communication systems, magnetic and optical data storage, advanced packaging, and optical interconnection, to name just a few of the key technologies involved.
Progress and international competitiveness in these technologies depend on a strong fundamental science and engineering infrastructure. Advances must be made not only in understanding the underlying phenomena and materials, but also in translating scientific advances into functional products of high performance, high quality, and competitive cost.
Since becoming a commercial reality in the early 1980s, optical fibers have almost completely replaced copper wire in the long-range transmission of data and voice. The data-transmitting capacity of optical fiber systems has doubled every year since 1976, and the optical fiber industry now generates annual revenues of over $2 billion. Sometimes known as photonics, this technology utilizes wavelengths of light that are not absorbed by the glass fiber to transmit signals for telecommunications, data and image transmission, energy transmission, sensing, display, and signal processing. The effective propagation of light along an optical fiber is made possible by a core that has a higher refractive index than the cladding. The core is produced by doping pure glass with oxides of phosphorus, germanium, or aluminum, and the cladding consists of pure silica glass or silica doped with fluorides or boron oxide.