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December 8 2012

An accelerometer so good that only quantum mechanics limits it


We take it for granted now, but the fact that you can flip your phone from portrait to landscape mode depends on accelerometers. As everyone knows, though, the damn things often get it wrong, leaving you staring at a screen that refuses to reorient until you give it a good shake. One of the reasons for the screen refusing to orient correctly is that accelerometers have to balance sensitivity to small changes with the speed of response—a slow accelerometer is a sensitive accelerometer.

This compromise, however, is also due to fabrication limitations. A recent paper in Nature Photonics shows that clever fabrication can result in an accelerometer that is both fast and sensitive.

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