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Scantinel lidar chip offers 'unparalleled' level of integration

06 Jul 2023

PIC platform with scanning laser touted as paving the way to the realization of autonomous driving.

Lidar startup Scantinel Photonics is claiming a significant technological breakthrough with its latest “massively parallelized” photonic integrated circuit (PIC).

The Ulm, Germany, company, which recently raised €10 million in venture investment, is one of a small number focused on frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) lidar, which is able to sense both the location and velocity of moving objects around a vehicle.

The approach promises chip-scale lidar sensors that could be produced in high volumes for the automotive industry - but relies on much more sophisticated engineering and photonic integration than conventional scanning or time-of-flight units.

Integrated laser
Now Scantinel says that the second generation of its PIC brings it a step closer to producing a single-chip lidar system.

“The photonic chip offers an exceptional combination of high pixel rate and high signal-to-noise ratio, enabling the capture of outstanding high-quality real-life data,” claims the firm.

“This advancement is made possible by the chip's unparalleled level of integration, setting it apart in the world of lidar technology and paving the way for the realization of autonomous driving.”

Scantinel co-founder Vladimir Davydenko added: “Automotive solid-state scanning lidar requires the co-integration of detectors, laser, and ultra-low loss solid-state scanner on the same CMOS-foundry compatible photonic platform.

“Scantinel Photonics GmbH demonstrates [an] integrated, massively parallelized detector and scanning chip sharing the same photonic platform as our integrated laser.”

According to another of the firm’s co-founders, managing director Andy Zott, the latest PIC architecture also enables full in-system calibration - something that ought to deliver significant cost savings in a volume production environment, by reducing equipment and fabrication facility area requirements while cutting production times.

Zeiss pedigree
Last November, Scantinel said it would use its series A funding to accelerate product development and roll out its PIC-based devices to customers. A number of partnerships with “major global automotive, mobility and industrial companies” were said to have been signed at the time.

Its FMCW technology, which relies on a frequency-chirped laser source, is said to offer a detection range beyond 300 meters, and the company has gained support from Dutch photonics partnership PhotonDelta and optics giant Zeiss.

Davydenko, Zott, and fellow co-founder Jan Horn all worked at Zeiss before setting up the spin-out company with initial funding from Zeiss Ventures.

Other companies working on FMCW lidar include SiLC Technologies, Aeva, and Aurora Innovation. Intel has also devoted a research group to the topic, while Australia’s Baraja uses a similar approach employing random frequency modulation.

But Scantinel claims that the level of integration it has achieved gives it a significant advantage in terms of cost and size over any existing solutions.

“The launch of Scantinel Photonics' second-generation PIC represents a significant leap forward in its pursuit of a cost-effective and compact lidar solution for autonomous driving applications,” stated the firm.

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