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Nature Photonics, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, released a paper written by a KAIST research team on the time-of-flight measurement.
Professor Seung-Woo Kim of the Mechanical Engineering Department, KAIST, and his research team published the result of their study on the measurement of 1 nanometer (nm) precision. “The time-of-flight of light pulses has long been used as a direct measure of distance, but state-of-the-art measurement precision using conventional light pulses or microwaves peaks at only several hundreds of micrometers. Here, we improve the time-of-flight precision to the nanometer regime by timing femtosecond pulses through phase-locking control of the pulse repetition rate using the optical cross-correlation technique,” Professor Kim said. According to the experiment conducted by the research team, “An Allan deviation of 117 nm in measuring a 700m distance in air at a sampling rate of 5 millisecond (ms) once the pulse repetition is phased-locked, which reduces to 7 nm as the averaging time increases to 1 second (s).” When measuring an object located in a far distance, a laser beam is projected to the object, and the reflected light is analyzed; the light is then converted into an electric signal to calculate the distance. In so doing, Professor Kim said, the conventional method of measurement creates at least 1 mm of deviation. He argues, “This enhanced capability is maintained at long range without periodic ambiguity, and is well suited to lidar applications. This method could also be applied to future space missions involving formation-flying satellites for synthetic aperture imaging and remote experiments related to general relativity theory." Nature Photonics published the article online on August 8, 2010.
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