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National Research Council report calls for “National Photonics Initiative”

October 26, 2012 | news, Uncategorized

A new report from the National Research Council identifies research priorities and grand challenges to fill gaps in optics and photonics, a field that has the potential to advance the economy of the United States and provide visionary directions for future technology applications.  The report recommends that the federal government develop a “National Photonics Initiative” to bring together academia, industry, and government to steer federal research and development funding and activities.

As described in the report Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation, it is critical for the United States to take advantage of these emerging optical technologies for creating new industries and generating job growth. The report assesses the current state of optical science and engineering in the United States and abroad–including market trends, workforce needs, and the impact of photonics on the national economy. It identifies the technological opportunities that have arisen from recent advances in, and applications of, optical science and engineering. The report also calls for improved management of U.S. public and private research and development resources, emphasizing the need for public policy that encourages adoption of a portfolio approach to investing in the wide and diverse opportunities now available within photonics.

Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation named five grand challenges facing the nation that can be addressed with advances in optics and photonics technology.  The first is to keep up the pace of technological achievement established in previous decades.  Others include improved military surveillance and missile defense, achieving cost parity for solar power versus fossil fuel across the country’s electrical grid, reaching seamless integration of photonics and electronics at the chip level, and developing optical sources and imaging tools to support increased resolution in manufacturing.

Eight particular areas of technological application are discussed in separate chapters: communications, information processing, and data storage; defense and national security; energy; health and medicine; advanced manufacturing; advanced photonic measurements and applications; strategic materials for optics; and displays.  Each chapter reviews progress that has occurred since the 1998 National Research Council report Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century, as well as the technological opportunities that have risen from recent advances in optical science and engineering.  The report recommends actions for the development and maintenance of global leadership in photonics-driven industries, including both near-term and long-range goals, likely participants, and responsible agents of change.

A National Photonics Initiative will help manage the breadth of rapidly expanding applications of photonics technologies, the report says, allowing both government and industry to form coherent strategies for technology development and deployment.  The recommended initiative should also spearhead a collaborative effort to improve the collection and reporting of research, development, and economic data on this sector.

The full report may be downloaded as a pdf at:

http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13491