TowerJazz and Lumotive from Bellevue, Washington, announced the successful demonstration of the first beam steering ICs for automotive LiDAR systems that are fully solid-state (without any moving parts). The steering concept is Based on Lumotive’s Liquid Crystal Metasurface (LCM) technology, to control the laser beam direction by applying electric fields. The idea was originally developed by Dr. David Smith, Director for the Center for Metamaterial and Integrated Plasmonics in Duke University.
He had developed a concept called Holographic Beam Forming. By building miniature metal structure on a surfaces (called Metamaterials, or Metasurface), he could change the refractive index of this surface. When these structures are small enough to act like tiny array of antennas, they response to electric fields and allow the control of the refractive index by applying electric signals. But to implement the idea, Lumotive needed a special IC.
Here TowerJazz came for the help: Lumotive’s beam-steering ICs uses TowerJazz’s 130 nm Cu back-end-of-Line technology, customized to meet specific optical performance requirements with optimized lithography and custom dielectrics. Lumotive’s complete LiDAR system based on this beam steering chip coupled with a custom SiPM (Silicon Photomultiplier) sensor, utilizing TowerJazz’s SPAD (Single Photon Avalanche Diode) technology, will be available for prototype testing in late 2019.
“Our partnership with TowerJazz enabled us to achieve this important milestone and will allow us to bring our revolutionary technology to production,” said Bill Colleran, President & CEO, Lumotive. Research firm Yole Développement estimates that the ADAS and autonomous vehicle LiDAR markets will grow dramatically in the coming years, increasing from $721 million in 2018 to $6.3 billion in 2024, with a CAGR of nearly 45% during that period.