unit of energy.60 Because the precision resulting from counting increases with the count rate, the ability to count photons at a high rate would spawn new metrological applications of light.
Although many advances that originated in the United States address optical manufacturing capabilities, there is almost no high-volume manufacturing of sensors and imagers within the United States. However, the proliferation of devices developed for consumer products presents a significant marketing opportunity. Many niche sensor markets could not be addressed without the capabilities enabled by these devices. One example is in biomedical sensing. There are capabilities in microscope systems costing more than $400,000 that could be partially addressed in a small device costing less than $10,000 that leverages capabilities provided by high-volume consumer device components. Because the resulting sales could be about 1,000 per year, these markets would not be efficiently addressed by a large microscope manufacturer. However, a small company could profitably address such a market. These niche markets rely on moving research advances into the market efficiently while exploiting the capabilities of components developed and priced for high-volume markets. A small company could keep most of the created jobs within the United States by leveraging the manufacture of low-cost devices that have steadily moved overseas. To address this market opportunity efficiently, an efficient coupling between basic and applied research in optics- and photonics-related technologies with industrial application partners is critical. An efficient partnership in this field could significantly add to U.S.-based jobs at all levels.
For many years, the United States has benefited from a leadership position in research in optics and photonics. However, the research capabilities of many countries have been steadily improving, and the gap is rapidly narrowing. As discussed earlier, several advances over the last decade have hastened that narrowing, and cutting-edge measurement capabilities are now available to a much broader set of researchers. While continued research in fundamental optical sciences will be critical in maintaining a leadership position, it will also be critical for the U.S. economy to move those advances into the market efficiently to capture the financial benefit of generated intellectual property. Although high-volume manufacturing is not typically done within the United States, there is a significant market opportunity
60 Migdall, A. 1999. Correlated photon metrology without absolute standards. Physics Today 52:41-46.