News & Events


Self-Contained, Photovoltaic Powered Domestic Toilet


Michael Robert Hoffmann, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science, and his team of graduate students Asghar Aryanfar, Clement Cid, Kangwoo Cho, Daejung Kwon, and Hao Zhang, along with post doctoral scholar Yan Qu have won the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their winning proposal was to build a toilet that uses the sun to power an electrochemical reactor. The reactor breaks down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy. The treated water can then be reused to flush the toilet or for irrigation. [Caltech Feature] [CNN Ideas]

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Prof. Ravichandran Inducted into the European Academy of Sciences and Arts


Guruswami Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Professor of Mechanical Engineering as well as the Director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, has been elected into the European Academy of Sciences and Arts under the class of Technical and Environmental Sciences. The Academy focuses on interdisciplinary discussion across specialist areas, ideologies and scientific cultures as well as promoting transnational dialog and visionary developments of new scientific knowledge and academic thinking.

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Professor Kitaev Receives $3M Fundamental Physics Prize


Alexei Y. Kitaev, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Computer Science, and Mathematics, has received the $3 million Yuri Milner Fundamental Physics Prize. The prize citation recognizes Professor Kitaev's "theoretical idea of implementing robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes."  This new prize is the most lucrative academic prize in the world and Professor Kitaev is one of only nine scientists to receive it this year. [New York Times Article] [The Guardian Article] [Caltech Release]

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Professor Daraio Wins Presidential Early Career Award


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, has won a 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Daraio was recognized for her "pioneering contributions to nonlinear mechanical phenomena in acoustic crystals, granular material, and multifunctional nanostructures, and for mentoring women and providing research opportunities for high school and undergraduate students."

"The entire Caltech community is proud to see Professor Daraio recognized with this presidential honor, not only for her pioneering research accomplishments, but also for her commitment to students and diversity," says Chair Ares Rosakis. "Even though she is near the beginning of her career she already embodies the key attributes of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech." [Caltech Release]

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Professor Ravichandran Elected Fellow of AAM


Guruswami Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who is also the Director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, has been elected as a 2012 Fellow of American Academy of Mechanics (AAM).  He recieved this honor for “his outstanding contributions to the understanding of mechanical behavior of materials under extreme loading environments.” 

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A Tissue-engineered Jellyfish with Biomimetic Propulsion


Graduate student Janna C. Nawroth, working with Professor John Dabiri and colleagues at Harvard, has turned solid element—silicon—and muscle cells into a freely swimming jellyfish.

"It is fascinating to witness the evolution of the Dabiri group's research from their initial ground-breaking work in understanding the fluid dynamics of jellyfish propulsion to the building of these complex engineered systems using biological materials," says Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech Press Release]

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Aerospace Graduate Student Receives Young Investigator Award


Graduate student Francisco Lopez Jimenez, working with Professor Sergio Pellegrino, has been awarded a Young Investigator Award at the 8th European Solid Mechanics Conference. He received the award in recognition of his presentation, “Folding and Strain Softening of Carbon Fiber Composites with an Elastomeric Matrix.”

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Students Work on Proposed Space Mission for Final Project


For the past few years, students in Professor Sergio Pellegrino's Aerospace Engineering course (Ae105), have helped design, prototype, and test various pieces of AAReST, a space-telescope demonstration mission currently under development. "It's really different from all of our other classes," says Aerospace graduate student Manan Arya. "You're actually doing work that's going to go into space. It's really exciting." [Caltech Feature]

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Material's Spacing is Key to Brittle-to-ductile Transition


Julia R. Greer, her postdoctoral scholar Dr.Dongchan Jang, and colleagues have used experiments and atomistic simulations of nano-twinned metals (which have the unique combined effect of being strong and ductile) to decipher the specific role of the twin boundaries. They have found that it is the spacing between the twin boundaries that determines whether a material is brittle or ductile as opposed to the sample size, as would be expected. Greer states "this is probably the first study that truly isolated the twin boundaries by making samples which contained only twin boundaries, periodically spaced throughout the sample, and then tested them in tension. This understanding will help in the design of better structural materials and provide a certain amount of predictability in doing so, which has not been possible to date." [Nature Nanotechnology Article and Movies]

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Demonstrating the Quantum World at Macroscopic Scales


Keith Schwab, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues describe how, aided by optical cavities and superconducting circuits, researchers are coaxing ever-larger objects to wiggle, shake, and flex in ways that are distinctly quantum mechanical. [Physics Today Article] [Institute for Quantum Information and Matter]

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