National Academies report highlights intense ultrafast laser technologies

SPIE applauds the work, but notes further action still needed for US science

06 December 2017

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA, and WASHINGTON, DC - A report published by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine outlines the steps the United States must take to regain global leadership in intense ultrafast laser technologies. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, congratulates the committee on its work and will participate in a briefing sponsored by the National Photonics Initiative on its findings on 14 December in Washington DC.

Opportunities in the Science, Applications, and Technology of Intense Ultrafast Lasers: Reaching for the Brightest Light evaluates the current state and future opportunities of high intensity ultrafast lasers and laser technologies, and assesses the value of future high intensity laser science programs and facilities to the nation's scientific research, its national security, and the economy.

The authoring committee, consisting of over a dozen experts in laser science, from industry, academia, and government, produced a lengthy and detailed document that includes seven high level conclusions and five actionable recommendations for policy makers and funders to consider.

The report highlights the science enabled by high-intensity lasers is vast and important with a broad application base ranging from fundamental sciences to nuclear weapons stewardship as well as medicine and industry. Despite this, the work currently being done in the United States has been fragmented and lacks cross-agency stewardship, which has resulted in the United States losing its position of a leader in this field. The report points to recent investments in Europe and Asia to support this claim.

SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs, who will be speaking at the 14 December event had this to say on the report, "This report echoes concerns of SPIE over the lack of support for laser development in the U.S. in the last two decades. The U.S. should be a major contributor in advancing the understanding and application of extreme light, in partnership with the strong investments in Europe and Asia. Investment and collaboration are key to humanity most propitiously realizing the power of light."

Committee member and CEO and founder of KMLabs, Henry Kapteyn on the committee's findings, "The laser was the product of American innovation, and its existence has profoundly changed our lives in ways previously-unimagined, contributing substantially to our creativity, health and standard of living. Both compact and large-scale high intensity lasers are at the leading-edge of research in this field, taking advantage of the laser's unique ability to deliver focused energy. The outcomes from past work have been adopted for a variety of applications in medicine and manufacturing, and will play an enabling role for next-generation nanoelectronics. The NAS report calls for a closely-coordinated program that, if thoughtfully implemented, can span the continuum from basic research to critical application needs. This can help to recapture US competitiveness and jump-start American innovation in this critical technology area for future advances in medicine, nanoelectronics and defense."

The briefing on 14 December will begin at 4pm (EST) at the National Academies of Sciences Keck Center in Washington DC and will include a panel discussion on the study with presentations by committee members and scientists working in the field. More information about the event can be found at the National Photonics Initiative website,

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves nearly 264,000 constituents from approximately 166 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2016, SPIE provided more than $4 million in support of education and outreach programs.

Contact: Stacey Crockett
Media Relations Coordinator
+1 360 685 5458