Site:Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI)
Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL)
1-1-4 Umezono, Tsukuba
Ibaraki 305 Japan

Date Visited: November 15, 1994

Report Author: D. B. Keck



D. Keck
S. Esener
G. Saxonhouse


Dr. Hiroyoshi Yajima
Director, Optoelectronics Division
Dr. Takehiko Hidaka
Chief, Optical Information Section, Optoelectronics Division


The Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL) is roughly the equivalent of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), reporting to MITI as NIST does to Department of Commerce. ETL was formed in 1891 under the Ministry of Communications to perform electrical testing. It claims to have developed in 1956 the world's first transistorized electronic computer with a built-in program.

Currently the laboratory concentrates on four major R&D areas: energy, information, standards and measurement, and electronics and bioelectronics technology. The lab's mission has five thrusts: basic research for future science and technology, research important to the government, research that requires neutrality and objectivity, research in interdisciplinary areas, and research requiring a long lead time. The 1993 ETL budget was about $100 million, covering 634 people.

ETL's main output is publications. It is responsible for gathering inputs from industry to plan future activities to be funded by MITI. Industry researchers visit ETL's laboratories to learn a new field -- perhaps 30 people across ETL do this each year.


ETL is organized into 15 divisions, each having about 40 researchers and officers. The divisions are Physical Science, Materials Science, Electron Devices, Supermolecular Science, Metrology Fundamentals, Optoelectronics, Quantum Radiation, Frontier Technology, Energy Fundamentals, Energy Technology, Information Science, Computer Science, Machine Understanding, Intelligent Systems, and Life Electronics Research (Osaka). In addition, there are the General Affairs Division, the International Research Cooperation Office, and the Technical Information Office.

The Optoelectronics Division, headed by Dr. Hiroyoshi Yajima, has about 40 people, 50% of whom have PhDs or are PhD students. The average age is 42-43, with a retirement age of 60. There are four sections of the Optoelectronics Division: Lasers, Photon Process, Optical Information, and Light and Radio Waves. Dr. Takehiko Hidaka heads the Optical Information Section.


In the Laser Section, activities involve soft X-rays and ultra-short wavelengths and pulses. The Photon Process Section is concerned with lasers for material processing. Device research is the major part of the Optical Information Section. The Light and Radio Wave Section, which deals with standards and measurements, is the oldest activity at ETL.

In 1980 MITI started an optoelectronics project in which the research and development of OEICs was a major subject; the Optoelectronics Division led this project. The work was concluded in 1985 but formed the basis for this work in the rest of the world today. With industry support, the Optoelectronics Division's activities spawned the Optoelectronics Technology Research Consortium (OTRC), a consortium of 30 industrial companies, directed by Dr. Hayashi. The OTRC budget has been about $100 million/year, covering about 22-23 researchers, 70% funded by MITI and 30% by industry. There has been some collaboration between OTRC and ETL, but no people have been exchanged. Funding for this consortium was scheduled to end in 1995. It was expected that an administrative shell would be created to deal with intellectual property generated by the OTRC. The consortium was expected to be self-sustaining.

Following the Fifth Generation Computer Initiative, ETL has spurred activities on the Real World Computer program. (This explains why NIST is the U.S. counterpart agency). Dr. Yajima gathered the information regarding appropriate optoelectronics programs and sold the program to MITI. About 10%, or $5 million, of the $50 million RWC budget was planned for optical computing in 1994. The total budget for RWC was expected to be $500 million. The Optoelectronics Division of ETL will receive very little of this for its own budget. Figure ETL.1 shows the currently supported RWC programs on optical computing. For each of the items, the following companies are conducting research:

Currently the Optoelectronics Division is planning for the Femtosecond Project, the objective of which is to do things "very fast," (i.e., in terahertz speeds). To this end, the OE Division organized an international workshop on this topic at the AIST-Tsukuba Research Center for February 1995 to solicit suggestions from industry and academia, both domestically and internationally, regarding the appropriate research programs to be undertaken (see Fig. ETL.2).

ETL representatives expected that the OTRC facility would be used to house whatever programs are conducted in the Femtosecond area. They expect funding for this program to be around $200 million each year over the next 10 years. This workshop was being sponsored by The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the Institute of Research and Innovation (IRI), along with ETL.


Dr. Hidaka very briefly described some of the programs in the optoelectronics division. The division's scientists and engineers are studying both microlenses with spherical gradients for improved imaging, and hollow Ge-glass fibers for 10.6 microns transmission. By using multiple layers to create Bragg waveguides, their theory indicates a 0.1 dB/m loss for 1 mm diameter guides. The actual losses observed to date are 2 to 3 times higher. The researchers are studying an isolator based on Y-branching in a magneto-optic material. Using twin-stripe semiconductor lasers coupled both optically and electrically, they have demonstrated an optical flip-flop. Finally, by controlling injection current in electrodes adjacent to and following the laser cavity electrodes, they can perform a variety of light manipulation functions, including beam scanning and beam focusing. They demonstrated scanning over a 10-degree angle at an unstated resolution. Figure ETL.3 gives additional details regarding these activities.

Fig. ETL.1. Research subjects on optical computing.

Fig. ETL.2. International workshop on femtosecond technology announcement.

Fig. ETL.3. Research in optical information.

Published: February 1996; WTEC Hyper-Librarian