OSA Commends Landmark National Academy of Sciences Report on Enabling Nature of Optics


Lyndsay Meyer
The Optical Society

OSA Commends Landmark National Academy of Sciences Report on Enabling Nature of Optics

Report highlights role of optical science and engineering in technological and economic growth

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2012 – The Optical Society (OSA) today applauded the release of a U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Committee on Harnessing Light report – Optics & Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation – discussing the current state of optical sciences and goals for the future. The study, which is a follow up to a similar report published in 1998, identifies the technological and economic opportunities the science has enabled, assesses trends in market needs, gives examples of where progress in photonics innovation has translated into economic benefits, and makes recommendations for future research and policies that are intended to advance the optics and photonics discipline.

“Optics is everywhere – from internet cables and computer chips, to solar panels and LED lighting and displays, to life-saving medical imaging devices and tools for advanced manufacturing. It solves problems, enables technological innovation and improves lives,” said OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan. “This report lays out a specific vision for how optics and photonics technologies drive innovation and economic growth in areas as diverse as defense, biotechnology, communications, and manufacturing. OSA applauds the committee for their thorough work and forward-looking recommendations in this landmark study.”

Report Highlights

The NAS report examined the use of optics and photonics in seven content areas – communications, information processing and data storage; defense and national security; energy; health and medicine; advanced manufacturing; and strategic materials – focusing on the enabling nature of optics and its role in facilitating economic growth. The authors also made a number of specific recommendations on how the U.S. can best capitalize on the opportunities optics and photonics provides including:

  • Creating a National Photonics Initiative that brings together public and private partners to develop an integrated approach to managing industrial and government investments.
  • Positioning the U.S. as a leader in optical technologies for global data center business, as demand for capacity and faster interconnects grows.
  • Developing new biomedical technologies to improve areas such as immune system cell measurement and pharmaceutical safety and effectiveness.
  • Developing additive manufacturing technology and implementation, enabling a greater capacity for custom manufacturing.
  • Encouraging and supporting small U.S. companies to address market opportunities for applying optics and photonics research advances in order to create jobs.

“This report will serve as a vital tool in making the case for sustained investments in and adoption of optical science and technology worldwide, as it provides specific illustrations of the technological and economic value of optics and photonics in a variety of sectors,” said OSA Public Policy Committee Chair Gregory Quarles of B.E. Meyers & Company. “For example, the report notes that $4.9 billion worth of laser sales enabled $7.5 trillion of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2009 and 2010. These types of statistics reinforce the true worth of optics and photonics technology.”

OSA Events to Discuss Findings

On Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. EDT, OSA, in conjunction with Stanford University, will be hosting a free webcast to discuss the report and celebrate its release. Speakers include the following NAS committee members:

  • Alan Willner, University of Southern California, (co-chair)
  • Tom Baer, Stanford Photonics Research Center
  • David Miller, Stanford University
  • Milton Chang, Incubic Management
  • Edward White, Edward White Consulting

In addition, OSA has partnered with four other scientific societies to host events with U.S. policymakers on Sept. 12, including an event and reception with federal agency staff at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building – featuring U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Former Chairman and CEO of Intel Craig Barrett, and representatives from the NAS committee – and a Congressional briefing for lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill.  Reporters interested in attending the Aug. 21 or Sept. 12 events should contact Sarah Cogan, scogan@osa.org or 202.416.1409.

About OSA

Uniting more than 130,000 professionals from 175 countries, the Optical Society (OSA) brings together the global optics community through its programs and initiatives. Since 1916 OSA has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing educational resources to the scientists, engineers and business leaders who work in the field by promoting the science of light and the advanced technologies made possible by optics and photonics. OSA publications, events, technical groups and programs foster optics knowledge and scientific collaboration among all those with an interest in optics and photonics. For more information, visit www.osa.org.