While standard laser range finders use modulation signals, such as sharp pulses, the method we devised employs laser diode's frequency noise, and a frequency discriminator, to produce the intensity noise signal, which we use to generate fast physical random numbers. Observed through a frequency discriminator, beams traveling along two different paths share intensity noise patterns, i.e., the same fast physical random numbers, but with a time lag. We compared the two, and calculated their cross-correlation. By sweeping their time lags, we confirmed the length of the two optical paths, up to 50m.
An optical range finder system that relies on laser diodes’ frequency noise, instead of intensity or frequency modulations, and its improvement in resolution are reported. The distance to the target is measured by calculating the cross-correlation of two signals reflected from the target and reference mirrors. These two signals are converted from the laser diodes’ frequency noise signals by frequency/intensity converters, such as a Fabry–Perot etalon. We obtained the distance to the target by checking time lags between the target and reference beams at the highest correlation coefficient. We also measured the change in the correlation coefficient around the peak sampling point by adjusting the reference-path length, achieving a resolving power of ±3 mm.
Semiconductor laser range-finder systems use so-called “time-of-flight” methods that require us to modulate semiconductor lasers’ intensity and frequency, and detect those of reflected lights, in order to compare optical paths to the reference and the target. But, accurate measurement requires both high-speed modulation and detection systems. By taking advantage of semiconductor lasers’ broad- spectrum frequency noise, which has a range of up to a few GHz, and converting it to intensity noise, we were able to generate a set of high-speed physical random numbers that we used to precisely measure the distance. We tuned the semiconductor lasers’ oscillation frequencies loosely to the Rb absorption line and converted their frequency noise to intensity noise, in the light transmitted. Observed through a frequency discriminator, beams traveling along two different paths will always share intensity noise patterns, but there is a time lag. We calculate the cross-correlation of the two signals by sweeping their time lags. The one with the highest degree of correlation was that corresponding to the difference in the length of the two optical paths. Through our experiments, we confirmed that the system was accurate up to a distance of 50 m, at a resolution of 0.03 m, when the sampling rate was adjusted to 0.2 ns.