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National Academies ‘Optics and Photonics’ report to receive high-level launch in D.C.

06 September 2012

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- High-levelHarnessing Light summary for Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation speakers at an exclusive launch event next week for a new National Academies (NA) report will help underscore the importance of optics and photonics to the U.S. economy as well as to technological progress.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and retired CEO/Chairman of the Board for Intel Corporation Craig Barrett will be the keynote speakers at an invitation-only briefing on the newly released report "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation," authored by a committee of the National Research Council of the NA. The briefing will be held Wednesday, September 12, from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is a sponsor of the event along with a second briefing on Capitol Hill later in the afternoon as part of the House R&D Caucus.

Speakers at the afternoon event will include Martin Richardson, University of Central Florida; Greg Olsen, Princeton University; Tom Baer, Stanford University; and SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

Talks will illustrate how applications of optical science solve problems, enable innovation, facilitate economic growth and improve lives.

As detailed in the report, optics and photonics technologies are applied in numerous vital areas of life, among them:

  • manufacture and  inspection of integrated circuits in electronic devices
  • displays on smart phones and computing devices
  • optical fiber that carries the information on the Internet
  • advanced precision manufacturing and metrology
  • enhanced defense capabilities
  • a plethora of medical diagnostics tools.

New opportunities arising from optics and photonics offer the potential for even greater societal impact in the next few decades. Important areas include solar power, high-efficiency lighting, genome mapping, medical devices, and new optical capabilities that will be vital for supporting the continued exponential growth of the Internet.

The report asserts that it is critical for the United States to take advantage of emerging optical technologies for creating new industries and generating high-value job growth. While larger public photonics companies are the minority in the sector and comprise fewer than 2% of the 17,000 public companies in the U.S., they account for approximately 10% of all public company revenues (more than $3 trillion) and 6% of public company employment (7.4 million jobs).

The report calls for a National Photonics Initiative to improve the efficacy of U.S. public and private R&D resources, emphasizing the need for public policy that encourages adoption of a portfolio approach to investing in the opportunities available within photonics.

"Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation" identifies grand challenges and recommendations in specific areas including:

  • 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
  • Displays.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 225,000 constituents from approximately 150 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional growth, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $2.7 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2011.

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