New chip could lead to cheaper and better medical imaging devices and self-driving cars

Berkeley researchers, including EECS Prof. Ming Wu and his former postdoc Youming Wang,  have created the fastest silicon-based, programmable two-dimensional optical phased array, built on micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS).  They achieved a resonance frequency of 55 kilohertz that corresponded to a response time of 5.7 microseconds, almost 1,000 times faster than a traditional optical phased array built on liquid crystal. With a large array of 25,600 pixels packed onto a chip that is 3.1 by 3.2 millimeters, the device can also capture very high-resolution images of its surroundings and lead to cheaper and more efficient medical-imaging devices, optical communications and holographic televisions, as well as more robust LiDAR sensors for self-driving cars.  "Being able to program these chips allows us to go beyond scanning, we can program our arrays to be more like human eyes. This allows us to generate and perceive arbitrary patterns like our eyes do; we can track individual objects instead of just rotating scanning,” said Wu.