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Chris C.
Democrat DE

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  • The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies

    by Senator Christopher A. Coons

    Posted on 2015-12-17

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    COONS. Mr. President, as the year comes to a close, I would like to highlight a proclamation from the U.N. General Assembly recognizing 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies. This global initiative is aimed at raising awareness of the vital role of light in our daily lives and its importance to 21st century technology and innovation. For centuries, light has transcended all boundaries from geography and gender, to age, culture, and race.

    For centuries, light-based technologies have provided solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, agriculture, telecommunications, security, and health. To start, light has revolutionized medicine through technologies such as x ray imaging, laser surgery, and cancer treatments. Light has transformed international communication via the Internet, a tool we cannot imagine living without today. It has helped us improve safety through sensors in cars and aircraft, advanced infrastructure monitoring, and weather prediction. Furthermore, light has helped millions around the globe work, study, and play after dark through low-cost and sustainable light sources for families who do not have access to grid electricity. From agriculture to forensics to virtual reality, light and light-based technologies continue to fuel innovations and improvements that touch nearly every aspect of lives around the world.

    In fact, the science of light is becoming increasingly critical in growing our economy and keeping American manufacturing competitive on a global scale. The contribution of light-based technologies to our economy starts with fundamental optics and photonics education and research. Look no further than the work being done in my home State at Delaware State University's Optical Science Center for Applied Research, OSCAR, where researchers are developing new detectors for night vision technologies, methods for determining the composition of complex materials, and technologies with applications in space exploration, to name just a few. These economic contributions continue with investments in manufacturing to increase the development and production of new optics and photonics applications and technologies, a market that supports more than 7.4 million jobs and $3 trillion in annual revenue in the United States.

    The transformative value of light-based technologies was reaffirmed earlier this summer with the establishment of the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics, AIM Photonics, as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. Continued investment in public-private partnerships like AIM Photonics accelerates research and development that leads to technologies like integrated photonic components and circuits. This vital work helps ensure that breakthroughs in related fields like biophotonics, high-resolution imaging, next generation wireless communications, and quantum computing will not only occur, but also be built right here in America.

    The International Year of Light is also a real opportunity to provide the general public with a better understanding of the science of light; promote STEM education; and inspire the next generation of scientists, researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. This past year, optics and photonics organizations have held events around the United States such as the Light for a Better World symposium held in September in Washington, DC, that featured two Nobel prize winners as keynote speakers, Dr. Eric Betzig and Dr. Shuji Nakamura. In October, the University of Delaware also hosted Green Light: Prospects in Lighting Design and Technology, which brought together artists and scientists from around the world, while other groups across the country have hosted similar symposia through local sections and student chapters of organizations. Events such as these provide public outreach on the importance of optics and photonics, promote youth interest and engagement in science, and educate us all on the crucial role that light-based technologies play in the U.S. economy and in everyday life.

    Events like these have been happening not just here in the United States, but all over the world throughout 2015. Across the globe, events have been organized to learn more about the science of light and to celebrate the innovation and imagination that has fueled incredible discoveries and inventions. The storied history of innovation in light dates back to the first studies of optics 1,000 years ago and continues today with breakthroughs in the field of optical communications.

    These activities would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of people in the optics and photonics field, both in industry and in academia. This includes the optics and photonics based societies and organizations that have sponsored the initiative, including the Optical Society, the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the European Physical Society, the German Physical Society, the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics, the IEEE Photonics Society, the Institute of Physics, Light: Science and Applications, Lightsources.org, 1001 Inventions, and the International Society for Optics and Photonics. In fact, the International Year of Light has been endorsed by the International Council of Science, as well as several international scientific unions and professional societies, and has more than 100 partners from over 85 countries.

    By highlighting the critical role light plays in our everyday lives and its unique potential to improve the world in ways we cannot yet imagine, celebrating the International Year of Light provides a valuable opportunity to inspire, educate, and connect all of those who are fighting to make the world even brighter. From scientific societies to educational institutions to trade groups, from nonprofit organizations to private sector partners, the global community has recognized 2015 as the International Year of Light not only to commemorate achievements past, but also to set the stage for technologies of the future.


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