John M. Rowell
This study of superconducting electronics (SCE) in Japan grew out of continuing U.S. interest in understanding Japan's strengths and progress in this field since a 1989 study of superconductivity (Dresselhaus 1989) was conducted by the Japanese (now the World) Technology Evaluation Center (JTEC/WTEC). WTEC assembled the present SCE panel in late 1996 under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The primary objectives of this panel were to study R&D activities in Japan in the areas of radio frequency (rf) and microwave applications of passive devices, although an attempt was made to examine the full spectrum of superconducting electronics activity.
In addition, the SCE panel wished to gauge Japan's response to an almost frenetic U.S. push towards commercialization of rf applications. Four small U.S. companies (Conductus, ISC, SCT, and STI) have staked their future on the wireless communications market, and DARPA has emphasized this application by funding relevant research at some of those companies and at other laboratories. Progress in the two years prior to this study was dramatic: complete hybrid systems with HTS filters and low noise semiconductor amplifiers, integrated with a compact refrigerator, are now being used to carry cellular telephone calls in a number of base stations. However, markets have not fully materialized, and U.S. funding sources have limited time horizons, so Japan's relative ability to compete in these markets is of great consequence.
Finally, this panel has taken a particular interest in the styles and impacts of the various R&D consortia in Japan and the degree of collaboration between them, as they represent a large fraction of the activity in superconducting electronics.