SEATTLE, May 8 -- The total investment in University of Washington (UW) photonics research could exceed $100 million in the next ten years, said Larry Dalton, a chemistry professor who is the director and lead scientist for the university's Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research.
The National Science Foundation said last week it has tentatively chosen UW to host one of six new science and technology centers. The Center for Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research likely would receive $16 million in NSF funding in the next five years and could receive more than twice that amount over 10 years. With the NSF award, along with recent grants from other federal agencies and a substantial investment from private industry, the total investment in UW photonics research could exceed $100 million over the next decade, Dalton said. NSF officials said they will work out specific details of the awards during the next several months.
Dalton, a leader in the field of photonics, is best known for developing polymers that serve as electro-optic modulators and switches, or "opto-chips." They are microscopic devices that can translate electronic signals such as television, computer, telephone and radar into light signals at rates up to 10 times faster than the current fastest speeds. Once translated from electrical to optical format, the information can be transmitted at light speed using fiber optic systems.
Dalton’s advances in photonics already have led to the creation of a Bothell-based company called Lumera Corp., a subsidiary of Microvision Inc., and have brought new UW faculty working in the area of photonics. Research by the academic participants in the new NSF center has stimulated the creation of a dozen companies in the last several years.
"The technology under research in this center is revolutionary and it is already affecting thinking at corporations around the world, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Corning and Lucent," Dalton said. A center similar to the new NSF center has been established in Europe, and it is exploring a partnership with the UW-based center, he said.