Caltech’s tiny new gyroscope is smaller than a single grain of rice

caltech gyroscope smaller than rice download

It’s no secret that the components used in our everyday technology keep getting smaller. But just how much tinier they’re getting might surprise you. At the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), researchers have found a way to significantly shrink optical gyroscopes, the devices used for measuring or maintaining orientation and angular velocity. Simple gyroscopes are found in devices like phones and tablets. However, the higher quality optical gyroscopes used in navigation are still relatively large — slightly bigger than a golf ball. They function very well, but this larger form factor makes them inappropriate for use in certain portable devices.

That’s where the Caltech researchers come into play — since they have found a way to shrink down these high-end gyroscopes to something smaller than a single grain of rice. This is an astonishing 500 times smaller than current state-of-the-art gyroscopes.

“Optical gyroscopes are one of the most accurate types of gyroscopes, and they are used in various navigation systems,” Professor Ali Hajimiri, who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “However, a regular optical gyroscope is very expensive and bulky. Miniaturizing this type of gyroscope can reduce its cost and size and can potentially replace mechanical gyros. Optical gyroscopes operate based on a relativistic effect known as the Sagnac effect, whereby the output signal is proportional to the size of the gyro. Therefore, reducing the size of the gyro will directly affect the strength of the output signal. In our work, we presented a technique that uses the reciprocity of passive networks to decrease the level of noise, making the signal detectable.”

The Sagnac effect is named after the French physicist Georges Sagnac. It calculates orientation by splitting a beam of light in two and then sending them in separate directions. By measuring the variations in the two beams of light, it’s possible to work out rotation and orientation with a high degree of accuracy. To shrink down the device, the Caltech researchers found a way to improve the signal-to-noise ratio of this system, thereby making it more efficient.

“This demonstration shows the potential of integrated optical gyros, and can open all kind of applications that need low-cost, small, and highly accurate gyros — like gaming devices, autonomous vehicles, wearables, CubeSats and nanosats,” Hajimiri continued. “[The] next step is to improve the sensitivity and make it smaller, as well as enhancing integration capabilities. We are thinking about commercializing our device.”

It might take a while to get to that point, but it seems that tinier, more efficient gyroscopes are definitely in our future. A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Nature Photonics.

Product Review

With the RX100 VI, Sony proves it still makes the best point-and-shoot camera

The sixth generation of Sony's powerful but compact RX100 camera delivers more zoom, incredible speed, robust 4K video, and still fits in the palm of your hand.

Samsung beefs up just about everything in its Galaxy S10 smartphone range

Samsung has unveiled its 2019 flagship smartphone lineup, and there aren't just two phones as usual -- there are four. There's the Galaxy S10, S10 Plus, as well as a new entry called the S10e, as well as the Galaxy S10 5G.

What’s the difference between Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic?

Lightroom CC has evolved into a capable photo editor, but is it enough to supplant Lightroom Classic? We took each program for a test drive to compare the two versions and see which is faster, more powerful, and better organized.
Product Review

Packed with features, the Ring Spotlight Cam Wired makes home security a breeze

With an integrated spotlight, crystal-clear video, and color night vision, this device makes home security a cinch. Here's why we like the Ring Spotlight Cam Wired as a great choice for outdoor home security.
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.
Emerging Tech

Delivery drones: NASA to test advanced traffic control system for cities

Delivery drone services are edging closer as NASA prepares to demonstrate its advanced drone traffic management system, which it claims offers safe and effective control of autonomous aircraft in urban areas.
Emerging Tech

Kickstarter campaign aims to help make 3D-printed space habitats for Mars

Mars X-House is an ambitious project that's intended to create a prototype future Mars habitat using 3D printing. And, thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign, you can be a part of it.
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic completes another test flight, this time with a passenger

Virgin Galactic chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses rode the company's spacecraft as a passenger on Friday, a key milestone toward commercial availability of the flights later this year. Moses rode along to test "cabin design elements."
Emerging Tech

Controversial CRISPR baby experiment may have resulted in brain enhancements

China’s CRISPR baby saga continues to rage on. Scientists have now expressed concerns that the procedure may have also resulted in changes in the babies’ brains affecting cognition.