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Optical Design & Engineering

New National Academies report unveiled at SPIE Optics + Photonics

Recommendations include National Photonics Initiative

17 August 2012, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201208.02

Cover of Harnessing Light SummaryThe National Research Council of the National Academies has released its highly anticipated new report, "Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation," which updates its 1998 "Harnessing Light" study.

Committee co-chairs and SPIE Fellows Alan Willner (University of Southern California) and Paul McManamon (University of Dayton; Exciting Technologies) presented the report Wednesday 15 August at SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego.

The report, which assesses the current state of optics, photonics, and optical engineering in the United States, was lauded by SPIE leaders as a powerful lens through which to focus progress during what is being called, "the century of the photon."

"The report underscores that optics and photonics are huge contributors to the economy," said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. "The technologies enable applications ranging from the Internet and the equipment it is both sent across and received on, to new tests for cancers and treatments for stroke and other brain disorders that transmit data from the body using beams of light. Very large numbers of direct and enabled jobs for the future depend on mastery of optics and photonics."

Photonics technologies already play an essential role in the areas focused on in the new report including communications, information processing, and data storage; energy; and health and medicine. The report also prioritized research needed to fill technological gaps, and recommended actions to support global leadership in photonics-driven industry.

"Our continued strategic investment in photonics is essential for maintaining a robust pipeline of new discoveries that fuels both commercialization and clinical translation," said Bruce Tromberg, director of the Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic at the University of California, Irvine, and a member of the SPIE Board of Directors. Tromberg pointed out the National Photonics Initiative presented the report as the kind of proposal that leads to successful commercialization of research.

"Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for our Nation," an update of the 1998 report, Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century, notes the technological opportunities that have arisen over the years since and offers recommendations for maintenance of the upward trend in research and manufacturing.