Promising developments in VCSEL technology, including powerconversion efficiency, single-mode beams, and flip-chip-mounted designs, may be significant factors enabling next-generation 3D sensors.
Over the last few years, advances in laser technology originally developed for optical communications are now being leveraged in other high-volume market verticals, including consumer electronics.
The vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) heritage extends back to the pioneering work of Professor Iga in the mid-1970s, who first demonstrated the device structure, followed by Jack Jewell and his team at Bell Laboratories, who in the late 1980s fabricated one million VCSEL die on a single wafer.
Since then, VCSELs have been adopted in a significant number of important applications, including illumination for infrared imaging, thermal heating and curing, optical encoders, atomic clocks, oxygen sensors, optical touchpads, computer mice, printers, and driver monitoring systems in automobiles. They have been widely adopted in optical communication systems and more recently in 3D sensing.
Among the various new applications for VCSELs, 3D sensing is undoubtedly one of the recent commercial successes making a great impact on the industry. With the advent of face biometrics in smartphones, 3D sensing and VCSELs have become part of our daily lives. Many of the advances made in VCSEL technology over the past five years have been driven by the demand from well-known brands in consumer electronics that integrate 3D cameras into their smartphones and tablets.