The WTEC panel's overall assessment is that U.S. firms are approximately 2 years ahead of the Japanese teams in developing HTS subsystems for wireless markets. Many elements must be combined to successfully insert a new technology, especially in a highly competitive international market such as wireless communication. Figure 4.4 attempts to capture the relative strengths of the superconductive wireless efforts in the United States and Japan.

Fig. 4.4. Schematic representation of critical elements required for practical, high-performance, cryoeletronic microwave systems.

The WTEC panel consistently found the Japanese to be deliberate and diligent in the underlying materials science, characterization, and synthesis of HTS films. Their laboratory facilities are very well equipped with diagnostic tools. U.S. firms, however, have concentrated on scaling up the film deposition to larger areas and higher volumes and on preparing films with high power-handling capability. The two countries are equivalent in the availability of microwave semiconductor circuits with which to combine the HTS components. In all other areas, the United States appears to lead. This is consistent with the findings of the 1989 JTEC assessment. There was, at that time, no coordinated activity in superconductive microwave electronics in Japan, whereas the United States was already demonstrating a variety of analog circuits. The HTSSE program, especially, spurred the early development of microwave components and subsystems in the United States. Much of that expertise is now focused on the development of HTS for wireless applications.

Today it is still difficult to identify an overriding application theme for HTS electronics research in Japan. It appeared in 1989, as it does now, that many Japanese laboratories are willing to make long-term commitments to thin film research, and are tolerant of a long development cycle, even without tight coupling to potential explicit applications. The most distinguishing feature of the Japanese efforts relative to U.S. efforts in HTS electronics at the time of the first JTEC study was a strong commitment to materials synthesis projects even in the absence of short-term device or application goals. ISTEC and the wireless teams are now responding to, but are not driven by, application goals. The horizon of 5 or more years in Japan is a very long view. It is not typical of the U.S. R&D environment today and certainly is not the vision in the venture-backed U.S. firms, which need volume market penetration within 1-2 years.

Published: July 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian