Free-Space Applications of Silicon Photonics: A Review

Chung Yu Hsu, Gow Zin Yiu, You Chia Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Silicon photonics has recently expanded its applications to delivering free-space emissions for detecting or manipulating external objects. The most notable example is the silicon optical phased array, which can steer a free-space beam to achieve a chip-scale solid-state LiDAR. Other examples include free-space optical communication, quantum photonics, imaging systems, and optogenetic probes. In contrast to the conventional optical system consisting of bulk optics, silicon photonics miniaturizes an optical system into a photonic chip with many functional waveguiding components. By leveraging the mature and monolithic CMOS process, silicon photonics enables high-volume production, scalability, reconfigurability, and parallelism. In this paper, we review the recent advances in beam steering technologies based on silicon photonics, including optical phased arrays, focal plane arrays, and dispersive grating diffraction. Various beam-shaping technologies for generating collimated, focused, Bessel, and vortex beams are also discussed. We conclude with an outlook of the promises and challenges for the free-space applications of silicon photonics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number990
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • beam steering
  • LiDAR
  • optical phased array
  • silicon photonics


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