Meet the world's smallest optical gyroscope

Gyroscopes are devices that help vehicles, drones, and wearable and handheld electronic devices know their orientation in three-dimensional space. They are commonplace in just about every bit of technology we rely on every day.

A microelectromechanical sensor (MEMS), found in most modern devices, measures changes in the forces acting on two identical masses that are oscillating and moving in opposite directions. These MEMS gyroscopes are limited in their sensitivity, so optical gyroscopes have been developed to perform the same function but with no moving parts and a greater degree of accuracy using a phenomenon called the Sagnac effect.

The Sagnac effect is an optical phenomenon rooted in Einstein's theory of general relativity. Caltech engineers at the Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, developed a new optical gyroscope that is 500 times smaller than the contemporary device, yet they can detect phase shifts that are 30 times smaller than those systems.

The new gyroscope achieves this improved performance by using a new technique called "reciprocal sensitivity enhancement

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