SBIR Phase I: Fast and Accurate Laser Distance Metrology

Period of Performance: 01/01/2009 - 12/31/2009

$100K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Bridger Photonics, Inc.
2310 University Way, Bldg. 4-4 Array
Bozeman, MT 59715
Principal Investigator

Abstract

This Small Business Innovative Research Phase I research project will demonstrate the feasibility of a high-precision optical metrology system that meets a current market need for extremely precise distance measurements with rapid update rates. The project will actively stabilize newly developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) tunable Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers (VCSEL) that can be rapidly tuned mode-hop-free over 6 terahertz. Using a Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) technique, this system has the potential to reach 25 micrometer resolutions and sub-10-nanometer precisions in real time. Extensive experience in laser stabilization will help to overcome the daunting challenge of stabilizing and linearizing the frequency sweep of the VCSEL sources, which inherently exhibit significant frequency noise. These VCSELs, however, offer sweep rates 100-1,000 times faster than competing technologies and would therefore enable the same enhancement in the system?s update rate. At short ranges, the system can be used for industrial metrology and precision manufacturing. At medium ranges, the system can be used for navigational aids including pilot assistance for landing in brownout conditions. This application has the significant potential to save the lives of airmen and passengers in unprepared landing zones. At long ranges, the system can be used to accurately position sparse aperture telescopes and formations of nano-satellites. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).