This invention relates to a method and apparatus for making absolute distance or ranging measurements using Fresnel diffraction. The invention employs a source of electromagnetic radiation having a known wavelength or wavelength distribution, which sends a beam of electromagnetic radiation through an object which causes it to be split (hereinafter referred to as a "beamsplitter"), and then to a target. The beam is reflected from the target onto a screen containing an aperture spaced a known distance from the beamsplitter. The aperture is sized so as to produce a Fresnel diffraction pattern. A portion of the beam travels through the aperture to a detector, spaced a known distance from the screen. The detector detects the central intensity of the beam. The distance from the object which causes the beam to be split to the target can then be calculated based upon the known wavelength, aperture radius, beam intensity, and distance from the detector to the screen. Several apparatus embodiments are disclosed for practicing the method embodiments of the present invention.
This invention was made with support by the U.S. Government under contract DE-AC05-960R22464 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation and the Government has certain rights in this invention.