Solid-state LiDAR leverages liquid-crystal metasurfaces, CMOS manufacturing

By Murray Slovick for ElectronicDesign – The commercially viable silicon beamsteering system provides a scalable platform for automotive, consumer, and industrial use cases.

LiDAR perception sensors for advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and the emerging self-driving car industry are used for detection, localization, and classification of objects at long distances (up 200 m). LiDAR is typically employed for pedestrian identification, collision avoidance, and emergency braking. The challenge of developing LiDAR for these applications is balancing performance, measured by range, resolution, and frame rate, with commercial viability, whose metrics include size, reliability, and cost.

With its first commercial solid-state LiDAR sensors, startup company Lumotive (Seattle, Wash.) has introduced a proprietary beamsteering technology based on a liquid-crystal metasurface (LCM). It reflects the emitted beam in the desired direction, resulting in a fully solid-state solution and in turn promising high performance along with commercial viability.

LCMs are a new class of optical devices based on two-dimensional arrays of subwavelength optical elements. When modulated by an electrical signal, the liquid crystals change their index of refraction, which then changes the amount of delay photons experience between entering the nanoscale resonators and being re-emitted from the resonators. Consequently, each resonator acts as a programmable phase-delay element.

No moving parts

As such, Lumotive’s technology is similar to phased-array radar—an electronically scanned computer-controlled series of antennas that creates a beam of radio waves that can be electronically steered to point in different directions without moving the antennas. Lumotive points out that its LCM technology thus enables the construction of LiDAR sensors without moving parts… Full article

Image:  Lumotive’s LiDAR system contains two LCMs. The laser beam is transmitted from the top and receives the reflection at the bottom. (Source: Lumotive)


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