Optomechanical inertial sensors

We are developing novel inertial sensors based on miniature mechanical oscillators and micro-optical displacement sensors.

A wide variety of scientific observations in gravitational physics, geodesy and remote sensing rely on the performance of dynamic measurement instruments, such as accelerometers, force sensors, and spectrometers. Particularly, space projects and high precision experiments require, at their core, sensors capable of measuring with extremely high sensitivity either spurious forces, low frequency gravitational fluctuations for geodesy, and accelarations in multiple degrees of freedom.

A new window into micro-mechanical sensors and micro-optic sensing has opened over the past decade with modern optomechanics, where the combination of low loss and highly stable, carefully designed and manufactured micro-mechanics are combined with micro-optical sensors of outstanding sensitivity, enabling us to achieve unprecedented performances in comparison to conventional technologies.

The basic principle of operation is based on monolithic fused-silica mechanical flexure oscillators, integrated with fiber and micro-optic Fabry-Pérot cavities of various finesse levels. Results from our team members have demonstrated mechanical quality factors, Q, of the order of a few million, and test mass displacement sensitivities better than fm/√Hz with our optical micro-cavities.

Furthermore, we are investigating concepts for optomechanical gravimeters and gradiometers, aimed to achieve extremely high sensitivity over frequencies between 0.1 mHz and a few Hz.

Photograph of compact optomechanical accelerometers and micro-optical cavities.