Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle published a paper introducing a LiDAR system using chip-scale acousto-optic beam steering technology, which achieved frequency-angular imaging with features like small size, low cost, and wide field-of-view.
Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology is increasingly important in intelligent automation systems like autonomous cars and robots due to its superior imaging resolution and range. However, the development of next-generation LiDAR systems requires a non-mechanical beam steering system that can scan the laser beam in free space. Various beam steering techniques have been developed, including optical phased arrays, spatial light modulators, focal plane switch arrays, dispersive frequency combs, and spatiotemporal modulation, but remain bulky, fragile, and expensive.
Here, we report a chip-scale acousto-optic beam steering technology that induces the beam to free space using a single gigahertz acoustic transducer. Utilizing the physics of Brillouin scattering where beams controlled at different angles are labeled with unique frequency shifts, the technology uses a single coherent receiver to resolve the angular position of an object in the frequency domain.
This article demonstrates a simple device architecture, beam steering control system, and frequency domain detection scheme. The system achieves frequency-modulated continuous wave ranging with a field-of-view of 18°, angular resolution of 0.12°, and ranging distance up to 115 m.
It shows can be expanded into an array to realize a miniature, low-cost frequency-angular resolving LiDAR imaging system with a wide 2D field of view, which represents the extensive application of LiDAR technology in automation, navigation, and robotics.
Revealed frequency-angular resolving LiDAR technology is expected to significantly enhance the perceptual capabilities of next-generation autonomous cars and robots, allowing them to interpret their surroundings and make appropriate decisions better.
Furthermore, it can improve the safety and efficiency of automated navigation systems, including drones. Meanwhile, it continues to become an established technique on chip-scale acousto-optic beam steering, which is anticipated to bring revolutionary breakthroughs to LiDAR systems.