Photonic integrated circuits: a game-changer for lidar?

A quickly growing variety of industries are integrating lidar into their roadmaps. This means technology providers need to take an increasing amount of specifications and requirements into account. However, the automotive industry will remain the most important segment and the main driver for lidar development for decades. Its challenging requirements keep pushing technology towards more innovative and robust solutions, such as integrated photonics-based circuits ‘necessary because macro-mechanical systems and even MEMS face reliability issues in environments that entail constant vibration and a series of mechanical and thermal shocks over the lifetime of the device. In this talk, we present an overview of two automotive lidar systems (ToF and FMCW) and the required building blocks to enable them through an optical phased array (OPA) ‘which has come into view over the past years as the preferred technology for lidar. We focus on imec’s development of industrial-grade integrated photonic platforms (Si/SiN) to support on-chip optical beamformers. Imec is a one-stop-shop for the lidar engine (PIC) development, from design to manufacturing and characterization. We lay out this wafer-scale platform in detail. And we present an overview of our recent progress on key building blocks of compact and low-cost solid-state lidar systems: laser integration, low-power phase shifters (e.g. liquid crystal and thermal) and on-chip calibration schemes (e.g. integrated detectors and compact interferometers).
Release date: November, 2020

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