LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a technique that uses pulses of light to perform distance measurements. Most LIDAR systems are based on measuring the time it takes for a laser pulse to complete a round trip between the LIDAR device and the target. After the distance to the target is calculated, the laser beam is scanned in different directions to create a 3D point cloud that provides spatial location and depth information, which can be used to identify and track objects.
A typical LIDAR system includes:
- Transmitter: usually an “eyesafe” laser, emitting short pulses of light in the infrared, near-infrared, visible or ultraviolet wavelengths, depending on the application field
- Scanner: rotating mirrors that steer the laser beam in different directions
- Receiver: a lens to collect the reflected light pulses and focus them on a sensor
- Timing circuitry: to measure the time difference between the launch of a pulse and the arrival of the reflected pulse
- Signal processing and device control: to drive the subsystems in a coordinated manner and perform data processing algorithms, signal filtering and object detection
LIDAR is popularly used to make high-resolution maps, with applications in several fields of geoscience. However, the number of high-quality components that go into a single LIDAR system makes these devices bulky, fragile and extremely expensive, preventing its broader use.
Imec is developing solutions to enable the efficient integration of semiconductor materials and devices into a silicon platform (chip), without reducing the efficiency or accuracy. This will reduce the size of LIDAR systems by a factor of 20 or more, and reduce the cost from tens of thousands of dollars to less than 200 dollars - consequently opening the technology to a widespread use in a new range of applications, including the Internet of Things (IoT).
This research is conducted in partnership with imec Leuven and imec USA - in collaboration with BRIDG and the College of Optics (CREOL) at the University of Central Florida.
- Intelligent machine vision and robotics
- Assisted surgery
- Air quality monitoring
- Spectroscopic chemical sensing
- Aerospace applications
- Aerial drones
- Autonomous vehicles
- Automation of factory robots
- High resolution fault analysis in factory lines
- Service robots in hospitals and other customer oriented environments
- 3D representation of objects