Optical beamforming on chip: compact, affordable and reliable

If your business relies on optical beamforming for sensing, actuation and ranging, you’re doubtlessly under pressure to reduce the size and cost of your beamforming technology. Imec’s integrated photonics program fulfils that need without compromising on power or resolution. 

Growing market for optical beamforming applications

  • Autonomous vehicles need to sense their environment and each other. 
  • VR and AR applications have to track motions and room space. 
  • Doctors are looking into new methods for safe and accurate medical imaging.
  • ... 

There’s a promising market out there for applications that make use of optical beamforming: the ability to steer, shape and focus light. Especially if you’re capable of reducing the price and form factor of your beamforming technology.

That’s where photonics-based image sensors and vision systems come in.

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From mechanical to digital beamforming

Today’s mechanical beamforming solutions don’t meet the demands of tomorrow’s applications, because they:

  • are too bulky for elegant integration in devices such as cars, VR devices or mobile LIDAR systems such as factory robots
  • often depend on experts for operation and calibration, which adds to their high price tag
  • are composed of moving parts, making them vulnerable to defects

But what if you could concentrate the entire beamforming process on one, mass-producible chip?

Small size, considerable power

Imec’s optical beamforming program uses on-chip waveguides and phased antennas to manipulate the light inputs and outputs. That means you only need a tiny integrated circuit to steer, shape and focus light beams in the near-infrared (NIR) and visible spectrum.

Can such a small chip emit a sufficiently powerful beam? Conventional silicon photonics systems cannot. But imec’s researchers use new materials and advanced patterning techniques. That allows the imec chips to form beams that are vastly more powerful than the milliwatt beams of existing solutions – without any trade-off in resolution.

That unique combination makes the imec optical beamforming technology your gateway to a range of compact, affordable and reliable sensing, actuation and ranging applications. 

Are you interested in developing this technology into a market-ready application with us? 

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