IMAGE: Illustration of an optomechanical accelerometer, which uses light to measure acceleration. The NIST device consists of two silicon chips, with infrared laser light entering through the lower chip and exiting… view more
Credit: F. Zhou / NIST
You are driving at the speed limit on a two-lane road when a car comes out of a driveway on your right. You slam the brakes, and within a fraction of a second of impact, an airbag inflates, saving you from serious injury or death.
The airbag deploys using an accelerometer – a sensor that detects sudden changes in speed. Accelerometers keep rockets and airplanes on the correct flight path, provide navigation for self-driving cars, and rotate images to stay upright on cellphones and tablets, among other essential tasks.
Responding to the growing demand to accurately measure acceleration in small navigation systems and other devices, researchers at the National Standards Institute and Technology (NIST) have developed a millimeter-thick accelerometer that uses laser light instead of mechanical stress to produce a signal.
Although a few others …
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