Photonics makes laser-guided weapons more accurate, provides lasers for critical missile defense capabilities and permits personalized use of flexible display technology, which allows our men and women in uniform to remain informed and safe during operations with night vision, GPS and physiological feedback. Coordinated investment and associated technology development in remote sensing, photonic integrated circuit manufacturing, advanced lasers and cyber security will ensure future military and economic security.
Photonics-based health care tools offer sensitivity, precision, speed, and accuracy, which enable rapid diagnosis and effective therapy — key ingredients for high-quality, cost-effective care. Further investment in bio photonics will result in smaller, more portable, automated, point-of-care diagnostic devices that have the potential to improve outcomes and the ability to reach patients who, because of location, income or other factors, lack access to health care.
Renewable energy technologies are especially attractive since most energy sources depend on fossil fuels, a limited resource that can be dangerous to extract and harmful to the environment. The oil and gas industry, for example, increasingly uses optical systems to monitor wells, thereby increasing production and mitigating risks. Additionally, solid-state lighting, such as LEDs, developed through photonics research, could cut US lighting electricity usage by about 45 percent by 2030, with forecasted energy savings of $30 billion dollars at today’s energy costs and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 40 million cars.
Global demand for new energy sources represents a significant growth opportunity for US manufacturers and producers. US companies will need continued research and development investments and structural support to lead the world into a clean, secure, efficient energy future.
Additive manufacturing allows machines to make a range of customized products directly from electronically transmitted designs, saving costly material in the process. These advanced printers, which US President Barack Obama called the future of manufacturing, can create objects ranging from prosthetic limbs and functional human tissue to jet engine parts and shoes. While the United States may struggle to compete successfully in high-volume, labor-intensive, low-cost manufacturing, our nation can be a strong competitor in custom, precision and high added-value manufacturing.
Without improvements to address the cost, power consumption, data rate and size, demand will outstrip capacity, which may lead to higher costs and possibly even constrain the greater US and global economy. Those countries that invest in solving these challenges will gain a sizeable national security advantage by advancing the infrastructure that enables our Internet-based economy.