strengthen optics as a recognized crosscutting area of science and technology through the recently established Coalition for Photonics and Optics. Professional societies should also evaluate optics programs and jointly produce an annual guide to educational programs in optics.
As we peer into the next century, we foresee developments in optics that will change our lives in ways that today we can hardly even contemplate. In almost every major area described in this report, we expect optics to change our world. The future will undoubtedly surprise us, but here is one possible vision:
We imagine the entire world linked together with high-speed fiber-optic communications, as ubiquitous as today's telephone system, made possible by advances in optical materials that enable the mass production of inexpensive, very high-quality optical components and systems. This will result in the growth of very high-speed Internet data and video transmission and other new broadband communications services.
In health care, the development of optical ways to monitor human processes could have an enormous impact on diagnosis and treatment. We dream of a day when people have personal health monitors that can monitor their health cost-effectively and noninvasively by evaluating the optical properties of their blood and tissue. We also foresee a growing impact of optics in many other areas of diagnostic and therapeutic medicine, biomedical research (see photos on page 26), and our quality of life.
Facing a world enveloped in greenhouse gases, we will have to consume energy more wisely. Highly efficient lighting technologies will significantly reduce the energy it takes to illuminate the world. Solar cells will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by making electricity from the light of the sun.
In industry, optical sensors and infrared imagers will make significant inroads into process control for manufacturing and materials processing. Factories will employ optical sensors extensively in the manufacture of everything from textiles to automobiles, and digital cameras will substitute for film in printing and photography. In the electronics industry, which relies on photolithography to create circuit patterns on chips, producing features smaller than 0.1 µm will require optical steppers that use soft x-ray or extreme ultraviolet light; optical components for these machines will have unprecedented optical figure and atom-level surface smoothness.
The battlefield of the future, of which the Gulf War gave us but a glimpse, will see optics used in virtually every aspect of battle, from