sources of light to illuminate our surroundings and in the use of optics and lasers for development of new energy sources. For example, new lighting sources are being developed that may reduce U.S. energy consumption by tens of billions of dollars per year, and new laser-based nuclear fusion power plants and mass-produced photovoltaic solar cells are being studied for long-range potential as cheap power in the next century.
This chapter presents a synopsis of recent advances in optical sensing instruments and techniques, lighting, and energy. The emphasis is on new or revolutionary optical technologies that are expected to significantly impact the future growth and well-being of our society. As such, technical areas of lighting, energy, and optical sensors that either are mature or are not expected to grow dramatically are not covered in as much depth. Although the topics include a rather broad range of optical fields, they are centered primarily on the generation of light (new lighting sources), the conversion of light to energy (solar cells and laser fusion research), and the use of optical and imaging sensors for the measurement and detection of a wide range of physical and chemical parameters (night vision scopes, video cameras, gas vapor sensors, traffic laser radars, bar-code scanners). The topics covered have been divided into four subsections: (1) optical sensors and imaging systems, with application in the environment, global imaging, astronomy, industrial/chemical sensing, video cameras, law enforcement and security, common optical sensors, and scanners; (2) lighting, including new light sources, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and the use of lasers in entertainment; (3) applications of optics and lighting in transportation, including autos and aircraft; and (4) energy applications, including laser fusion, laser isotope separation, and solar cells. The role that advances in materials have played in many of these fields is also addressed, because the development of new optical materials is often the key factor enabling progress (Box 3.1).
Overall, this study finds that the areas of optical sensing, lighting, and energy account for sales, research, and development of about $19 billion per year in the United States. This figure includes about $3.5 billion for optical sensors and imaging instruments, $12 billion for lighting fixtures and lamps, $400 million for light-related energy research and solar cell production, and $2 billion for the use of optics in cars and airplanes. The total world market is estimated to be two to three times as large. Some of these applications have a great impact on other markets and represent key or enabling technologies. For example, the efficiency of lamps has a direct impact on the $40 billion that is spent each year in the United States on electricity for lighting. As such, a 50% change in lighting efficiency can have a $20 billion impact on the U.S. economy and an even larger impact on worldwide energy demand,