate interference instead.