Optical phased arrays (OPAs) implemented in integrated photonic circuits could enable a variety of 3D sensing, imaging, illumination, and ranging applications, and their convergence in new lidar technology. However, current integrated OPA approaches do not scale—in control complexity, power consumption, or optical efficiency—to the large aperture sizes needed to support medium- to long-range lidar.
Researchers present the serpentine OPA (SOPA), a new OPA concept that addresses these fundamental challenges and enables architectures that scale up to large apertures. The SOPA is based on a serially interconnected array of low-loss grating waveguides and supports fully passive, 2D wavelength-controlled beam steering. A fundamentally space-efficient design that folds the feed network into the aperture also enables scalable tiling of SOPAs into large apertures (e.g. for 3D sensing) with a high fill-factor.
The researchers experimentally demonstrate the SOPA using a 1450–1650 nm wavelength sweep to produce 16,500 addressable spots in a 27×610 array. They also demonstrate far-field interference of beams from two separate OPAs on a single silicon photonic chip, as an initial step towards long-range computational imaging lidar based on novel active aperture synthesis schemes.