The National Photonics Initiative (NPI) attracted a full house of over 100 attendees,
to The Optical Society of Southern California‘s (OSSC) first meeting of the 2014 - 15 term. The most attended meeting to date embodied the enthusiasm for the initiative not only in number, but also in diversity of attendees. Nicolaus Lambert, V. P. of Engineering at Precision Optical, welcomed members of the optics and photonics industry, scientists, students, and local elected government officials to a meeting truly celebrating “the power of the photon.”
Special guest Congressman Dana Rohrabacher expressed his support for the initiative, highlighting the importance of the industry and its basis here in the United States. Rohrabacher praised Precision Optical as a prime example of the numerous family-owned, quality optics and photonics businesses located in Southern California. Rohrabacher said, “The Lamberts have risked the standard of living of their family to develop this wonderful system here, that develops the highest precision optical elements that make this world safer; and it is so important to the well-being of our country”.
During the panel discussion, led by moderator and OSSC Fellow & Past President Donn Silberman, members of the NPI Steering Committee delivered a thorough review of the initiative’s focus in five main areas of highest economic impact, their significance in our daily lives, and many examples of the field’s latest cutting edge developments.
Dr. Thomas Baer, Executive Director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center and Chair of the NPI Steering Committee, began the discussion with a general overview of the project. “Collaborative alliances bringing together industry, academia, and government to educate the federal government primarily and the US population as a whole about the important role photonics plays in maintaining U.S. competitiveness and enhancing national security,” says Baer. He went on to outline the five areas of focus, namely IT and telecommunications, energy and environment, advanced manufacturing, defense and homeland security, and biomedicine.
NPI co-Chair and SPIE Vice President Dr. Robert Lieberman, brought the spotlight to the area of energy and environment, detailing the role of various sensors and sensing technologies at each and every stage of fossil fuel production, the primary source of energy in the world. Lieberman said, “One of the really interesting frontiers of optical sensor technology is putting optical sensors into internal combustion engines [...] and soon will be moving into automotive applications. A 1% improvement in the efficiency of the combustion of fossil fuels would result in $10B savings just in this country alone.”
Gary Spiegel, the SPIE Secretary and Treasurer and former EVP of Newport, Corp., has been in the optics industry for almost 40 years and drew attention to the dire need for public awareness and education of even basic understandings of the science involved in this exponentially growing field. Spiegel said, “Just because we put a name to something like photonics or the International Year of Light isn’t going to get it done. We have to find innovative ways to get our children and grandchildren involved in understanding why it’s important...” Spiegel also said, “70% of every semi-conductor chip is made using a lasers that are made in Southern California.”
Prof. Bruce Tromberg from The UC Irvine Beckman Laser Institute added remarkable discussions, images and movies of many medical advancements being made because of photonics. Tromberg sees photonics as “the most important technology in bio and medicine” saying, “[imaging beyond the diffraction limit is] a standard approach and has led to many beautiful discoveries in biology; things that have never been seen before at the sub-cellular level that we really didn’t imagine we could see in living systems.”
In one of the highest concentrations of optics research and industry in the nation, member of the optics and photonics community of Southern California demonstrated the region’s vital role and dedication to The NPI’s mission.
More details, video clips, photos will be available online at www.ossc.org
Content of this press release by Julia Majors, UC Irvine Physics & SPIE Press