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Patent of the Month: January 2021

Patent of the Month: Optomechanical gravimeter, patent number 10,545,259

Technology Description

Currently many space projects require, at their core, sensors capable of measuring spurious forces acting on the spacecraft with extremely high sensitivity at ng/√Hz levels and below, particularly for high accuracy navigation and drag-free flight.  NIST has developed a novel and simple concept for high-sensitivity, wide bandwidth and self-referencing optomechanical accelerometers. These devices are based on monolithic fused-silica mechanical oscillators with integrated fiber-optic Fabry-Pérot micro-cavities that yield exquisite sensitivities of the accelerometer test mass displacement. Our laboratory prototypes have demonstrated unprecedented noise floors over large bandwidths. These concepts also can be applied to measure spurious forces at lower frequencies. Thus, these products are a result of this invention: gravimeter, seismometer, gradiometer, low frequency inertial sensing, and accelerometer.

powerpoint slide with the text "Our invention integrates two optomechanical accelerometers with a stable space system and isolation to enable measurement of the difference in acceleration at two points which provides an accurate measurement of the gravity gradient".
Credit: NIST


Felipe Guzman

Michael Lee Kumanchik

M. Jacob Taylor

Jon R. Pratt

Technology Type

Laser and Optics

Laser Applications


Optical Physics

Optical Sensor

Optical Technology


Current commercial systems of similar performance weigh several kilograms and are, at best, of the size of a backpack. The novelty of this invention lies in the realization of a highly compact and light device capable to reaching acceleration noise florrs in the order of 10-10ms-2/√Hz. The total weight of the mechanical oscillator is of the order of 30 grams, including the optical interferometer that can be constructed out of compact commercial optics yielding interferometer lengths of approximately 2 cm and below, down to lengths around 100 µm by using fiber-optic components.

Licensing Inquiries may be sent to TPO [at] NIST.GOV

View other patents of the month here.

Created December 31, 2020, Updated August 23, 2023