Chip-based laser gyroscope for Earth rotation

Chip-based laser gyroscope for Earth rotation

Gyroscopes have been indispensable tools for navigation and measurement for many decades.

Early gyroscopes were not much different than spinning tops, but the technology has advanced so much over the years that the modern gyroscope no longer resembles a child’s toy. Today, there are two kinds in widespread use: optical gyroscopes, which are extremely sensitive but also expensive, and microelectromechanical system (MEMS) gyroscopes, which are inexpensive and easy to manufacture, but much less sensitive to rotation.

Optical gyroscopes are used in applications such as aircraft navigation systems, while MEMS gyroscopes are found in devices like smart phones. For the last few decades, researchers have wondered whether it would be possible to bridge the gap between these two technologies and create a new type of gyroscope that combines the precision of laser gyroscopes with the ease of manufacture of MEMS gyroscopes. Now, Caltech scientists have developed an optical gyroscope that marries some of the best characteristics of each into one device.

In a new paper published in Nature Photonics, Kerry Vahala (BS ’80, MS ’81, PhD ’85), Caltech’s Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics, describes a laser gyroscope his lab built from a piece of silicon-based material in much the same way that MEMS devices are manufactured. The new type of gyroscope has achieved something considered a benchmark for gyroscopes: the ability to measure the rotation of the earth.

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Source: “New Chip-Based Laser Gyroscope Measures Earth’s Rotation”, Emily Velasco, California Institute of Technology