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Posted: March 27, 2009

OIDA urges the strengthening of the U.S. optoelectronics industry

(Nanowerk News) Michael Lebby, president of OIDA, testified Tuesday at a Congressional hearing on China's Industrial Policy and Its Impact on U.S. Companies, Workers and the American Economy. Chaired by Commissioners Patrick A. Mulloy and Daniel M. Slane, Lebby offered OIDA's perspective on the panel discussing China's Nanotechnology and Optoelectronics Industries.
Lebby outlined a number of approaches needed to strengthen the U.S. optoelectronics (OE) industry and listed the areas in optoelectronics that need focus and support to generate, maintain, and retain skill jobs in the U.S. OIDA members comprise U.S. based entrepreneurial start-ups, pre-IPO, public, and trans-national corporations -- the majority of which use Asian, predominantly Chinese, manufacturing for packaging and assembly in their optoelectronic product lines. According to Lebby, "OIDA received input from over 300 industry leaders on issues related to Chinese industrial policy and its effect on our industry. This input significantly increased the value of the OIDA testimony to the Commission."
OIDA's position included several recommendations to strengthen the U.S. optoelectronics industry including direct, focused optoelectronics government support through existing agencies. Lebby noted that commercial R&D in optoelectronics has waned significantly over the last two decades, creating a huge chasm in commercial, industrial optoelectronics research. "It's simply missing, gone; we just don't do it anymore--the chain is broken," he said.
Lebby explained that OIDA members stress the importance of commercial, industrial, optoelectronics research and development, which takes new concepts from academia and turns them into products. Lebby noted, "If our government agencies implement focused optoelectronics programs that allow our fledging optoelectronics industry to take the great academic ideas and turn them into products, we can design our next generation products and even create efficient manufacturing plants here in the U.S." Lebby went on to cite two examples, "Our leading optoelectronics companies are struggling to keep their chip fabrication manufacturing plants here in the U.S. as the design and IP is complex. With focused programs, we can grow this competence through photonics foundries."
"As an example," he continued, "if we decide to focus on organic light emitting diodes (which will be universal in the next decade for displays, photovoltaics, and lighting), we can manufacture these organic devices, not as Asia does on glass panels, but on roll-to-roll technologies - just like newspapers. With innovation and focused investment by our government, we can manufacture here in the U.S. and grow skilled jobs in our industry."
Lebby detailed 10 areas in optoelectronics in which existing government agencies could create focused commercial research programs that would strengthen the U.S. optoelectronics industry, all within the agencies' current charters:
a) Communications: The implementation of a true high-speed internet infrastructure (1 terabit per second in the core backbone of the network, and 1 gigabit per second to the home) will require government-sponsored programs that help develop the optoelectronics infrastructure of components, modules, subsystems, and fiber.
b) Displays: Although glass-based flat panel manufacturing takes place almost exclusively in Asia, the U.S. can establish a dominant position in roll-to-roll manufacturing of flexible displays based on organic light emitting diode technology. Large companies like Kodak and 3M have the requisite expertise to innovate and manufacture in roll-to-roll processing, but the technical risks are still high. Numerous U.S. start-ups are leaders in this area.
c) Computation: Future processors and multi-core silicon integrated circuit engines will need optoelectronics to support chip-to-chip and intra chip interconnect technology. The U.S. must invest in next-generation communication for computer processors.
d) Solid State Lighting: Accelerate investment in industry-driven R&D in high brightness light emitting diodes. This includes advanced materials systems, manufacturing equipment infrastructure, and device efficiency. For example, set a goal to advance the state-of-the-art by increasing the wafer size from 2 inches to 8 inches.
e) Optoelectronics Devices: Invest in photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology based on both silicon and indium phosphide. PIC devices will transform optoelectronics just as the integrated circuit (IC) transformed semiconductor technology 50 years ago. For PICs, Moore's law(1), made famous by the semiconductor industry, is just beginning.
f) Image Sensors: Invest in integrating silicon image sensors with IC technologies, leading to advanced imaging capability for defense and medicine.
g) Biophotonics: Support multi-disciplinary projects that promote better communication and innovation among the optoelectronics, biological, and medical communities. Foster commercial innovation by supporting optoelectronics R&D for medical and healthcare applications.
h) Defense: Optoelectronics technology increasingly provides the performance edge in defense and avionics applications. DoD needs a trusted, U.S.-based source of photonic devices. A photonics foundry that develops modeling tools and validated common processes will ensure viable U.S. sources.
i) Solar Photovoltaics: Like displays, photovoltaic technology will benefit from innovations in roll-to-roll processing. The U.S. can capture leadership in this important and growing market and through it, the alternative energy market.
j) "Green" Photonics Technology: Optoelectronics components will drive energy efficiency improvements in a wide range of applications, such as monitoring - sensors in oil wells, automobile engines, wind turbine blades, generation - solar cells and conservation - solid-state lighting. OIDA's market research forecasts that by 2020, green photonics applications will account for 54% of the optoelectronics components market. This inter-disciplinary area is highly appropriate for government-led investment.
About OIDA
OIDA is a Washington DC-based, non-profit association that promotes optoelectronics. OIDA members include the leading providers of optoelectronic components and systems enabled by optoelectronics, as well as universities and research institutions. OIDA serves as the voice of industry to government and academia, acts as liaison with other industry associations worldwide, and provides a network for the exchange of ideas and information within the optoelectronics community.
Source: OIDA
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