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Photonics Institute Result Of Years Of Effort, Challenges Outlined Three Years Ago


Proponents of the optics and photonics institute that Vice President Joe Biden will formally announce during a visit to Rochester Mondayhave been working for years to achieve this result.

They can be forgiven then, if they sometimes get into the weeds when it comes to explaining what optics and photonics are all about. So here's a quick elevator speech to help.

Optic and photonics technologies drive computer and smartphone displays and are used in virtually every sector including medical research, engineering, aerospace and the automotive industry.

(Watch the great video explainer after the jump.)

With about 100 optics companies in and around Rochester, the city is known as the nation’s capital of all things light.

Back on September 9th, 2012 a gathering of stakeholders from the optics and photonics industryin Rochester said that the region was at risk of 'missing the boat'.

At that time, a new report "Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation"outlined the argument for a National Photonics Initiative. It found that "Photonics is a key enabling technology with broad applications in numerous sectors of the U.S. economy" but that the dynamics of the industry were not being well tracked by the U.S. Government agencies that do that sort of thing. 

Defense contracts will be a cornerstone.

That same document outlined the grand challenges for the new optics and photonics institute announced on Monday.

  1. Develop a seamless integration of photonics and electronics components, as a mainstream platform for low cost fabrication and packaging of systems on a chip for communications, sensing, medical, energy & defense.
  2. Develop military platforms capable of wide area surveillance, exquisite object identification, high-bandwidth free-space communication, laser strike, and defense against missiles.
  3. Develop optical sources & imaging tools, to support an order of magnitude increased resolution in manufacturing.
  4. Invent technologies for the next factor of 100 cost-effective capacity increases in our optical networks. 

The origins of those recommendations go back to initial research commissioned by the U.S. Congress in 1998 that was released under the banner of " Harnessing Light".

“We have such a concentration of optics in Rochester,” said Michael Naselaris the general manager of Sydor Optics in an Innovation Trail reportfrom October 2010. "So this is like (a) mecca for the U.S. optics community.”

As reported by the Innovation Trail in 2013, optics upstate companies like ITT Exellis have continued to work on high value optics with applications in fields like nuclear testing and alternative energy.


Credit Matthew Leonard/WXXI
Members of the New York Photonics & Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster meeting in 2012 to hear about the push for a National Photonics Initiative.