Created the smallest optical gyro in the world

Gyroscopes are devices which help cars, drones, portable and stationary electronics to understand its position in three-dimensional space. They can not do without the most sophisticated technologies on which we rely in everyday life. Initially, the gyroscope consisted of a set of nested wheels, each of which rotates on a separate axis. But if you open a mobile phone today, you will find a microelectromechanical sensor (MEMS), the modern equivalent of a gyroscope, which measures changes in the forces acting on two identical masses, which oscillate and move in opposite directions.

The sensitivity of these MEMS gyroscopes is limited, therefore developed an optical gyroscope, which perform the same functions, but have no moving parts and offers greater precision due to the so-called Sagnac effect.

The tiny gyro

Engineers from Caltech, led by Professor of electrical engineering and medical engineering Ali Hajimiri created a new optical gyroscope, which is 500 times smaller than the most advanced modern analogue. However, it is able to detect phase transitions that are 30 times smaller than those that find the current system. The new device was described in a paper published in Nature Photonics.

New gyro from the laboratory Hajimiri achieves this improved performance by using a new method called “mutual sensitivity”. In this case, “mutual” means that it affects both the light beam inside the gyro the same way. Since the Sagnac effect is based on the detection of the difference between the two beams, moving in opposite directions, it is considered non-reciprocal. Inside the gyro light passes through miniature optical waveguides (small transactions that carry the light and perform the same function as wires for electricity). Defects in the optical path, which may affect the beams (thermal fluctuations or scattering of light), and any outside influence will affect both beams equally.

Team Hajimiri found a way to get rid of this mutual noise, leaving the signals from the Sagnac effect intact. Mutual increase in sensitivity, therefore, increases the signal-to-noise in the system and allows the integration of an optical gyro in a chip that is smaller than a rice grain.

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