Photonic Packaging for Light-MiLES: Miniature Laser-Illumined Eye-safe Sensors

Light-MiLES was an Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board) funded research project running from December 2012 – May 2015. The project goals were to develop a novel laser transmitter and integrate it with an imaging array to produce an active laser-illuminated imaging sensor. The project consortium was headed by Thales Optronics with Gooch & Housego, Glass Technology Services, and the University of Leeds as participants. The challenge for Gooch & Housego was to provide a suitable photonic packaging solution for this demanding application.

LightMiLES

Compact eye-safe laser transmitters are a key enabling technology for future sensor systems reducing size, weight, and power (SWaP). Solid-state lasers have been used as transmitter sources, but traditionally have had poor SWaP and were expensive. This led to the emergence of direct-diode transmitters, which are low cost and compact, but of lower performance compared to solid-state sources, limiting their deployment.

The Light-MiLES project has developed a novel eye-safe laser transmitter combining the performance of a solid-state laser with the packaging and form-factor of a diode laser device. Additionally, this novel technology and manufacturing concept has led to a significant reduction in assembly cost. The transmitter is now priced competitively with direct-diode technology but with superior performance:

  • Size comparable with direct-diodes
  • Weight approximately half of solid-state lasers
  • Peak power four orders of magnitude higher than direct-diodes

The resulting laser transmitter is significantly smaller than previous designs, comprises fewer components and enables telecom-based precision assembly techniques. The relatively low power requirements allow for a more simple thermal management solution. In this way the electrical power required to operate the transmitter is reduced. All of these factors reduce cost and improve performance of the final device.

Light Miles minature laser transmitterOur R&D engineers leveraged their experience in developing photonic packaging for truly rugged environments (undersea, avionic, and space) for this miniature laser transmitter system. Key capabilities miniaturizing this technology included:

  • Heat dissipation management
  • Laser rod mounting
  • Passive and active component alignment
  • Epoxy bonding
  • Hermetic sealing

The source is well suited for long-range laser range-finders (LRF) or for integration into multi-platform sensor systems, such as man-portable target locators or airborne gimbals. These are all applications which require ultra-compact, low cost, efficient laser transmitter performance.

The transmitter will enable compact, low-cost active imagers for further deployment into defense, security, surveillance, and traffic management.

For further information regarding G&H’s photonics packaging services and range-finding solutions, please contact sales@goochandhousego.com.