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Caltech’s Smart Charging Network for Electrical Vehicles

04-24-16

Charging electric vehicles (EVs) can require a substantial amount of electricity (most EVs charge at 7 kilowatts, the equivalent of simultaneously running 70 desktop computers). Steven Low, Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, has developed Caltech's adaptive charging network, which uses a smart algorithm to coordinate the charging schedule with the Institute's existing electrical infrastructure. This program helps minimize energy usage and about 30 percent of the electricity at each charging station is from carbon-free renewable sources. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE energy research highlights CMS Steven Low

Aliso Canyon, Methane, and Global Climate

04-18-16

The Aliso Canyon underground storage facility for natural gas in the San Fernando Valley—the fourth largest of its kind in the United States—had one of its wells blow out on October 23, 2015, leading to a large release of methane. In a recent conversation, Professor Paul Wennberg discusses enormous methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and their troubling implications for global climate. “If we could really knock the methane emissions back to what they were before people started emitting methane, it would be a large change. It would be a half a watt per meter squared. The total global warming would drop by around 25 percent,” Professor Wennberg explains. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg

Using Applied Physics to Explain How Accretion Disks Drive Astrophysical Jets

04-01-16

Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, has developed a new model explaining why astrophysical jets always originate from stars having accretion disks, the progenitors of planets. The relationship between jets and accretion disks has eluded scientists for many years and what happens to the angular momentum of accreting particles has also long been a mystery. Professor Bellan’s model explains how the disks power the jets as well as how angular momentum is removed from accreting material in the disks. The model involves peculiar inward spiraling trajectories of clumps of charged and neutral particles, and shows that the disk and jets together form an electric circuit where the disk is the battery and the jet is the load. [Read the Paper]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Paul Bellan

Graduate Student Wins Best Paper Prize at Flagship Signal Processing Conference

03-23-16

Electrical Engineering graduate student Chun-Lin Liu, working with Professor Vaidyanathan, has received the best paper prize for his paper entitle, “Super-nested arrays: sparse arrays with less mutual coupling than nested arrays". The prize was presented to him at the flagship signal processing conference, the International Conference on Acoustics, Speech, and Signal Processing (ICASSP 2016), attended by over 2000 people. [Read the paper]

Tags: EE honors research highlights P. P. Vaidyanathan Digital Signal Processing Chun-Lin Liu

Seeking a Balanced Equation

03-21-16

Applied Physics graduate student Peter Hung, working with Professor Roukes, is one of the Caltech students featured in a recent E&S article. “In our lab, we shoot molecules of different sizes and shapes at really small mechanical resonators—tiny bridges almost 1,000 times smaller than the width of your hair—and use the change in the resonant frequency (how fast these bridges are vibrating) to reconstruct the shape and mass of the molecules that we’re shooting,” Hung explains. [E&S article]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Michael Roukes Peter Hung

Tiny Diatoms Boast Enormous Strength

02-08-16

Researchers in the lab of Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, have recently found that diatom shells have the highest specific strength—the strength at which a structure breaks with respect to its density—of any known biological material, including bone, antlers, and teeth. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE MCE Julia Greer

Moriah Bischann Wins SURF Speaking Competition

02-04-16

Material science undergraduate student Moriah Bischann, mentored by aerospace postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Owen Kingstedt, is the winner of the Doris S. Perpall Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Speaking Competition. She was recognized as the best speakers-out of the 200 students who presented their SURF research. Her summer research focused on exploring the next generation of structural materials. During her ten week SURF project she studied the effects of alloying and processing on the dynamic behavior of magnesium (Mg). This work was done to address the larger question of whether Mg is a useful material for the automotive, aerospace, energy, and defense industries where a material is needed that has low density, but also the strength to withstand high impact forces.

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Tags: APhMS honors GALCIT research highlight Moriah Bischann Owen Kingstedt

Novel Calibration Tool Will Help Astronomers

01-27-16

Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics; Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have developed a novel calibration tool, called a laser frequency comb, which could allow astronomers to take a major step in discovering and characterizing earthlike planets around other stars. The comb produces easily resolvable lines, without any need for filtering and is built from off-the-shelf components developed by the telecommunications industry. "We have demonstrated an alternative approach that is simple, reliable, and relatively inexpensive," says Professor Vahala. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala

Microscopic Materials

01-14-16

Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is fascinated by the interactions of quasiparticles and how they give rise to the world around us. He explains, “I'm most excited about the emphasis on fundamental science here. People can be really tempted by "flashy" science or experiments on hot topics. But to compute what I'm trying to look at, we have to first build our understanding on simple experiments and materials—boring things—before we are able to tackle materials at the frontier of condensed matter research.” [Interview with Prof. Bernardi]

Tags: APhMS research highlight Marco Bernardi

Solar Powered, Electrochemical, Wastewater Treatment System

12-18-15

Cody Finke, Environmental Science and Engineering graduate student, and Justin Jasper, Resnick Sustainability Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar, are the runner ups for the Dow Resnick Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) at Caltech. They have been working Professor Michael Hoffmann to enhance a modular, solar powered, electrochemical, on-site wastewater treatment system created by their group for toilets in the developing and developed world. With an operating cost of less than 5 US cents per day, this wastewater treatment technology meets benchmarks for affordability in the developing world. It also has the potential to protect human health and ecosystem well-being in communities most at risk to disease and resource-loss through environmental pollution. [Resnick Institute story]

Tags: honors energy research highlights health ESE Michael Hoffmann Cody Finke Justin Jasper