Electrical and computer engineers at the University of Virginia and University of Texas-Austin have developed an avalanche photodiode that achieved record performance and has the potential to transform next generation night-vision imaging and lidar receivers. For lidar, the team’s low-noise, two-micrometer avalanche photodiode enables eye-safe higher-power operation.
The peer reviewed paper, “Low-noise high-temperature AlInAsSb/GaSb avalanche photodiodes for 2-μm applications,” was published on 18 May in Nature Photonics, a monthly journal of the best research from all areas of light generation, manipulation and detection.
This breakthrough comes from the team’s work, funded by DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the Army Research Office. The team’s avalanche photodiode is an ideal solution for compact, high-sensitivity lidar receivers. Many lidar applications, such as robotics, autonomous vehicles, wide-area surveillance and terrain mapping, require high-resolution sensors that can detect greatly attenuated optical signals reflected from distant objects. Eye safety has limited the adoption of these next-generation lidar systems, however, because the requisite higher laser power poses an increased risk of eye damage.