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Optical Microcomb Device May Result in Improved Telecommunications, Sensors, Clocks

06-19-20

Modern telecommunications often makes use of multiple lasers of different colors to transmit data, but a new device the size of a cigarette pack can replace them. A team of researchers from Caltech, UC Santa Barbara, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a new device that will lead to improved optical data transmission and could have applications ranging from communications to the miniaturization of time standards or to the search for exoplanets. Their device converts laser light of a single frequency into an evenly spaced set of many distinct frequencies (a comb of frequencies). The resulting optical frequency microcomb is built from a single piece of silicon, in much the same way as computer chips. And its many colors can replace many separate lasers for data transmission. "The new approach makes the process as easy as switching on a room light," says co-author Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics and executive officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala

Seeing Through Opaque Media

05-12-20

Changhuei Yang, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Medical Engineering, has developed a technique that combines fluorescence and ultrasound to peer through opaque media, such as biological tissue. "We hope that one day this method can be deployed to extend the operating depth of fluorescence microscopy and help image fluorescent labeled cells deep inside living animals," says Yang. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights Changhuei Yang MedE

New Ultrafast Camera Takes 70 Trillion Pictures Per Second

05-04-20

A new camera developed by Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, is capable of taking as many as 70 trillion frames per second. The camera technology, which Wang calls compressed ultrafast spectral photography (CUSP), combines a laser that emits extremely short pulses of laser light that last only one quadrillionth of a second (one femtosecond) with optics and a specialized type of camera. The technology could open up new avenues of research in fields that include fundamental physics, next-generation semiconductor miniaturization, and the life sciences. "We envision applications in a rich variety of extremely fast phenomena, such as ultrashort light propagation, wave propagation, nuclear fusion, photon transport in clouds and biological tissues, and fluorescent decay of biomolecules, among other things," Wang says. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang

Professor Victoria Orphan Named Member of AAAS

04-24-20

Victoria J. Orphan, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology and the director of the Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI), has been honored as a new member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS). Orphan focuses on communities of microbial life involved in the cycling of elements such as sulfur, carbon, and nitrogen. She has spent decades studying the partnership of a species of bacteria and a species of archaea that live within deep-sea methane seeps in what is called a consortia, a kind of symbiotic aggregate of multiple species. [Caltech story]

Tags: honors ESE Victoria Orphan

Electronic Skin Fully Powered by Sweat Can Monitor Health

04-23-20

One of the ways we experience the world around us is through our skin. From sensing temperature and pressure to pleasure or pain, the many nerve endings in our skin tell us a great deal. Our skin can also tell the outside world a great deal about us as well. Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering has developed an electronic skin, or e-skin, that is applied directly on top of your real skin. "We want this system to be a platform," he says. "In addition to being a wearable biosensor, this can be a human–machine interface. The vital signs and molecular information collected using this platform could be used to design and optimize next-generation prosthetics." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE Wei Gao

International Alliance of Universities Addressing Climate Change

04-09-20

Caltech has joined dozens of universities around the globe in launching the International Universities Climate Alliance (IUCA). The alliance is a network of fourty universities in eighteen countries, each with different strengths in analyzing and addressing climate change. "The IUCA hopes to be a resource to governments and other stakeholders that provides an independent and respected international voice on matters related to climate science, impacts, mitigation, and adaptation," says Andrew Thompson, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Andrew Thompson

New Superconducting Film Resists a Magnet's Power to Thwart It

04-02-20

To Professor Joseph Falson, electrons are like exotic supercars and his lab wants to build the racetrack. In Falson's analogy, he likens that to driving the supercar down a cobblestone street that limits its speed. "Our job is not to make the supercar, it's just to make the highway," he says. The problem for those who seek to study superconductivity and eventually make practical use of it is that, so far, it has been realized only at ultracold temperatures no warmer than -70 degrees Celsius. "There is a very strong push to realize room-temperature superconductivity—it is one of the holy grails of science," Falson says, "because then you are going to employ these materials in motors or transmission lines, and the loss would be significantly less. It would revolutionize society." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Joseph Falson

Tiny Optical Cavity Could Make Quantum Networks Possible

03-31-20

Professor Andrei Faraon and team have shown that atoms in optical cavities—tiny boxes for light—could be foundational to the creation of a quantum internet. They identified a rare-earth ytterbium ion in the center of a beam. The ytterbium ions are able to store information in their spin for 30 milliseconds. In this time, light could transmit information to travel across the continental United States. "It's a rare-earth ion that absorbs and emits photons in exactly the way we'd need to create a quantum network," says Faraon. "This could form the backbone technology for the quantum internet." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights Andrei Faraon Andrei Ruskuc Jake Rochman John Bartholomew Yan Qi Huan

New Chip-Based Laser Gyroscope Measures Earth's Rotation

03-05-20

Optical gyroscopes are used in applications such as aircraft navigation systems, while MEMS gyroscopes are found in devices like smart phones. Professor Kerry J. Vahala has developed an optical gyroscope that combines some of the best characteristics of each into one device. "For more than 20 years, researchers have speculated about placing optical gyroscopes onto a chip very much like the highly successful MEMS gyroscopes. But until recently, there have been very few compelling experiments," Vahala says. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala IST

Microstructures Self-Assemble into New Materials

03-03-20

A new process developed at Caltech makes it possible for the first time to manufacture large quantities of materials whose structure is designed at a nanometer scale—the size of DNA's double helix. Pioneered by Professor Julia R. Greer, "nanoarchitected materials" exhibit unusual, often surprising properties—for example, exceptionally lightweight ceramics that spring back to their original shape, like a sponge, after being compressed. Now, a team of engineers at Caltech and ETH Zurich have developed a material that is designed at the nanoscale but assembles itself—with no need for the precision laser assembly. "We couldn't 3-D print this much nanoarchitected material even in a month; instead we're able to grow it in a matter of hours," says Carlos M. Portela, Postdoctoral Scholar. "It is exciting to see our computationally designed optimal nanoscale architectures being realized experimentally in the lab," says Dennis M. Kochmann, Visiting Associate. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Julia Greer Dennis Kochmann Carlos Portela