Photonic Integrated Circuit Outcoupling Array for Imaging-Based Beam Steering

Technology #11449

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Figure 1. As shown, a bidirectional chip may time-duplex signals—transmit (Tx) and receive (Rx)—from a given pixel with a Tx/Rx selection step.Figure 2. An example schematic view of a PIC coupler array device with cascading switch networks.
Christopher Kyle Renshaw, Ph.D.
Sajad Saghaye Polkoo
Patent Protection

US Patent Pending
Imaging-based beam steering for free-space optical communication
Applied Optics, Vol. 58, Issue 13, pp. D12-D21 (2019), S.S. Polkoo and C.K. Renshaw

Key Points

  • Scalable, photonic integrated circuit (PIC) coupler array device and imaging-based beam steering (IBBS) system with routing on a chip
  • Uses passive mapping between spatial and angular coordinates provided by an imaging optic to enable high-resolution beam steering over a wide field-of-view (FOV)
  • Overcomes many of the problems inherent in conventional beam-steering approaches such as moving mirrors, phased-arrays or spatial light modulators


Researchers at the University of Central Florida have invented a photonic integrated circuit (PIC) array device that can provide the emitter and detector array capabilities that imaging-based beam steering (IBBS) systems need to achieve high-resolution, dynamic beam steering over a wide field-of-view (FOV). The UCF invention, which includes an IBBS system design, offers a passive, low-cost, compact system with power-efficient data links for applications such as free-space optical communications (FSOC), optical range imaging (LIDAR), and other structured illumination technologies. The invention is also naturally multiplexed to provide parallel communications between potentially large numbers of remote devices.

IBBS provides simultaneous control of multiple lines of sight, enabling independent and simultaneous (multiplexed) addressing into the field of regard (FOR). As a result, IBBS can be used for multiplexed communication to numerous devices from a single aperture in an FSOC system. IBBS multiplexed addressing may also enable multiplexed ranging for LIDAR imaging to improve frame rates while maintaining eye-safe emissions from the aperture. However, IBBS configurations today are unable to use the full potential of IBBS, as they lack the high-density emitter arrays capable of independent high-bandwidth emission from individual pixels as well as high-speed electronic control.

The UCF invention offers a low-cost solution that provides scalable, high-density emitter and detector array circuits using mature fabrication processes that are ideally suited for compact IBBS systems.

Technical Details

Comprising a novel PIC coupler array device and an IBBS system design, the UCF invention uses photonic integrated circuit technologies to dynamically route high-bandwidth optical signals to a target pixel in a 2D array of grating outcouplers. The invention includes uni-directional (transmit only) or bi-directional (combined transmit and receive functionality) optoelectronic circuits integrated on-chip to provide versatile beam-steering capabilities when combined with an imaging optic in an IBBS system. The circuits support multiple optical signals using low-loss and scalable routing techniques to enable scaling into large arrays for precision pointing over a large FOR.

In one example configuration, the UCF IBBS system includes multiple input light sources and a PIC coupler array that can selectively route optical signals into and out of a coupler plane. Thus, the PIC coupler array may operate as a high-density input coupler, output coupler, or multi-directional coupler. The PIC coupler array can also include multiple feed networks with cascading switch networks to selectively route the input signals from a particular feed-line waveguide to a selected pixel-network waveguide. As a result, light may be coupled into or out of the couplers through multiple paths.

Partnering Opportunity

The research team is looking for partners to develop the technology further for commercialization.


  • Provides passive, imaging-based beam steering that enables wide FOV coverage with power-efficient data links
  • Allows smaller pitch between emitters, larger pixel-count arrays, lower cost and more compact packaging
  • Well-suited for a communications hub to end-point users or for mesh-networking that can increase communication range and robustness in RF-congested environments.

Market Application

  • FSOC
  • Defense