What is an Accelerometer?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Accelerometers are devices that are utilized in measuring acceleration and the impact of gravity on the acceleration. As part of the process of measuring acceleration, the accelerometer will also yield information on such important factors as vibrations, inclination, and shock. While the devices were once only large and relatively bulky in construction, modern technology has made it possible to produce accelerometers that are relatively portable and easy to set up for operation.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

One of the more common examples of the modern accelerometer is known as a MEMS device. Essentially, the MEMS or micro electro-mechanical system is a simple device that functions mainly with the use of a cantilever beam and circuits that are designed for the purpose of detecting the presence of deflection sensing. The use of the beam can help to measure the rate of locomotion associated with the proof or seismic mass based on the rate of deflection. An accelerometer of this type may be produced in single, dual, and triple axis designs, each one helpful in measuring vibrations, locomotion and shock in different situations.

Because of the versatility of the accelerometer, various incarnations of the device can be utilized in many different applications. Auto manufacturers often use the accelerometer to measure the overall vibration on new vehicle designs, to ensure the rate of vibration is within the standards employed by the company. In like manner, an accelerometer can be employed in new building construction or renovations to ensure the structure meets local codes as they relate to the ability to withstand seismic shocks or other activity that could make the building a risk to human life. Computers, especially handheld devices and laptops, may use accelerometers as a means of measuring the amount of shock that the device can handle without causing the hard drives to crash if the device is dropped.

The accelerometer is also an important component in personal gaming and media devices as well. Helpful in maintaining a reasonable degree of interactive control between the user and the program, the accelerometer moves along the process of switching modes and display angles quickly. A similar functionality in media players has also helped to enhance the overall efficiency of the players, making them all the more enjoyable for consumers.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


It gives men testicular cancer.


When using my laptop I keep it on my lap. I'm wondering if there is a danger to my body by using my lap without some kind of protection beneath the laptop?

Most of the time I have it on a Targus laptop cooler [plate with fans blowing] but I still worry. Can you please answer this question.

Also, does it hurt to run the laptop only on ac power for a few hours? Thanxs for any and all replies.

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