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Soliton microcomb range measurement

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Science  23 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6378, pp. 884-887
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao1968

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Miniaturized optical ranging and tracking

Light detection and ranging systems are used in many engineering and environmental sensing applications. Their relatively large size and cost, however, tend to be prohibitive for general use in autonomous vehicles and drones. Suh and Vahala and Trocha et al. show that optical frequency combs generated by microresonator devices can be used for precision ranging and the tracking of fast-moving objects. The compact size of the microresonators could broaden the scope for widespread applications, providing a platform for miniaturized laser ranging systems suitable for photonic integration.

Science, this issue p. 884, p. 887

Abstract

Laser-based range measurement systems are important in many application areas, including autonomous vehicles, robotics, manufacturing, formation flying of satellites, and basic science. Coherent laser ranging systems using dual-frequency combs provide an unprecedented combination of long range, high precision, and fast update rate. We report dual-comb distance measurement using chip-based soliton microcombs. A single pump laser was used to generate dual-frequency combs within a single microresonator as counterpropagating solitons. We demonstrated time-of-flight measurement with 200-nanometer precision at an averaging time of 500 milliseconds within a range ambiguity of 16 millimeters. Measurements at distances up to 25 meters with much lower precision were also performed. Our chip-based source is an important step toward miniature dual-comb laser ranging systems that are suitable for photonic integration.

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