Nearly every designer in the 21st Century will be working in some way with light. That's the implication of a study by the Committee on Optical Science and Engineering of the National Research Council. "We are beginning to see the fruits of the scientific discoveries of the last three or four decades," the committee's report says. It predicts major increases in the use of light-related technologies in fields of communication, medicine, defense, research, energy, and manufacturing. The report envisions the following: The entire world will be linked with high-speed fiber-optic communications. People will have personal monitors that will keep tabs of their health non-invasively by evaluating the optical properties of their blood and tissue. Solar cells will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Factories will be crammed with optical sensors and infrared imagers. Behind the predicted explosion in optical engineering are advances in optical materials from glasses to polymers to metals. The increased knowledge enables mass production of inexpensive, high-quality optic components and systems.
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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