for leveraging high-volume consumer components with research advances to address low-volume markets. Capitalizing these niche markets efficiently could have a significant impact on U.S.-based jobs.
Key Finding: Optics and photonics have been critically important to advances in precision metrology, which has had a significant impact since publication of the NRC’s 1998 study Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century (for example, GPS, communications, and manufacturing). The importance of optics and photonics is now reflected in the adoption of optics-based SI definitions of the second and the meter.
Key Finding: There is a significant opportunity for the U.S. economy to exploit niche sensor markets that leverage consumer components and cutting-edge research applications. One example is in biomedical sensing in which low-volume manufacturing of devices could efficiently be maintained within the United States by leveraging high-volume consumer components, such as the high-resolution networked imagers now almost universally available in the form of cell phone cameras. Exploiting this advanced technology could enable portable and/or remote health monitoring and diagnosis.
Key Finding: Techniques of extreme nonlinear optics that promise table-top, coherent sources of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) and x-ray light have been developed. If this promise becomes real, it will profoundly affect such applications as sub-nanometer-scale lithography and determination of the structure of complex matter (biological proteins, for instance) on the atomic scale, further enabling advances in fields such as optical machining that rely on progressively shorter illumination wavelengths to improve manufacturing tolerances. This increased precision will be important for maintaining advances consistent with Moore’s law of ICs.
Key Finding: The ultimate sensitivity of any advanced photonic measurement and application system is fundamentally tied to the intrinsic photonic granularity of light. Measuring light with single-photon resolution and accuracy at high speeds will therefore improve the performance of such systems tremendously in analogy to how counting cycles of light waves for shorter and shorter wavelengths is paving the way for more accurate and precise measurements of time (first key finding above).
Finding: Precision metrology has improved and become more widely available because of the significant technological advances since the NRC’s Harnessing Light study was published in 1998. One example is octave-spanning optical combs, which