A new 2-D optical phased array technology will enable advanced LADAR and other defense applications. (Credit: MIT)

World’s Most Complex 2-D Laser Beamsteering Array Demonstrated

Jan. 17, 2013 — A new 2-D optical phased array technology will enable advanced LADAR and other defense applications.

Most people are familiar with the concept of RADAR. Radio frequency (RF) waves travel through the atmosphere, reflect off of a target, and return to the RADAR system to be processed. The amount of time it takes to return correlates to the object’s distance. In recent decades, this technology has been revolutionized by electronically scanned (phased) arrays (ESAs), which transmit the RF waves in a particular direction without mechanical movement. Each emitter varies its phase and amplitude to form a RADAR beam in a particular direction through constructive and destructive interference with other emitters.

Similar to RADAR, laser detection and ranging, or LADAR, scans a field of view to determine distance and other information, but it uses optical beams instead of RF waves. LADAR provides a more detailed level of information that can be used for applications such as rapid 3-D mapping. However, current optical beam steering methods needed for LADAR, most of which are based on simple mechanical rotation, are simply too bulky, slow or inaccurate to meet the full potential of LADAR.

Read more: World's most complex 2-D laser beamsteering array demonstrated — Science Daily .

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