Researchers have developed an optical coating system that combines antifogging and antireflective properties. The new technology could help boost the performance of lidar systems and cameras.
In Applied Optics and Science Daily.
“Walking into a warm room from the cold outside can cause glasses to fog up, blinding the user,” said research team leader Anne Gärtner from Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering and Friedrich Schiller University Jena, both in Jena, Germany. “The same can happen to sensors such as the lidar systems used in autonomous cars. It is important that surfaces remain highly transparent, even if fogging occurs, so that functionality is maintained.”
In the Optica Publishing Group journal Applied Optics, Gärtner and colleagues describe how they combined a polymer coating that prevents fogging with porous silicon dioxide nanostructures that reduce reflections. Although the coatings described in the paper were designed specifically for lidar systems, the technology can be tailored for many different applications.
“In our coating system the anti-fogging and anti-reflective properties are excellently combined, something which has not been previously feasible,” said Gärtner. “Samples manufactured with this new coating technology have already been used successfully for a year in several airborne lidar prototypes operating in various climatic conditions around the world.”
The coating system described in the paper was developed in response to a need identified by Leica Geosystems in Heerbrugg, Switzerland. Leica Geosystems develops airborne lidar measurement systems that are used for terrain and city mapping. When there are extreme temperature differences between the environment and the measuring system, fogging sometimes occurs on the optical surfaces, impairing functionality. Gärtner’s team collaborated with Leica Geosystems to develop a solution that managed the fogging as well as undesirable light reflections.
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