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Team CoSTAR Takes First Place in Underground Robot Competition

02-27-20

A team including Caltech researchers and JPL earned top honors in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. Whether robots are exploring caves on other planets or disaster areas here on Earth, they need to be able to navigate a location and seek out objects of interest without access to GPS or human guidance. The Subterranean Challenge tests this kind of cutting-edge technology. "One of the two courses we had to run had multiple levels, so it was great that the Boston Dynamics robots were fantastic on stairs," says Joel Burdick, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering and JPL research scientist, and the leader of the Caltech campus section of the CoSTAR team. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick

Professor Wang Advances Photoacoustic Imaging Technology

02-25-20

Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, has developed variants of photoacoustic imaging that can show organs moving in real time, develop three-dimensional (3-D) images of internal body parts, and even differentiate cancerous cells from healthy cells. Photoacoustic imaging, a technique for examining living materials through the use of laser light and ultrasonic sound waves, has many potential applications in medicine because of its ability to show everything from organs to blood vessels to tumors. Wang has now further advanced photoacoustic imaging technology with what he calls Photoacoustic Topography Through an Ergodic Relay (PATER), which aims to simplify the equipment required for imaging of this type. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang

Ultrasound Can Selectively Kill Cancer Cells

02-05-20

Professor Michael Ortiz and Professor Morteza Gharib are exploring a new technique that could offer a targeted approach to fighting cancer. Low-intensity pulses of ultrasound have been shown to selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. In the past, ultrasound waves have been used as a cancer treatment with high-intensity bursts resulting in killing cancer and normal cells. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE MCE Morteza Gharib Michael Ortiz

Bionic Jellyfish Swim Faster and More Efficiently

01-30-20

John Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, has developed a tiny prosthetic that enables jellyfish to swim faster and more efficiently than they normally do, without stressing the animals. Dabiri is envisioning a future in which jellyfish equipped with sensors could be directed to explore and record information about the ocean. "Only five to 10 percent of the volume of the ocean has been explored, so we want to take advantage of the fact that jellyfish are everywhere already to make a leap from ship-based measurements, which are limited in number due to their high cost," Dabiri says. "If we can find a way to direct these jellyfish and also equip them with sensors to track things like ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and so on, we could create a truly global ocean network where each of the jellyfish robots costs a few dollars to instrument and feeds themselves energy from prey already in the ocean." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE John Dabiri

Professor Wang Develops World's Fastest Camera

01-21-20

Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, has developed the world's fastest camera, a device capable of taking 10 trillion pictures per second. It's so fast that it can even capture light traveling in slow motion. "What we've done is to adapt standard phase-contrast microscopy so that it provides very fast imaging, which allows us to image ultrafast phenomena in transparent materials," says Wang. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang

Professor Hou Featured in Quanta Magazine

01-14-20

The Quanta Magazine has featured Thomas Y. Hou, Charles Lee Powell Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, for his work in Euler singularity. Mathematicians and physicists have used Euler equations to model how fluids evolve over time. If you toss a rock into a still pond, how will the water be moving five seconds later? The Euler equations can tell you. Hou provided a numerical description of the initial state of a fluid and used a computer to apply the Euler equations to determine the fluid’s motion in the future. “From the top the fluid is spiraling down, and from the bottom it is swirling up in the opposite direction,” said Professor Hou. [Quanta article]

Tags: research highlights CMS Thomas Hou

Making a Better Match

01-14-20

Professor Adam Wierman worked with a cross-disciplinary team to improve the Pasadena Unified School District's open-enrollment algorithm. Wierman knew from experience that the district's open-enrollment process was not optimal. "I couldn't help but notice that it wasn't particularly well designed," says Wierman. "There was a huge opportunity, I thought, to improve." With the team's new and improved algorithm, families are more likely to get their top match and are also more likely to keep their children in the school district rather than enrolling them in private or charter schools. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS Adam Wierman

Anandkumar Training Algorithms to Spot Online Trolls

01-09-20

Professor Anima Anandkumar, and research team have demonstrated that machine-learning algorithms can monitor online social media conversations as they evolve, which could one day lead to an effective and automated way to spot online trolling. "It was an eye-opening experience about just how ugly trolling can get. Hopefully, the tools we're developing now will help fight all kinds of harassment in the future," says Anandkumar. The research team includes Professor Michael Alvarez; Anqi Liu, postdoctoral scholar; Maya Srikanth, student; and Nicholas Adams-Cohen, Stanford University. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS Animashree Anandkumar Anqi Liu Maya Srikanth

Researchers Develop New Quantum Algorithm

12-19-19

Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, Fernando Brandão, Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, and Garnet Chan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, have developed an algorithm for quantum computers that will help them find use in simulations in the physical sciences. The new algorithm allows a user to find the lowest energy of a given molecule or material. Many people are interested in how to simulate the ground states of molecules and materials. "If we want to do a simulation of water, we could look at how water behaves after it has been blasted into a plasma—an electrically charged gas—but that's not the state water is usually found in; it is not the ground state of water. Ground states are of special interest in understanding the world under ordinary conditions," says Chan. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Austin Minnich Fernando Brandão Garnet Chan

How Electrons Break the Speed Limit

12-10-19

Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and Jinjian Zhou, Postdoctoral Scholar, have developed a way to predict how electrons interacting strongly with atomic motions will flow through a complex material. "Using a new method, we have been able to predict both the formation and the dynamics of polarons in strontium titanate. This advance is crucial since many semiconductors and oxides of interest for future electronics and energy applications exhibit polaron effects," says Bernardi. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Marco Bernardi Jinjian Zhou