News & Events


An Earthquake Warning System in Our Pockets?


Thomas H. Heaton, Professor of Engineering Seismology, and colleagues’ recent study suggests that all of our phones and other personal electronic devices could function as a distributed network, detecting any ground movements caused by a large earthquake, and, ultimately, giving people crucial seconds to prepare for a temblor. "Thirty years ago it took months to assemble a crude picture of the deformations from an earthquake. This new technology promises to provide a near-instantaneous picture with much greater resolution," says Professor Heaton. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Thomas Heaton

Ali Hajimiri's New Camera Chip Provides Superfine 3-D Resolution


To make an exact copy of an object with a 3-D printer, you must first produce a high-resolution scan of the object with a 3-D camera that measures its height, width, and depth. The most sensitive systems generally are too large and expensive to be used in consumer applications. Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, has created a new device called a nanophotonic coherent imager (NCI) that is an inexpensive silicon chip less than a millimeter. The NCI provides the highest depth-measurement accuracy of any such nanophotonic 3-D imaging device. 3-D imaging may be a possible feature in future smartphones. [Caltech story]

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Professor Bruck Receives IEEE Data Storage Best Paper Award


Jehoshua Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering, and colleagues' paper entitled “Zigzag Codes: MDS Array Codes With Optimal Rebuilding” has received the 2013 best paper award from the Data Storage Technical Committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The award recognizes a paper that has substantial and meaningful impact on both the theory and the practice of the existing or future data storage systems, or on emerging storage technologies that are gaining momentum. By giving these awards, the committee also motivates researchers to continue to make great original contributions to the field of data storage.

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Engineering and Art


Students in Professor Hillary Mushkin’s media arts seminar (E/H/Art 89 New Media Arts in the 20th and 21st Centuries) have once again put on a unique exhibition highlighting art and engineering. The course provides a platform for an expanded understanding of engineering and an active, project-based engagement with art history.

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How Iron Feels the Heat


Brent Fultz, Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn, Jr., Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, and colleagues’ recent work provides evidence for how iron's magnetism plays a role in its curious properties—an understanding that could help researchers develop better and stronger steel. With a better computational model for the thermodynamics of iron at different temperatures—one that takes into account the effects of both magnetism and atomic vibrations—metallurgists will now be able to more accurately predict the thermodynamic properties of iron alloys as they alter their recipes. [Caltech story]

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How To Study High-Speed Flows


Joanna Austin, Professor of Aerospace, researches fundamental problems in reactive, compressible flows with applications in hypervelocity flight and planetary entry, supersonic combustion and detonation, bubble dynamics, and explosive geological events. She remarks, “gas dynamics, and particularly looking at gas dynamics in reacting flows… [is] the thing I really love. It's a very challenging, coupled, problem. As the fluid is going through the model that you're studying, you also have to account for the fact that the state of the fluid is changing—the gas is chemically reacting, so it's changing from reactants to products, or it's redistributing its energy states, or both. Understanding how best to model these processes, that's what excites me.” [Interview with Professor Austin]

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Quantum Code-Cracking


Thomas Vidick, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, researches quantum computing and specifically the computer science of quantum physics. He is trying to figure out how some of the principles of quantum computing can be applied right now, using today's technology. [Interview with Professor Vidick] [ENGenious article]

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New Technique Could Harvest More of the Sun's Energy


Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and colleagues have created a new technique to harness the lost energy from solar panels. “Silicon absorbs only a certain fraction of the spectrum, and it's transparent to the rest. If I put a photovoltaic module on my roof, the silicon absorbs that portion of the spectrum, and some of that light gets converted into power. But the rest of it ends up just heating up my roof," explains Professor Atwater. Now they have found a way to absorb and make use of these infrared waves with a structure composed not of silicon, but entirely of metal. [Caltech story]

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Professor Bordoni Receives Young Investigator Award in Environmental Sciences


Simona Bordoni, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, has received a Young Investigator Award in Environmental Sciences from the Italian Scientists and Scholars in North America Foundation (ISSNAF). The award is given to early stage investigators working in North America whose commitment to their discipline of study is innovative, impactful, and honors their country of origin. Professor Bordoni received the award for her research in fundamental monsoon dynamics, specifically aquaplanet monsoons and their response to climate changes. She has also received a medal from the President of the Italian Republic, "Medaglia di Rappresentanza del Presidente della Repubblica Italiana." [Research abstract]

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Converting Data Into Knowledge


Yisong Yue, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, has focused his research in machine learning. He explains, “machine learning is the study of how computers can take raw data or annotated data and convert that into knowledge and actionable items, ideally in a fully automated way—because it's one thing to just have a lot of data, but it's another thing to have knowledge that you can derive from that data.” [Interview with Professor Yue] [ENGenious article]

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