Remote field eddy current is an effective non-destructive testing method for ferromagnetic tubular structures. In view of conventional sensors’ disadvantages such as low signal-to-noise ratio and poor sensitivity to axial cracks, a novel high sensitivity sensor based on orthogonal magnetic field excitation is proposed. Firstly, through a three-dimensional finite element simulation, the remote field effect under orthogonal magnetic field excitation is determined, and an appropriate configuration which can generate an orthogonal magnetic field for a tubular structure is developed. Secondly, optimized selection of key parameters such as frequency, exciting currents and shielding modes is analyzed in detail, and different types of pick-up coils, including a new self-differential mode pick-up coil, are designed and analyzed. Lastly, the proposed sensor is verified experimentally by various types of defects manufactured on a section of a ferromagnetic tube. Experimental results show that the proposed novel sensor can largely improve the sensitivity of defect detection, especially for axial crack whose depth is less than 40% wall thickness, which are very difficult to detect and identify by conventional sensors. Another noteworthy advantage of the proposed sensor is that it has almost equal sensitivity to various types of defects, when a self-differential mode pick-up coil is adopted.
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