Simply put, an accelerator is an electromechanical device that measures change in velocity or the force of acceleration caused by gravity or movement over time. Whether sensing orientation and vibration, or detecting the speed of movement of an object it is attached to, selecting accelerometers involves a variety of considerations.
Accelerometers have a myriad of applications. When used in aviation and aerospace, highly sensitive accelerometers are used as inertial navigation system components. In industrial settings, they often detect and monitor vibration in machinery that rotates. The ones we are most familiar with in day-to-day living are resident in our tablet computers, digital cameras, games, and smartphones to ensure screen images are viewed in an upright position.
Chris Murphey explains more:
Choosing the Most Suitable MEMS Accelerometer for Your Application—Part 1
Accelerometers are capable of measuring acceleration, tilt, and vibration or shock – and, as a result are used in a diverse range of applications from wearable fitness devices to industrial platform stabilisation systems. There are hundreds of parts to choose from with a significant span in cost and performance. Part 1 of this article discusses the key parameters and features a designer needs to be aware of and how they relate to inclination and stabilisation applications, thus helping the designer choose the most suitable accelerometer. Part 2 will focus on wearable devices, condition-based monitoring (CBM), and IoT applications.
The latest MEMS capacitive accelerometers are finding use in applications traditionally dominated by piezoelectric accelerometers and other sensors. Applications such as CBM, structural health monitoring (SHM), asset health monitoring (AHM), vital sign monitoring (VSM), and IoT wireless sensor networks are areas where next-generation MEMS sensors offer solutions. However, with so many accelerometers and so many applications, choosing the right one can easily become confusing.
There is no industry standard to define what category an accelerometer fits into. The categories accelerometers are generally classified into Consumer, Automotive, Industrial, Tactical and Navigation.
The below image shows a snapshot of a range of MEMS accelerometers and classifies each sensor based on key performance metrics for a specific application and the level of intelligence/integration. A key focus for this article is on next-generation accelerometers based on enhanced MEMS structures and signal processing, along with world-class packaging techniques offering stability and noise performance comparable with more expensive niche devices, while consuming less power. These attributes and other critical accelerometer specifications are discussed in more detail in the following sections based on application relevance.