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Scientific Research: Opening the Door to the Future
Chapter 4 Domestic and Overseas Trends in Scientific Research
Section 2: Trends in Individual Research Fields
6. Electrical Engineering

Research based on quantum effects has yielded numerous advances, including physical research into the behavior of electrons in ultramicroscopic structures, the development of applications like semiconductor lasers and other optical devices, and improvements in the performance of electronic devices. The focus now is on achieving clearer quantum effects through an improved understanding of low-level quantum effects and on using this knowledge in high-performance electronic devices. New areas, such as single-electron devices and electron wave devices, may be opened up in relation to the technologies of semiconductor microprocessing and crystal-growing, which are essential to the creation of quantum structures.

Japan leads the world in optoelectronic engineering. Continuous oscillation of surface emitting laser diodes at normal temperatures has been achieved, and efforts are now focused on developing applications, such as fiber-optic communications, high-speed parallel processing, and optical interconnections, Intensive research has also been devoted to large-capacity data storage devices, such as optical disks and magnetic recording media, and commercial products based on this technology are already in wide use.

A new field known as "organic electronics" has been established, and applications, based primarily on thin-film formation technology, are being developed in such areas as control of the electrical and optical characteristics of organic molecules, as well as sensors and other electronic devices. Research relating to the development of circuits for semiconductor devices and invertors (frequency conversion systems) for use in electric power applications is meanwhile contributing to the efficient utilization of electrical energy.

Japanese research is producing highly sophisticated advances in the field of superconducting oxides. The priority in this area is the development of devices and application equipment. This work is expected to influence a wide range of other fields in the future.

A priority In accelerator science will be the control of beam instabilities in the B Factory and SPring 8 (a large-scale synchrotron radiation facility). Future research and development goals include the creation of a large-scale hadron collider, a linear collider, a muon collider, and a coherent light source with matched phases. Work in these areas will also involve international cooperation.

There has been considerable research relating to fusion science, or plasma engineering, and nuclear mechanics. Tokamak-type facilities have already been brought to a critical state and are a probable candidate for the development of a practical system. Research on a large-scale helical device (LHD) developed by the National Institute for Fusion Science is meanwhile making a valuable contribution to our overall understanding of the generation and control of steady-state plasmas and the characteristics of torus plasmas. Osaka University's Institute of Laser Engineering has raised the level of compression to 6OO times solid-state density. The results of plasma research are used in the dry processing of semiconductors (microprocessing using gases). In the future, this work is also expected to contribute to advances in the science of complex systems, including nonlinear and nonequilibrium theories.

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