California-headquartered NeoPhotonics Corporation, a developer of silicon photonics and advanced hybrid photonic integrated circuit-based lasers, modules and subsystems for bandwidth-intensive, high-speed communications networks, has released a tunable high-power FMCW (frequency-modulated continuous-wave) laser module and high-power semiconductor optical amplifier (SOA) chips. The company states that both components are optimized to enable long-range automotive lidar and high-resolution industrial sensing applications.
The FMCW Laser is C-band tunable and can be directly modulated to provide >21dBm (126mW) fiber coupled power and a narrow linewidth FMCW optical signal. The SOA chip is designed for integration with Photonic Integrated Circuit (PIC) lidar engines and provides >23dBm optical output power.
The lasers are based on NeoPhotonics’ integration platform and are said to improve sensitivity and range, enabling automotive lidar systems to achieve ranges in excess of 200m. The company says that both products operate in the 1,550nm band, which is believed to be more ‘eye safe’ and are currently being supplied as samples to key customers. In addition, the company notes its tunable FMCW laser sources enable lidars with configurable operating wavelength, thus further enhancing the immunity of coherent lidars to external light interference.
Coherent lidar, also called FMCW lidar, increases range and sensitivity by measuring the phase of the reflected light instead of relying only on intensity measurements. This relies on the use of photonic integrated circuits (PICs) to extract phase and amplitude information from the optical signal. Narrow linewidth and low phase noise lasers are required for precise phase measurements and high optical power is required to compensate for optical loss in the optical chips and to provide a sufficient return signal from distant objects for efficient detection.
“We are excited to apply our high-volume photonic integration coherent technology, which we have honed for over a decade, to the adjacent market of lidar and autonomous vehicles,” said Tim Jenks, chairman and CEO of NeoPhotonics. “The benefits of coherent technology and the physics enabling it mean we can bring the same benefits to customers in these new markets that we have brought to communications customers for many years.”