Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology, a laser-based imaging technique for accurate distance measurement, is considered one of the most crucial sensor technologies for autonomous vehicles, artificially intelligent robots and unmanned aerial vehicle reconnaissance. Until recently, LiDAR has relied on light sources and detectors mounted on multiple mechanically rotating optical transmitters and receivers to cover an entire scene. Such an architecture gives rise to limitations in terms of the imaging frame rate and resolution. In this Review, we examine how novel nanophotonic platforms could overcome the hardware restrictions of existing LiDAR technologies. After briefly introducing the basic principles of LiDAR, we present the device specifications required by the industrial sector. We then review a variety of LiDAR-relevant nanophotonic approaches such as integrated photonic circuits, optical phased antenna arrays and flat optical devices based on metasurfaces. The latter have already demonstrated exceptional functional beam manipulation properties, such as active beam deflection, point-cloud generation and device integration using scalable manufacturing methods, and are expected to disrupt modern optical technologies. In the outlook, we address the upcoming physics and engineering challenges that must be overcome from the viewpoint of incorporating nanophotonic technologies into commercially viable, fast, ultrathin and lightweight LiDAR systems.
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This work was financially supported by industry-university strategic grants funded by SL Corporation and LG Innotek, and the National Research Foundation (NRF) grants (grant numbers NRF-2019R1A2C3003129, NRF-2019R1A5A8080290, CAMM-2019M3A6B3030637, NRF-2018M3D1A1058998 and NRF-2015R1A5A1037668) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT (MSIT), Republic of Korea. J.R. and P.G. acknowledge the Korea–France Science and Technology Amicable Relationships programme (grant number NRF-2020K1A3A1A21024374) funded by the MSIT, Republic of Korea. P.G. and R.J.M. acknowledge the financial support from the European Research Council (ERC POC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Project i-LiDAR, grant number 874986). I.K. acknowledges the NRF Sejong Science fellowship (grant number NRF-2021R1C1C2004291) funded by the MSIT, Republic of Korea. J.J. acknowledges a fellowship from the Hyundai Motor Chung Mong-Koo Foundation and the NRF fellowship (grant number NRF-2019R1A6A3A13091132) funded by the Ministry of Education, Republic of Korea. The authors thank J. Park, J. Kim and S. Jang for discussions.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Nanotechnology thanks Pierre Berini and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Kim, I., Martins, R.J., Jang, J. et al. Nanophotonics for light detection and ranging technology. Nat. Nanotechnol. 16, 508–524 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-021-00895-3
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