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 a screen at least partially opaque at the wavelength. The screen has an aperture sized so as to produce a Fresnel diffraction pattern. A portion of the beam travels through the aperture to a detector spaced some distance from the screen. The detector detects the central intensity of the beam as well as a set of intensities displaced from a center of the aperture. The distance from the source to the target can then be calculated based upon the known wavelength, aperture radius, and beam intensity.
This invention was made with support by the United States Government under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to UT-Battelle, LLC and the Government has certain rights in this invention.