Optical Phased Array May Be the Future of Lidar

image of Optical Phased Array

Optical Phased Array

Researchers at the University of Colorado describe a new optical phased array, silicon chip that has the potential to move beyond the bulky, complex Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) systems that are hindering the systems’ widespread adaptation.

From an article in All About Circuits by Gary Elinoff.

Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) systems are based on electronically measuring the time it takes a laser pulse to reach its target, and then return, thereby establishing its range. It will be a fundamental component of any self-driving car.

However, existing systems are too expensive and bulky for automotive applications, let alone smartphones, tablets or video games. They employ large, physically rotating mirrors to steer the laser beam about an area of which a “picture” is desired. Researchers at the University of Colorado intend to change that.

“We’re looking to ideally replace big, bulky, heavy lidar systems with just this flat, little chip,” said Nathan Dostart, lead author of a study published in Optica. The study describes a silicon chip containing no moving parts or electronics that will prove practical for real-world applications.

Optical Phases Arrays (OPA) integrated into CMOS platforms, forming small-sized, inexpensive electronic–photonic systems-on-chip that require little power may well turn out to be the linchpin around which a new generation of photonic sensing technologies evolve.

What Are Optical Phased Arrays?

OPAs serve to control the amplitude and phase of light waves transmitted from a two-dimensional surface. By directing the optical properties from the surface, the device controls the direction of the light beam emitted, and it does so with no moving mechanical parts.

Optical phased arrays can form and electronically steer optical beams, such as laser pulses, to be emitted from an on-chip aperture. They can also optimize the reception of the reflected light, completing the travel circuit.

In critical automotive applications such as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), this will allow for calculating the distance to a pedestrian, another car, or any road hazard.

For the complete article on the optical phased array CLICK HERE.

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