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What Is a Gyroscope?

A gyroscope is defined as

The device has a spinning disc mounted on the base so that it can move freely in more than one direction so that the orientation is maintained irrespective of the movement in the base.

Gyroscope Diagram

Parts of Gyroscope

Parts of Gyroscope

A gyroscope consists of the following parts:

  • Spin axis
  • Gimbal
  • Rotor
  • Gyroscope frame

Design of Gyroscope

A gyroscope can be considered a massive rotor fixed on the supporting rings known as the gimbals. The central rotor is isolated from the external torques with the help of frictionless bearings that are present in the gimbals. The spin axis is defined by the axle of the spinning wheel.

The rotor has exceptional stability at high speeds as it maintains the high-speed rotation axis at the central rotor. The rotor has three degrees of rotational freedom.

Gyroscope Working Principle

The working principle of a gyroscope is based on gravity. It is explained as the product of angular momentum, which is experienced by the torque on a disc to produce a gyroscopic precession in the spinning wheel.

This process is termed gyroscopic motion or gyroscopic force and is defined as a rotating object’s tendency to maintain its orientation.

We know that the rotating object possesses angular momentum, which needs to be conserved. This is done because when there is any change in the axis of rotation, there will be a change in the orientation, which changes the angular momentum. Therefore, it can be told the working principle of the gyroscope is based on the conservation of angular momentum.

Read More: Angular Momentum

Types of Gyroscopes

The following are the three types of gyroscopes:

  • Mechanical gyroscope
  • Optical gyroscope
  • Gas-bearing gyroscope

Mechanical Gyroscope

The working principle of the mechanical gyroscope is based on the conservation of angular momentum. This is also one of the most commonly known gyroscopes. The mechanical gyroscope is dependent on the ball bearing to spin. These gyroscopes are replaced with modern forms of gyroscopes as they are noisier. They find applications in the navigation of large aircraft and missile guidance.

Optical Gyroscopes

These gyroscopes are dependent on the ball bearing or the rotating wheel. They are also not based on the conservation of angular momentum. Optical gyroscopes use two optic fibre coils spun in different orientations. Since there is no movement in the optical gyroscopes, these are considered to be durable and find applications in modern spacecraft and rockets.

Optical Gyroscope

Gas-Bearing Gyroscopes

In a gas-bearing gyroscope, the friction between the moving parts is reduced by suspending the rotor with the help of pressurized gas. NASA used a gas-bearing gyroscope in the development of the Hubble telescope. Compared to the other gyroscopes, gas-bearing is quieter and more accurate.

Watch the video and learn more about gyroscopic effect experiment

Applications of Gyroscope

  • Gyroscopes find applications in the compasses of boats, spacecraft, and aeroplanes. The aeroplane’s orientation and pitch are determined against the steady spin of the gyroscope.
  • In spacecraft, the desired target’s navigation is done with a gyroscope’s help. The spinning centre of the gyroscope is used as the orientation point.
  • The stabilization of the large boats and satellites is done with the help of massive gyroscopes.
  • Gyroscopes are used in gyrotheodolites to maintain the direction in tunnel mining.
  • Gyroscopes and accelerometers are used in the design of smartphones providing excellent motion sensing.

Read More: Acceleration

What Is the Difference between Accelerometer and Gyroscope?

An accelerometer is an instrument used to measure acceleration and detect vibrations. The other way of defining an accelerometer is an electromechanical device that measures forces due to acceleration.

Accelerometer Gyroscope
It is used for measuring the linear movement and for the detection of tilt It is used for the measurement of all types of rotation but fails in the identification of movement
The signal-to-noise ratio is lower The signal-to-noise ratio is higher
This cannot be used for the measurement of angular velocity This can be used for the measurement of angular velocity
It is used for sensing axis orientation It is used for sensing angular orientation
Accelerometer Gyroscope

Watch the video and learn how angular velocity works

Read more:

What is Torque?
Relation Between Torque And Moment Of Inertia
What is Angular Velocity?

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What does a gyroscopic couple mean?

A gyroscopic couple is a turning moment in which the gyroscope’s axis of rotation is inclined so that the changes are opposite.

What is the expression for gyroscopic couple?

The expression for the gyroscopic couple is given as:
C = I.⍵.⍵p

  • C is the gyroscopic couple
  • I is the moment of inertia
  • ⍵ is the angular velocity
  • ⍵p is the angular velocity of precession

What is gyroscopic torque?

The gyroscopic torque is the torque applied to the rotating body such that there is a change in the axis of rotation of the rotating body.

State true or false:
When viewed from the tail, an aeroplane’s engine spins in a clockwise manner. The plane turns to the right. As a result, the influence of the gyroscopic couple on the aeroplane can be stated to be from the dip to the tail.

The given statement is true.

What is the degree of freedom for gyroscope rotor?

The degree of freedom for the gyroscope rotor is 3.

Test your Knowledge on Gyroscope

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