Photonics Dictionary

ring-laser gyroscope

A ring laser gyroscope (RLG) is a type of gyroscope that uses laser light to detect and measure changes in orientation. It operates based on the Sagnac effect, which is a fundamental principle of inertial navigation systems. 

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In an RLG, laser beams are split and directed in opposite directions around a closed loop (usually a triangular or square path) within a ring-shaped cavity. When the system is at rest or moving uniformly, the beams travel the same distance in both directions and recombine at a detector. However, when the system experiences rotation, the path length of the light traveling in one direction becomes longer than the path length of the light traveling in the opposite direction. As a result, the two beams recombine with a phase difference proportional to the rate of rotation.

By measuring this phase difference, the RLG can accurately determine the rate of rotation of the system relative to an inertial reference frame. RLGs are highly sensitive and can detect extremely small angular velocities, making them valuable components in navigation systems for aircraft, spacecraft, ships, and other vehicles requiring precise orientation and position information.

RLGs offer several advantages over mechanical gyroscopes, including higher accuracy, faster response times, and greater reliability due to their solid-state construction. They are widely used in both military and civilian applications where precise navigation and orientation are critical.
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