News & Events


Seeing Quantum Motion


Keith Schwab, Professor of Applied Physics, has found a way to observe and control the quantum motion of an object that is large enough to see. Schwab's group has learned how to cool the motion of small micrometer-scale objects to produce the quantum ground state. This quantum motion is theoretically an intrinsic part of the motion of all objects. Schwab and his colleagues designed a device that would allow them to observe this quantum motion and then manipulate it. The ability to control quantum noise could one day be used to improve the precision of very sensitive measurements, such as those designed to search for signs of gravitational waves. [Caltech Story]

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Preparing for Earthquakes with ShakeAlert


United States Geological Survey (USGS) has announced an approximately $4 million in awards to Caltech, University of California Berkeley, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, for the expansion and improvement of the ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. "Caltech's role in ShakeAlert will focus on research and development of the system so that future versions will be faster and more reliable," said Professor Thomas Heaton. "We currently collect data from approximately 400 seismic stations throughout California. The USGS grant will allow Caltech to upgrade or install new stations in strategic locations that will significantly improve the performance of ShakeAlert." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Thomas Heaton

Dr. Rittel Recognized by Academy of Sciences of Turin


Dr. Daniel Rittel, long term GALCIT Visiting Associate working with Professors Ravichandran and Rosakis, has been awarded the 2015 “Angiola Gili e Cataldo Agostinelli” international prize for Applied or Theoretical Mechanics by the Academy of Sciences of Turin, Italy. Dr. Rittel has performed pioneering research in the mechanics of materials, with particular focus on the coupling thermomechanical solids. His work has demonstrated that the energy stored in the material is not only due to thermodynamic effects, but also due to changes in the microstructure identified as dynamic recrystallization. His research has also led to a paradigm shift in the modeling of the localization phenomena of sliding dynamics, combining the science of materials with the mechanics using numerical simulations. [List of past recipients]

Tags: honors research highlights GALCIT Guruswami Ravichandran Ares Rosakis Daniel Rittel

A Winning Sanitation Solution


The inventors of the solar-powered toilet, a unit developed by a team led by Professor Michael Hoffmann, have a new award winning project. Project Seva, which means "service" in Hindi. It was named the first place winner of the Vodafone's Wireless Innovation program. The Seva team realized that because the solar toilet and other sanitation systems like it are relatively simple, inexpensive sensors could be used to monitor the status of those systems' parts. Combining that insight with the knowledge that more than three-quarters of the world's people have access to a mobile phone, the team decided to design a self-diagnosing maintenance system for sanitation solutions that could alert designated local operators of a malfunction via cell phone message. [Caltech story]

Tags: energy research highlights ESE Michael Hoffmann

Professor Umans Named Simons Investigator in Computer Science


Christopher Umans, Professor of Computer Science, has been named a Simons Investigator in Computer Science by the Simons Foundation’s Mathematics and Physical Sciences Division. The award honors and supports "outstanding scientists in their most productive years, when they are establishing creative new research directions, providing leadership to the field and effectively mentoring junior scientists." Professor Umans’ research centers on algorithms and complexity. He has made contributions to the understanding of randomness in computation, and algorithms for fundamental algebraic problems which includes developing a group-theoretic approach for matrix multiplication. [List of awardees] [Caltech story]

Tags: honors research highlights CMS Christopher Umans

New Thin, Flat Lenses Focus Light as Sharply as Curved Lenses


Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have created flat microlenses with performance on a par with conventional, curved lenses. Typically, lenses rely on a curved shape to bend and focus light. But in the tight spaces inside consumer electronics and fiber-optic systems, these rounded lenses can take up a lot of room. The Caltech team’s new flat lenses focus as much as 82 percent of infrared light passing through them. By comparison, previous studies have found that metallic flat lenses have efficiencies of only around a few percent. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE Andrei Faraon

Tracking Photosynthesis from Space


Professor Paul Wennberg and colleagues have developed a new technique to analyze plant productivity using data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite. To perform photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in leaves absorbs sunlight and a small fraction of the absorbed light is reemitted as near-infrared light. This reemitted light makes the plants appear to glow—a property called solar induced fluorescence (SIF). "The measurements of SIF from OCO-2 greatly extend the science of this mission", says Professor Wennberg. "OCO-2 was designed to map carbon dioxide, and scientists plan to use these measurements to determine the underlying sources and sinks of this important gas. The new SIF measurements will allow us to diagnose the efficiency of the plants—a key component of the sinks of carbon dioxide." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights ESE Paul Wennberg

Space Solar Power Initiative


Caltech and Northrop Grumman Corporation have signed a $17.5 million sponsored research agreement for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). The initiative will develop technologies in three areas: high-efficiency ultralight photovoltaics; ultralight deployable space structures; and phased array and power transmission. "The Space Solar Power Initiative brings together electrical engineers, applied physicists, and aerospace engineers in the type of profound interdisciplinary collaboration that is seamlessly enhanced at a small place like Caltech... We are working on extremely difficult problems that could eventually provide the world with new, and very cost-competitive technology for sustainable energy,” said EAS Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech story] [Northrop Grumman Release]

Tags: APhMS EE energy research highlights GALCIT Harry Atwater Ares Rosakis Ali Hajimiri Sergio Pellegrino

Professor Tropp Receives Pioneer Award


Joel A. Tropp, Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, will receive the Compressive Sampling Pioneer Award at this year’s International Society for Optics and Photonics - Defense Security and Sensing conference (SPIE. DSS). He is one of the first researchers to contribute to the field of sparse approximation, which is also known as compressive sampling. At the conference he will give a presentation on sampling theorems for structured signals, based on his paper entitled “Living on the Edge.”

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Professor Faber Receives the John Jeppson Award


Katherine Faber, Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science, has received one of the most prestigious awards given by the American Ceramic Society which is the John Jeppson Award. She is being honored “for her important engineering contribution to the understanding of mechanical behavior, especially toughening of ceramics.” More specifically for her study of the fracture of brittle materials and the mechanisms by which such materials can be toughened and strengthened through composite strategies and residual stresses.

The John Jeppson Award recognizes distinguished scientific, technical, or engineering achievements in ceramics. Past recipients include Larry L. Hench, Arthur H. Heuer, Anthony G. Evans, and the only other female member of the distinguished group Della M. Roy. [List of past recipients]

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