5. How can the U.S. optics and photonics community develop optical sources and imaging tools to support an order of magnitude or more of increased resolution in manufacturing?

Meeting this grand challenge could facilitate a decrease in design rules for lithography, as well as providing the ability to do closed-loop, automated manufacturing of optical elements in three dimensions. Extreme ultraviolet (EUV) is a challenging technology to develop, but it is needed in order to meet future lithography needs. The next step beyond EUV is to move to soft x rays. Also, the limitations in three-dimensional resolution on laser sintering for three-dimensional manufacturing are based on the wavelength of the lasers used. Shorter wavelengths will move the state of the art to allow more precise additive manufacturing that could eventually lead to three-dimensional printing of optical elements.

The committee believes that these five grand challenges are the top priorities in their respective application areas, and that because of their diverse nature, further prioritization among them is not advisable. These grand challenge questions are discussed in the main text immediately after the first key recommendation that supports the challenge and are drawn from the findings and recommendations throughout the report. They are discussed in the chapter in which they first appear, and occasionally in succeeding chapters.


This report is divided into chapters based on application areas, with crosscutting chapters addressing the impact of photonics on the national economy, advanced manufacturing, and strategic materials. Following an introductory Chapter 1, Chapter 2 discusses the impacts of photonics technologies on the U.S. economy.

Chapters 3 through 10 each cover a particular area of technological application. As mentioned, the discussion of each application area typically begins with a review of updates in the state of the science since the publication of the NRC’s report Harnessing Light, as well as the technological opportunities that have arisen from recent advances in and potential applications of optical science and engineering. Included are recommended actions for the development and maintenance of global leadership in the photonics-driven industry, including both near-term and long-range goals, likely participants, and responsible agents of change. As relevant to their respective topics, the chapters assess the current state of optical science and engineering in the United States and abroad, including trends in private and public research, market needs, examples of translating progress in photonics innovation into global competitive advantage (including activities by small businesses), workforce needs, manufacturing infrastructure, and the impact of photonics on the national economy.

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