A large class of dynamic sensors have nonlinear input-output characteristics, often corresponding to a bistable potential energy function that controls the evolution of the sensor dynamics. These sensors include magnetic field sensors, e.g., the simple fluxgate magnetometer and the superconducting quantum interference device (SQUID), ferroelectric sensors and mechanical sensors, e.g., acoustic transducers, made with piezoelectric materials. Recently, the possibilities offered by new technologies and materials in realizing miniaturized devices with improved performance have led to renewed interest in a new generation of inexpensive, compact and low-power fluxgate magnetometers and electric-field sensors. In this article, we review the analysis of an alternative approach: a symmetry-based design for highly-sensitive sensor systems. The design incorporates a network architecture that produces collective oscillations induced by the coupling topology, i.e., which sensors are coupled to each other. Under certain symmetry groups, the oscillations in the network emerge via an infinite-period bifurcation, so that at birth, they exhibit a very large period of oscillation. This characteristic renders the oscillatory wave highly sensitive to symmetry-breaking effects, thus leading to a new detection mechanism. Model equations and bifurcation analysis are discussed in great detail. Results from experimental works on networks of fluxgate magnetometers are also included.
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