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Academic To Develop Real-Time Dual-Comb LiDAR for Manufacturing Metrology

A professor at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland has been granted a prestigious funding award to advance an innovative laser measurement technique. Professor Derryck Reid, based in Edinburgh’s School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, has received £225,000 from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Research Chairs program. This funding is part of a £1.15 million support package provided by Renishaw and Heriot-Watt University.

Over the next five years, Professor Reid will collaborate closely with industrial partner Renishaw to explore the potential of ultrafast lasers in providing precise distance measurements. Professor Reid aims to help high-value manufacturing measure products more accurately to improve yield and reduce waste by investigating how two-photon dual-comb LiDAR (light detection and ranging) can be used to measure absolute distances to sub-100-nm precision and provide a continuous stream of data at kHz rates, suitable for real-time machine-tool calibration and control.

Expressing his gratitude for the award, Professor Reid stated, “I’m honoured to have been selected for this award by the Royal Academy, which recognises the exceptional potential of the laser measurement technology.”

Precision laser metrology is a field that employs lasers to accurately measure various physical properties, including distance, position, motion, vibration, and surface characteristics. It finds applications in industrial and scientific sectors that require high levels of accuracy and precision, such as aerospace engineering, nanotechnology, and the medical field.

The project utilizes LiDAR remote sensing technology to precisely map surfaces with unprecedented accuracy. By employing lasers capable of capturing data at nanometer-level precision, the project aims to achieve measurements that surpass the centimeter-scale precision typically obtained with LiDAR. This advancement is expected to bring significant benefits to industries and sectors worldwide that rely on optical technologies for accurate measurements.

Explaining the project further, Professor Reid stated, “This project will advance existing technology by using two lasers that strobe at slightly different rates. This effectively slows down the light travelling between the subject and the detector. This ‘slow down’ allows us to go from centimetre scales down to hundreds-of-a-nanometre.”

“This represents a substantial improvement over the capabilities of current technology, not only increasing accuracy but also reducing waste for companies worldwide,” added Professor Reid.

Professor Máire O’Neill OBE FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, commented, “I am always impressed and encouraged by the ingenuity of engineers in developing and harnessing new technologies that address our many societal and global challenges and deliver public benefit. When research engineers partner with industry the solutions they deliver together can be transformative and these latest appointments illustrate this perfectly—the breadth and scale of their potential impact is truly exciting.”

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