US science academy recommends national photonics effort for jobs

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The United States must create a national photonics initiative that brings together public and private partners for investment, according to a report by the country’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Describing photonics as 'critical' if the USA is to take advantage of emerging optical technologies for creating new industries and generating jobs, the Academy cited atomic clocks as an example of how significant photonics can be. Atomic clocks are at the heart of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, which in turn deliver precise timing data for the world’s stock exchanges, wider banking systems including cash machines, and other important infrastructure.

Responding to the report, Optical Society (OSA) chief executive officer Elizabeth Rogan, said: ‘This report lays out a specific vision for how optics and photonics technologies drive innovation and economic growth in areas as diverse as defence, biotechnology, communications and manufacturing... Optics is everywhere – from internet cables and computer chips, to solar panels and LED lighting and displays. It solves problems, enables technological innovation and improves lives.’

The NAS report examined the use of optics and photonics in seven areas. They are, communications, information processing and data storage; defence and national security; energy; health and medicine; advanced manufacturing; and strategic materials. The report also focused on how optics can aid economic growth.