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On the performance of optical phased array technology for beam steering

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Document pages: 19 pages

Abstract: Optical phased arrays are of strong interest for beam steering in telecom andLIDAR applications. A phased array ideally requires that the field produced byeach element in the array (a pixel) is fully controllable in phase andamplitude (ideally constant). This is needed to realize a phase gradient alonga direction in the array, and thus beam steering in that direction. Inpractice, grating lobes appear if the pixel size is not sub-wavelength, whichis an issue for many optical technologies. Furthermore, the phase performanceof an optical pixel may not span the required $2 pi$ phase range, or may notproduce a constant amplitude over its phase range. These limitations result inimperfections in the phase gradient, which in turn introduce undesirablesecondary lobes. We discuss the effects of non-ideal pixels on beam formation,in a general and technology-agnostic manner. By examining the strength ofsecondary lobes with respect to the main lobe, we quantify beam steeringquality, and make recommendations on the pixel performance required for beamsteering within prescribed specifications. By applying appropriate compensationstrategies, we show that it is possible to realize high-quality beam steeringeven when the pixel performance is non-ideal, with intensity of the secondarylobes be two orders of magnitude smaller than the main lobe.

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