News & Events


Solar Powered, Electrochemical, Wastewater Treatment System


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

Popping Microbubbles Help Focus Light Inside the Body


Changhuei Yang, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Medical Engineering, and his postdoctoral colleague Dr. Haowen Ruan have developed a novel technique called time-reversed ultrasound microbubble encoded (TRUME) that uses gas-filled microbubbles to focus light inside tissue. "Ultrasound and X-ray techniques can only detect cancer after it forms a mass," Yang says. "But with optical focusing, you could catch cancerous cells while they are undergoing biochemical changes but before they undergo morphological changes." [Caltech story]

Tags: EE Changhuei Yang MedE health research highlight

Sensors to Simplify Diabetes Management


As part of their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) projects, several engineering students have contributed to the development of tiny biosensors that could one day eliminate the need for manual blood sugar tests. The students were advised by Caltech medical engineering faculty Axel Scherer, and Hyuck Choo. [Caltech Release] [ENGenious MedE Feature]

Tags: APhMS EE MedE health Axel Scherer Hyuck Choo

Programmed to Fold: RNA Origami


Paul Rothemund, Senior Research Associate in Bioengineering, Computer Science, and Computation and Neural Systems, and colleagues have fabricated complicated shapes from DNA's close chemical cousin, RNA. "RNA origami is still in its infancy," says Rothemund. "Nevertheless, I believe that RNA origami, because of their potential to be manufactured by cells, and because of the extra functionality possible with RNA, will have at least as big an impact as DNA origami." [Caltech Release]

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Building Artificial Cells Will Be a Noisy Business


Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, explains, "I tend to think of cells as really small robots. Biology has programmed natural cells, but now engineers are starting to think about how we can program artificial cells. When I program my computer, I can think entirely in terms of deterministic processes. But when I try to engineer what is essentially a program at the molecular scale, I have to think in terms of probabilities and stochastic (random) processes. This is inherently more difficult, but I like challenges. And if we are ever to succeed in creating artificial cells, these are the sorts of problems we need to address." [Caltech Release]

Tags: research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree

Brainlike Computers, Learning From Experience


A recent New York Times' Science article about a new computing approach based on the nervous system mentions Carver Mead, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus. The new processors used in this approach consist of electronic components that can be connected by wires that mimic biological synapses. Because they are based on large groups of neuron-like elements, they are known as neuromorphic processors, a term credited to Carver Mead, who pioneered the concept in the late 1980s. [New York Times Article] [ENGenious Article about Carver Mead]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Carver Mead

From Lab-on-a-Chip to Lab-in-the-Body


Axel Scherer, Bernard Neches Professor of Electrical Engineering, Applied Physics and Physics, will be giving the next Caltech Earnest C. Watson Lecture on November 6, 2013 at 8pm. His lecture is entitled From Lab-on-a-Chip to Lab-in-the-Body and will focus on the role of nanotechnology in the miniaturization of medical diagnostic tools. [Caltech Release] [ENGenious Article]

Tags: APhMS EE MedE health Axel Scherer

Molecular Programming Research Wins A Second $10 Million Award


Professor Erik Winfree and colleagues have won a second $10 million award for research in molecular programming. "Computer science gave us this idea that many tasks can actually be done with different types of devices," Winfree says. For example, a 19th-century cash register and a 21st-century computer can both be used to calculate sums, though they perform the same task very differently. At first glance, writing a computer program and programming a DNA molecule may seem like very different endeavors, but "each one provides a systematic way of implementing automated behaviors, and they are both based on similar principles of information technology," Winfree says. This Expeditions in Computing Award will be used to take their work in molecular programming to the next level: from proof-of-principle demonstrations to putting the technology in the hands of users in biology, chemistry, physics, and materials science. [Caltech Release]

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Made-to-Order Materials


Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues have created nanostructured, hollow ceramic scaffolds, and have found that the small building blocks, or unit cells, display remarkable strength and resistance to failure despite being more than 85 percent air. The general fabrication technique the researchers have developed could be used to produce lightweight, mechanically robust small-scale components such as batteries, interfaces, catalysts, and implantable biomedical devices. [Caltech Release]

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Developing Self-replicating Nanoscale Origami


William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, and colleagues including Postdoctoral Scholar Si-ping Han have been awarded a $2 million grant as part of the National Science Foundation’s Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation program. The funds will be used to develop biomimetic materials which contain assembled complexes of molecules that self-replicate, evolve and adopt intricate three dimensional structures at the nanometer scale by combining DNA guided self-assembly with origami folding.

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Tags: APhMS research highlights health William Goddard Paul Rothemund Si-ping Han