Metal detectors use electromagnetic induction to detect metal.

In 1881, Alexander Graham Bell constructed a crude metal detector in an attempt to find an assassin's bullet in President James Garfield. Gerhard Fischar patented a portable version in 1931.

Upright "archway" detectors are used at entrances to secured buildings, such as courthouses or airports, to detect metallic weapons which may be brought in. Small portable "wand" detectors are used by security staff to frisk persons for the same. Larger portable metal detectors are used by treasure hunters to locate metallic items, such as jewelry or coins, buried shallowly underground.

There are three types of metal detectors: beat frequency oscillator, induction balance, and pulse induction.

  • In a beat frequency oscillator detector, a coil is used as an inductor in an oscillator, whose frequency changes when metal causes its inductance to change. Another oscillator produces a close frequency, and audible beats between them signal metal.
  • In an induction balance detector, there are two coils, usually gibbous with about 10% overlap, and a sine wave is transmitted with one coil and received with the other. The coils are adjusted so that there is no signal in the receive coil when there is no metal nearby.
  • In a pulse induction detector, a pulse is generated (usually by cutting off an inductor) and sent through a coil and the detector listens for echoes.


Sweden the use of a metal detector is forbidden by law, unless one has special permission. The reason for this law is that grave robbers have used metal detectors to find and steal silver and gold in ancient graves and other archaeological discoveries.