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Photonic Integrated Circuits to Ensure Video-like Phased Array

Defense electro-optics researchers at two U.S. technology companies are trying to create scanning laser sensors with a small, supple option to mechanical technology to enable beam steering speeds at video frame rates to be used in applications such as surveillance, three-dimensional imaging, accuracy in targeting, arms guidance, navigation, and low-probability-of-intercept communications.

Scientists at SRI International Sarnoff, a laboratory based in Princeton, New Je5sey, and HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, are designing active optical beam steering and sensing. This exercise forms part of the Short-range Wide-field-of-view Extremely-agile Electronically-steered Photonic EmitteR (SWEEPER) program initiated by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Virginia.

The DARPA Microsystems Technology Office recently placed an order with  Sarnoff worth $8.5 million, and with  HRL an order worth $14.3 million towards the SWEEPER project. The project will facilitate scanning laser sensors like LIDAR to scan rapidly moving video-like imagery based on reflected laser light. The two laboratories will create active optical beam steering and sensing by constructing chip-scale integrated photonic consistent beam-forming technologies that cross the limits of opto mechanical and electro optical devices in compact packages.

DARPA estimates that a SWEEPER will confirm photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology to make available video frame rate beam steering speeds, and discharge numerous beams exhibiting a total output power of 10W.

The SWEEPER program endeavors to enlarge phased array beam steering to the optical field in the infrared spectrum, the 0.8-to-2-micron optical range, by creating photonic integrated circuits to be deployed in optical phased arrays. The arrays will incorporate thousands of optical emitting facets packed tightly together, accurate relative electronic phase control, in a compact size.


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