UCF’s Martin Richardson, director of the university’s Townes Laser Institute, spoke Wednesday on Capitol Hill about the future importance of optics and photonics. 

Richardson, a professor of optics and the Northrop Grumman professor of X-ray photonics at UCF, joined other experts from across the country, including U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in describing the need for the nation to take advantage of emerging optical technologies to create new industries and create jobs.

The invitation-only briefing was designed to launch a report, “Optics and Photonics, Essential Technologies for our Nation,” produced by a committee of the National Research Council.

Optics and photonics have transformed many aspects of daily life, in the past decade contributing to a 100-fold increase in the information that can be transmitted from place to place. Significant advancements in communications, energy, health and medicine, and displays for smartphones and television are all attributable to the field.   

The report describes optics and photonics as “one of the key technologies of the 21st century” and recommends that the government set up an integrated national photonics initiative to better coordinate future development.

UCF is home to CREOL, the College of Optics & Photonics, a world-renowned graduate college for optical science and engineering education and research. Others presenting at the hearing were: Greg Olsen, a civilian astronaut on the International Space Station, and entrepreneur-in-residence at Princeton University; and Tom Baer, executive director of the Stanford Photonics Research Center at Stanford University and co-founder of Arcturus Bioscience.

The event was sponsored by the IEEE Photonics Society, SPIE and the American Physical Society.