Key Recommendation: The U.S. defense and intelligence agencies should fund the development of optical technologies to support future optical systems capable of wide-area surveillance, exquisite long-range object identification, high-bandwidth free-space laser communication, “speed-of-light” laser strike, and defense against both missile seekers and ballistic missiles. Practical application for these purposes would require the deployment of low-cost platforms supporting long dwell times.

These combined functions will leverage the advances that have been made in high-powered lasers, multi-function sensors, optical aperture scaling, and algorithms that exploit new sensor capabilities, by bringing the developments together synergistically. These areas have been pursued primarily as separate technical fields, but it is recommended that they be pursued together to gain synergy. One method of maintaining this coordination could include reviewing the coordination efforts among agencies on a regular basis.

Chapter 5: Energy

Chapter 5 deals with optics and photonics in the energy area. Both the generation of energy and the efficient use of energy are discussed in terms of critical national needs. Photonics can provide renewable solar energy, while solid-state lighting can help reduce the overall need for energy used for lighting.

Key Recommendation: The Department of Energy (DOE) should develop a plan for grid parity across the United States by 2020.

“Grid parity” is defined here as the situation in which any power source is no more expensive to use than power from the electric grid. Solar power electric plants should be as cheap, without subsidies, as alternatives. It is understood that this will be more difficult in New England than in the southwestern United States, but the DOE should strive for grid parity in both locations.

Even though significant progress is being made toward reducing the cost of solar energy, it is important that the United States bring the cost of solar energy down to the price of other current alternatives without subsidy and maintains a significant U.S. role in developing and manufacturing solar energy alternatives. There is a need not only for affordable renewable energy but also for creating jobs in the United States. A focus in this area can contribute to both. Lowering the cost of solar cell technology will involve both technology and manufacturing advances.

Solid-state lighting can also contribute to energy security in the United States.

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