News Item

1,000-fold better gyros?

A NASA research coalition is embarking on a 3-year project to make gyros and accelerometers 1,000-times more sensitive.

The work will focus on new optical gyroscope technology, investigating how the use of optical dispersion - how different wavelengths travel through materials at different speeds - can be used to increase sensitivity and more precisely measure movement.

NASA explains that in atomic gases optical dispersion can cause pulses of light to travel faster than the speed of light in vacuum. The phenomenon is termed 'fast-light', and NASA plans to use it to increase sensitivity in the optics of a gyro.

The researchers believe that the work will lead to other applications, including ultra-precise measurement of acceleration, vibration, strain and magnetic field - which may be useful in the likes of inertial navigators.

The project is backed by $1.8 million of funding through NASA's Space Technology Programme.

NASA is calling the project potentially 'game-changing', with the potential of creating an optical gyroscope that is as much as 'three orders of magnitude better than the best gyroscope out there today'.

It seems that the technology may first be used for spacecraft, then in military aircraft and ships, leading ultimately to commercial applications.

Details from AVweb below.

  • 03 November 2012
  • R and D

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