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Groundbreaking 2019 Research on SPAD-Based LiDAR Systems: A Joint Study by University of Edinburgh Pro Robert K. Henderson and STMicroelectronics Imaging Division

Nowadays, LiDAR is more and more widely used in fields such as ADAS automatic driving, drones, distance measurement, face interviews, digital cameras, etc., and it will become more and more important. Let us review an important research report in 2019 today. In a forward-looking collaborative study, Professor Robert K. Henderson of the University of Edinburgh and the STMicroelectronics Imaging Division joined forces in 2019 to advance the development of single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD)-based lidar (LiDAR) systems, And made a major breakthrough in the field of automotive applications. Their research, which focuses on optimizing SPAD configurations to improve the design of automotive LiDAR receivers, has had a profound impact on the field.

Led by Prof. Henderson, a renowned figure in the industry and co-chair of the prestigious 2023 International Image Sensor Workshop, the team conducted innovative research that pushed the boundaries of SPAD-based LiDAR technology. Their findings, published in the paper titled “A Reconfigurable 40 nm CMOS SPAD Array for LiDAR Receiver Validation,” have made a notable impact.

The study revolved around a reconfigurable SPAD array implemented using 40 nm CMOS technology, providing flexibility in pixel configurations. This collaborative test chip, developed with the expertise of both parties, incorporated a Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA for efficient data acquisition, enabling the simultaneous readout of 128 SPAD digital outputs. This capability allowed for recording a large number of SPAD events, providing valuable data for further analysis.

One of the key advancements introduced by Prof. Henderson’s team was the Synchronous Summation Technique (SST). This innovative technique aimed to optimize the dynamic range of SPAD-based LiDAR systems by combining multiple SPAD pulses. The SST technique achieved an impressive 7.5x enhancement in dynamic range compared to existing methodologies, unlocking new possibilities for long-distance automotive LiDAR applications. It addressed challenges such as dead-time paralysis and improved the detection of highly reflective targets in close proximity.

To complement the hardware development, the team also created a powerful MATLAB simulation model. This sophisticated model accurately simulated sensor performance by considering various parameters, including photon detection probability, pixel configuration, sensor throughput, and biasing conditions. Leveraging the simulation results, researchers were able to determine the maximum achievable imaging distance with different pixel configurations, facilitating informed decisions in sensor design.

The collaborative research conducted by Prof. Henderson’s team in 2019 represents a significant achievement in the field of SPAD-based LiDAR systems for automotive applications. Their work has advanced the capabilities of LiDAR technology, offering improved performance, enhanced dynamic range, and greater flexibility in pixel configurations.

As the demand for reliable and cost-effective autonomous driving systems continues to grow, the impact of this research is noteworthy. Prof. Henderson’s team, in collaboration with STMicroelectronics, has laid the foundation for future advancements in SPAD-based LiDAR systems. Their findings provide valuable insights for researchers and practitioners, guiding the development of more efficient and advanced autonomous driving technologies.

The enduring influence of this collaboration highlights the power of partnership and innovation in driving technological advancements. By combining academic expertise with industry knowledge, Prof. Henderson’s team and STMicroelectronics have made significant progress in SPAD-based LiDAR systems. The reconfigurable SPAD array, enhanced by the SST technique, and supported by the MATLAB simulation model, represent a notable step forward in achieving safer and more efficient autonomous driving systems.

Looking ahead, the impact of this collaborative research will continue to shape the future of LiDAR systems. The transformative findings will inspire further advancements in SPAD-based technology, fueling progress towards fully autonomous vehicles and revolutionizing the automotive industry as a whole.