The World's Smallest Accelerometer Could Change Gaming and Wearables

Accelerometers in smartphones are used to measure the device's orientation.

Researchers have used the highly conductive nanomaterial, graphene, to create the world's smallest accelerometer.

The new technological achievement, created by researchers at KTH, is being touted as a potential breakthrough for body sensor and navigation technologies that could be used in mobile and gaming.

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Progress in nanotechnology

Accelerometers in smartphones allow for some of the most important features that we tend to take for granted today. They are made up of sensors, including microscopic crystal structures that become stressed due to accelerative forces — this allows them to determine speed and direction.

The technology allows for the camera on your smartphone to be changed from horizontal to vertical by simply moving the phone. It also allows map apps to calculate the speed you are moving at and other movement-based features.

Now, the latest step in nanotech innovation is a tiny accelerator made using graphene — the material, only a few atoms thick, that is also being used to create water filters for seawater.

Created by an international research team involving KTH Royal Institute of Technology, RWTH Aachen University and Research Institute AMO GmbH, Aachen, the new accelerometer could be used in monitoring systems for cardiovascular diseases and for ultra-sensitive wearable and portable motion-capture technologies.

Xuge Fan, a researcher in the Department for Micro and Nanosystems at KTH, explains that graphene and its unique properties helped him and his team to create these ultra-small accelerometers.

“Based on the surveys and comparisons we have made, we can say that this is the smallest reported electromechanical accelerometer in the world,” Fan sais in a press release.

Uses in wearables and mobile phones

Fan compares the team's advances in nanotechnology to the creation of smaller and smaller devices and computers. 

“This could eventually benefit mobile phones for navigation, mobile games, and pedometers, as well as monitoring systems for heart disease and motion-capture wearables that can monitor even the slightest movements of the human body,” he says.

Other potential uses for this technology include ultra-miniaturized sensors and actuators such as resonators, gyroscopes, and microphones.

The researchers hope to see their technology on the market soon. As well as enabling the manufacture of this incredibly small accelerometer technology, graphene looks set to have a great impact on the future of tech.

The researchers published their work in Nature Electronics.

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