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SPIE Professional January 2013

National Photonics Initiative

SPIE wants your input and help to create a national photonics initiative.

By Alison Jones

The 2012 report, “Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for Our Nation,” has already generated attention from the U.S. government and action from SPIE and other scientific societies interested in seeing its recommendations adopted. And more activities are being planned throughout this year.

The U.S. National Research Council report emphasizes optics’ role as an enabling technology and underscores its importance to the U.S. and global economy. It focuses specifically on opportunities for optics and photonics in communications, defense and national security, energy, health and medicine, advanced manufacturing, advanced photonics measurements, strategic materials for optics, and displays.

One of the report’s key recommendations is the creation of a National Photonics Initiative (NPI) to bring together academia, industry, and government entities in the United States to steer federal R&D funding and activities. SPIE is working with the American Physical Society, the Optical Society (OSA), the IEEE Photonics Society, the Laser Institute of America, and other societies to begin building the framework of the NPI, with the hope of fostering collaboration and coordination among different stakeholders.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu (left) with SPIE Executive Director Eugene Arthurs

Calling on legislators

An NPI would establish a network of representatives from industry, academia, national labs, and federal agencies to identify and advance areas of photonics that are critical for maintaining U.S. competitiveness and national security, and to ensure that policymakers implement recommendations from the report.

SPIE has played a leading role in bringing attention to the report and the need for action to meet its “grand challenges.” On 12 September 2012, for instance, SPIE Executive Director Eugene Arthurs was a lead presenter at a briefing for Congress in Washington, D.C., focusing on the role of optical science in solving problems, enabling innovation, facilitating economic growth, and improving lives. Participants encouraged policymakers to take action to support emerging optical technologies and current capabilities.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and former Intel CEO Craig Barrett briefed federal agencies on the report.

Other events in which SPIE has participated to publicize optics and photonics as essential technologies were held in the fall in New York, Arizona, California, and at several international venues, including a Photonics21 meeting in Brussels.

Take the SPIE survey on ‘essential’ technologies

To help engage industry in these efforts, SPIE is creating several forums for optics and photonics professionals to provide input that will be communicated to the U.S. government.

In addition to conducting an online survey, SPIE is sponsoring an event at SPIE Photonics West 7 February where Arthurs will give a keynote talk about the NPI and growth opportunities in the photonics industry.

All attendees at Photonics West are invited to Arthurs’ talk at 8:45 a.m. Thursday, 7 February, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

To give your feedback on the NPI, take our survey.

Grand Challenges for optics

In addition to assessing the current state of optics, photonics, and optical engineering in the United States, the NRC report highlights the “grand challenges” in the field and recommends actions to ensure that these challenges are met.

These challenges include:

• Inventing technologies for increased capacity (factor-of-100) in optical networks

• Developing a seamless integration of photonics and electronics components as a mainstream platform for low-cost fabrication and packaging of systems on a chip

• Developing military platforms capable of wide-area surveillance, exquisite-object identification, high-bandwidth free-space communication, laser strike, and defense against missiles

• Achieving cost parity across the nation’s electricity grid by 2020 for solar power versus new fossil-fuel-powered electric plants

• Developing optical sources and imaging tools to support an order-of-magnitude increase in resolution in manufacturing.

To learn more about the 2012 report, see the President’s Letter or visit opticsandphotonics.org.


DOI: 10.1117/2.4201301.20

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