3D Modeling Laser Scanning Lidar Research Technology

VCSELS May be the Future of Lidar

Diagram of VCSELS

The use of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) has seen a dramatic increase in recent years. Predominantly used in high-speed data communication, sensing, and various applications such as face identification, infrared illumination, time of flight approximation, and 3D sensing, the technology has now found its way into more diverse and practical applications.

From an article in Medriva by Zara Nwosu.

Expansion into New Realms

Thanks to the maturing supply chain for mass production of VCSELs, these lasers are now expanding into areas like autonomous driving, computing, virtual and augmented reality, industrial fast heating, and esthetic medicine. A notable application is the use of LiDAR systems equipped with VCSEL array solid-state light sources in autonomous-driving vehicles.

The performance metrics for high-resolution LiDAR light sources are extensive and include power, power density, divergence angle, beam quality, spectral width, brightness, spectral brightness, wavelength, temperature stability, pulse width, energy conversion efficiency, on-off speed, module size, and power per active area.

VCSELs vs EELs in LiDAR Applications

When comparing edge-emitting lasers (EELs) and VCSELs for LiDAR applications, VCSELs are often the preferred choice. This preference is based on their narrower spectral width, better wavelength stability, circular beam profile, and two-dimensional array manufacturability. Moreover, multijunction VCSELs, with their higher power density and reduced beam divergence, are emerging as game changers for LiDAR applications.

Advancements in VCSEL Technology

The development of an antireflective vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (AR-VCSEL) to mitigate divergence issues and achieve ultrasmall divergence in a single longitudinal mode marks a significant advancement in the VCSEL technology. Comparative analysis shows that AR-VCSEL arrays perform superiorly over conventional extended cavity VCSELs. This is demonstrated by a single-transverse-mode multijunction AR-VCSEL emitter with a peak power of 28.4 mW.

VCSELs: The Future of LiDAR Systems

Given their performance and advancements, AR-VCSELs are being viewed as a promising choice for future LiDAR systems. They are set to revolutionize autonomous driving technology with their potential to enable high-resolution and long-range LiDAR systems. In addition, they offer advantages in terms of cost, size, and performance.

However, it is important to note that while VCSELs are more efficient than edge emitters, cheaper to test, and easier to get light into fibers, they currently only have low powers and are not mass produced at 1550nm. This is an area where further research and development can lead to better utilization of VCSELs.

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