Researchers at Purdue University and Stanford University believe they have found a novel laser light-sensing technology that is more robust and less expensive than traditional LiDAR sensing methods used to guide autonomous vehicles. The researchers say their innovation is orders of magnitude faster than conventional devices that use phased antenna-array technology.

The new method is based on light-matter interaction, merging the two different fields of silicon-based nanophotonic metasurfaces and ultrafast optics using short light pulses. Such a device can scan a large angle of view in nanoseconds or picoseconds compared with the microseconds current technology takes. The technology is said to be far less complex and uses less power than existing technologies. The researchers say their innovation is chip-compatible technology that does not require additional sources of energy.

The use of photonic metasurfaces was key to the new advancement, providing simple, compact, and power-efficient solutions to photonics design. In current phased-array optical technology, each antenna needs to be controlled in what it radiates individually. In the new system, each of the structures emit slightly different frequencies, meaning there is no need to address each individual antenna continuously and consuming power during that process. The challenge for the researchers now is to scale up the innovation and move it from the laboratory to the real world. They are looking for investors and partners to help.


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