The compass application on our smartphone somehow knows which direction the phone is pointing—ever wondered how they do it? Mobile technologies identify their orientation with the help of a small device known as an accelerometer. After reading this article, you will be able to define the accelerometer and understand its working principle in detail.
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What is an Accelerometer?
An accelerometer is an electromechanical device that is used to measure acceleration forces. Such forces may be static like the force of gravity or, they may be dynamic as in the case of mobile devices.
How Does an Accelerometer Work?
An accelerometer comes in the form of a simple circuit for a large electronic device. Despite the humble appearance, the accelerometer is made of different parts and works in many ways, two of which are the Piezoelectric Accelerometer and the Capacitance Accelerometer.
The piezoelectric effect is the most popular form and uses microscopic crystal structures that get stressed due to accelerative forces. A voltage arises in the crystals from the stress, and the accelerometer translates this voltage to velocity and orientation.
The capacitance accelerometer senses the changes in capacitance between microstructures. If the accelerative force moves one of these microstructures, the capacitance changes and the accelerometer translates this capacitance into voltage for interpretation.
- Accelerometers are made of multiple axes – two to determine two-dimensional motion with an option for a third for 3D positioning. Smartphones make use of the three-axis model while cars make use of the two-axis to determine the moment of impact.
Applications of Accelerometer
- Accelerometers in laptops protect the hard drive from damage. If the laptop were to fall while in use, the accelerometer would detect the fall and immediately turn off the hard drive to avoid hitting the reading heads into the hard drive platter.
- Accelerometers in cars are used to detect car crashes and deploy airbags immediately.
- Smartphones rotate their display between landscape and portrait mode depending on how one titles the phone.
Accelerometers are actively used in many electronics today, and it plays an active role in a wide range of functionalities. In many cases, the presence of this simple sensor is unnoticed, and the odds are that you may already be using a device with it.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
What is an Accelerometer?
How does an accelerometer work?
How does a Piezoelectric accelerometer work?
What is a capacitive accelerometer?
How does the accelerometer protect the hard drive of the laptop from damage?
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