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Life in the fast lane for photonics!

Backers of an initiative to raise awareness of the field of photonics and the many contributions photonics technologies and applications make to a stronger economy as well as quality of life have new reason to celebrate.

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Last week, the Committee on Science of the the National Science and Technology Council nudged photonics toward the fast track, with the release on Thursday of a report by its Fast-Track Action Committee on Optics and Photonics (FTAC-OP).

In a report titled "Building a Brighter Future with Optics and Photonics,” the FTAC-OP presented a prioritized list of seven recommendations for research opportunities and research-related capabilities. The list aligns with and supports recommendations of the 2013 National Research Council Report Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation, addressing important needs from new methods for stopping disease, to more jobs that strengthen the economy, to expanded national manufacturing through homegrown R&D, to more effective security and defense systems.

The report notes that support for its recommendations will accelerate basic research progress and applications in optics and photonics.

We think so, too, and join in the photonics community's applause for the FTAC-OP for identifying some powerful strategies to advance the ability of photonics to change lives for the better and contribute to economic competitiveness for the nation.

The FTAC-OP’s prioritized list of recommendations includes:

Research Opportunities
  • (A1) Biophotonics to Advance Understanding of Systems Biology and Disease Progression. Support fundamental research in innovative biophotonics to enable advances in quantitative imaging; systems biology, medicine, and neuroscience; in vivo validation of biomarkers that advance medical diagnostics, prevention, and treatment; and more efficient agricultural production.
  • (A2) From Faint to Single Photonics. Develop optics and photonics technologies that operate at the faintest light levels.
  • (A3) Imaging Through Complex Media. Advance the science of light propagation and imaging through scattering, dispersive, and turbulent media.
  • (A4) Ultra-Low-Power Nano-Optoelectronics. Explore the limits of low energy, attojoule-level photonic devices for application to information processing and communications.

Capability Opportunities
  • (B1) Accessible Fabrication Facilities for Researchers. Determine the need of academic researchers and small business innovators for access to affordable domestic fabrication capabilities to advance the research, development, manufacture, and assembly of complex integrated photonic-electronic devices.
  • (B2) Exotic Photonics. Promote research and development to make compact, user-friendly light sources, detectors, and associated optics at exotic wavelengths accessible to academia, national laboratories, and industry.
  • (B3) Domestic Sources for Critical Photonic Materials. Develop and make available optical and photonic materials critical to our Nation’s research programs, such as infrared materials, nonlinear materials, low-dimensional materials, and engineered materials.

The National Photonics Initiative is an industry-driven campaign to guide photonics research and funding, and resulted from last year’s Essential Technologies report from the NRC. SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, is among the Founding Sponsors in a coalition of scientific societies helping to lead the initiative. The goals of the NPI are to:
  • raise awareness of photonics and the impact of photonics on our everyday lives
  • increase cooperation and coordination among US industry, government and academia to advance photonics-driven fields
  • drive U.S. funding and investment in areas of photonics critical to maintaining U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Read the FTAC-OP report -- and keep doing your part to raise the visibility of the powerful enabling technology of photonics! Find out more at www.LightOurFuture.org.

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