After I gave a seminar at UT Austin, Professor Mike Downer said to me during the dinner: "I would like to give you an advice. When you give a talk, you should start with a grand challenge question."
Grand challenge questions? I didn’t know what they were but was too shy to ask Prof. Downer directly. While preparing for the research statement for a faculty position, I decided to Google this.
The Google results led me to the much-anticipated “Optics & Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation”, authored by the committee on Harnessing Light: Capitalizing on Optical Science Trends and Challenges for Future Research. This blog has a great post on the updated report, which you can read here.
The first report “Harnessing light: optical science and engineering for the 21st century” was published in 1998, which presented a compressive view of optical science and engineering. This new report laid out 5 grand challenge questions to fill the technological gaps. These grand challeges questions are related to:
1) Increasing the capacity of optical networks
2) Integration of photonics and electronics components for as a mainstream platform for low-cost fabrication and packaging of systems on a chip for communications, sensing, medical, energy, and defense applications
3) National security applications
4) Solar power
5) Development of optical sources and imaging tools for increased resolution in manufacturing.
Almost all the subjects listed on the submission topics for the 2013 nonlinear optics meeting are related to the five grand challenges. This is not surprising since nonlinear optics plays such an important role in optics and photonics technology.
For example, optical communication will obviously address the first grand challenge. High intensity lasers can be applied to defense and national security. Frequency combs and optical clocks are related to the advanced photonic measurements presented in chapter 8. The topics of biological applications and nonlinear microscopy and spectroscopy are related to medical imaging in the field of health and medicine, which is described in chapter 6 of the report.
To end, I would like to share a video “Optics in 2012”. One of the featured research pieces is a table top x-ray laser, which becomes a reality through the high harmonic generation process, also a submission topic for NLO 2013.
Video credit: Optics and Photonics News website http://www.osa-opn.org/home/#prettyPhoto