An Insider’s Perspective on the Value of Bandpass Lidar Filters

An Insider’s Perspective on the Value of Bandpass Lidar Filters

Lidar News had the opportunity to interview Peter Egerton, Chief Commercial Officer at Alluxa. As the CCO, Peter is responsible for the strategy and execution of global sales, marketing, product management, and business development functions at Alluxa. He is a named inventor on 10 patents in optics and related fields and has a Physics degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Peter has been a full-time employee at Alluxa since 2009 and was a member of the Technical Advisory Board of Alluxa from 2007 to 2009.

  1. Can you provide your insights on how Alluxa decided to develop filters for the lidar sensor market?  

Alluxa’s filters have always been well suited to applications like lidar. In higher performance lidar systems, our ultra-narrow filters have really allowed customers in some applications to achieve great signal to noise levels by providing very narrow and steep filters with high blocking levels. While these filters have other applications, lidar requirements have been essential to help us keep pushing the performance limits of our products. 

  1. What are some of the applications where your customers are using your products?

We really see filters customized for many of the lidar applications – some mainstream and some more exotic. Examples include autonomous vehicles, atmospheric monitoring, pollution monitoring, and bathymetric mapping.

  1. Are there particular challenges that Alluxa had to overcome to satisfy the customer’s requirements? Can you provide a couple of examples?

Some of the lidar requirements we have addressed really did push our technical capabilities – fortunately, they were in areas that we are always striving to improve. Some examples are making the filters large enough (50 mm, 100 mm, even larger diameters), placing the center wavelength of the filters accurately enough (sometimes to within +/- 0.05 nm or less), and increasing the cavity count (sometimes 4, 5, or 6 cavities) to achieve the steep edges and square filter tops required.

  1. Can you explain how Alluxa addresses sensor platform and environmental conditions for lidar sensors operating in extreme situations?

Alluxa’s filters are extremely durable. Hard refractory oxide materials are deposited on top of glass or fused silica substrates which creates a monolithic product that effectively behaves like a single piece of glass. They are designed to be highly temperature insensitive (some have center wavelengths that move < 0.001 nm / C), but also to be highly durable in extreme environments. Even though the filters are extremely complex, some comprising more than 1000 individual layers, the monolithic construction means that they can easily survive in operating environments between -50C and +100C, even with high humidity. 

  1. Are there specific design requirements for the autonomous vehicle market that you have had to respond to?

The magic piece of this equation is always cost. There is a natural engineering tradeoff between cost, performance, size, etc. We work with our customers to make sure that they design their systems and filters in such a way that allows the filter to be cost optimized. For example, you do not want a 100 mm diameter filter if you need the whole lidar sensor to cost $250.

  1. What separates Alluxa from your competitors in the lidar market?

I think the high-performance nature of our coatings enables our customers to dream up and then implement higher performance solutions than they would be able to without access to our proprietary processes. We are also happy to customize and then optimize a filter in both design and practice to make sure that our customers have the best possible solution for their system. Sometimes that is focused on performance, sometimes price, and sometimes both. 

  1. How does Alluxa see the market for lidar filters evolving in the future?

That is a great question. It is hard to know for sure, but I think that the current spectrum of offerings will only expand. Of course, there will be an expansion of very low cost filters for sensors that become ubiquitous. We also think that the high performance boundaries will continue to be stretched and that all the sensors in between will be deployed in increasing volumes. We have a filter centric view of the world, but we think that as lidar proliferates, so too will the various types of filters used in those systems. You can send the light out whenever you want, but you often cannot see it without a filter. 

  1. Are there  any new product developments being planned for the lidar market that you can provide a preview of?

We are always striving for improvements in our process. Right now, we have some process improvements approaching release that will allow both the size and the edge steepness of the filters produced to increase. We think this will let us  bring higher performance filters to larger parts and cost sensitive applications. 


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