SiLC Technologies announced initial performance results for its integrated FMCW LiDAR test chip. SiLC’s low-energy consumption design, rooted in SiLC’s strong silicon photonics heritage, leverages a coherent detection approach, similar to what is currently utilized in today’s telecom systems. SiLC’s initial data demonstrates a 112m detection range with just 4.7mW of optical peak power. This is very promising, given that traditional pulsed LiDAR systems operate at peak laser power levels in the hundreds, and even thousands, of Watts. SiLC’s early stage performance test results were previewed earlier in the month at Photonics West, the global conference for biomedical, optics, photonics, and laser industries in San Francisco.

Demonstrating the importance of eye-safe LiDAR, this year’s CES served as a testing ground of another sort, as concerns around a camera and eye-safe LiDAR emerged after a photographer’s camera was reported to be damaged from a pulsed LiDAR. Though pulsed LiDAR is the most widely used in the industry, it’s maximum range is dictated by its peak laser power, resulting in bright flashes of laser light that have been shown to be more detrimental to sensors than the newer FMCW techniques. FMCW solutions transmit at more than three orders of magnitude less peak laser power than current pulsed LiDAR solutions while providing improved range, instantaneous velocity, and multi-user interference-free operation. At peak power levels of around 100mW, SiLC’s LiDAR solutions will not be capable of damaging eyes, sensors or cameras.

A long-range FMCW LiDAR demands very high-performance levels from the optical components needed. The cost of these components has, in turn, limited commercial deployment of such systems. SiLCs technology platform is able to offer the performance levels required across all key performance specs including very low loss, ultra-low phase noise, polarization independent operation, low back reflection, and high optical power handling. In addition, SiLC’s silicon photonics technology enables integration of all key optical functions into a small and low-cost silicon chip. SiLC utilizes silicon wafer fabrication processing technology, which enables complex electronics chips to be cost effectively mass manufactured for consumer applications to manufacture low cost and high-volume complex optical devices such as LiDARs.