Silicon Chip Compact 3D LiDAR Imaging System

Researchers created the first silicon chip compact 3D LiDAR imaging system capable of matching and exceeding the performance and accuracy of the most advanced mechanical systems currently in use.

3D LiDAR can provide accurate imaging and mapping for various applications; it serves as the “eyes” for self-driving cars and is used in facial recognition software as well as autonomous robots and drones. Accurate imaging is required for machines to map and interact with the physical world, but the size and cost of the technology currently required have limited the use of LIDAR in commercial applications.

A group of researchers has now created a new integrated system that combines silicon photonic components and CMOS electronic circuits on the same microchip (silicon chip). Their prototype would be a low-cost solution that could pave the way for large-scale production of low-cost, compact, and high-performance 3D imaging cameras for use in robotics, autonomous navigation systems, and building site mapping to improve safety and healthcare.

Previous integrated systems have struggled to provide a dense array of easily addressable pixels, limiting them to fewer than 20 pixels. In contrast, this new system is the first large-scale 2D coherent detector array of 512 pixels. The research teams are now expanding the pixel arrays and beam steering technology to make the system more suitable for real-world applications and improve performance even further.

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