The University of Twente, together with seven European enterprises, kicked off their Horizon2020 project OPHELLIA to develop novel laser sources for LiDAR applications. These fast and miniature LiDAR systems will pave the way for applications in (autonomous) trains, robots, drones and vehicles.
LiDAR systems for integration on for example autonomous trains, drones or as part of portable systems need to be small and lightweight. “However, at the same time they still need to be at least performing at the same level of existing technologies”, says prof. dr. Sonia Garcia-Blanco, coordinator of the project. Photonic integration circuits (PICs) are therefore essential to achieve this goal. In OPHELLIA, the UT will develop novel materials for erbium-doped waveguide amplifiers. These will be monolithically integrated with the low loss Si3N4 waveguides of partner LioniX International. Together with other advanced functional integrated photonics materials developed by Thales-R&T and the University of Twente they can produce complex integrated laser sources.
To measure distances, LiDAR works in much the same way as RADAR. However, instead of radio waves, it uses light. It illuminates a target with laser light and measures the time the reflection of the lights takes to return to the sensor. The longer it takes for the light to return, the farther away a target is from the sensor. Current laser sources for this technology are often very costly, not sufficiently robust or simply too big.
The novel materials that OPHELLIA will develop, integrated into an existing low loss integrated photonic platform, will achieve the required performance while reducing cost and size, making them suitable for miniaturized LiDAR systems. The three end-users of the project (SICK, RIEGL and Thales) will integrate the technology into three demonstrators, namely a safety sensor in harbours and airports, autonomous robots/drones and autonomous trains.
The consortium consists of seven participants from four countries, coordinated by the University of Twente. The project will end on 31 January 2025 and receives an EU contribution of €4.556.775,-
Prof. dr. Sonia Garcia-Blanco has recently been added to the list of Featured Scientists of the University of Twente. Her bio and press photo free of copyright limitations can be found here.