News & Events


Professors Pullin and Hornung Become Fellows of the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Society


Dale Pullin, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics, and Hans Hornung, C. L. Kelly Johnson Professor of Aeronautics, Emeritus, have been elected as Fellows of the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Society (AFMS). The Fellowships recognize outstanding contributions to fluid mechanics research in Australia and New Zealand. While the AFMS is in its formative years and this is only the second round of elections, the Fellows will represent an increasingly important part of the Society and its activities. The Fellowships will be presented at the Australasian Fluid Mechanics Conference to be held in Launceston, Tasmania, December 3-7, 2012.

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A Worthy Endeavor


The space shuttle Endeavour's final flight ended Friday, September 21, when it landed at Los Angeles International Airport en route to its new life as an exhibit at the California Science Center. But without Caltech professors Christopher Brennen and Allan Acosta and alumnus Sheldon Rubin (ME, '56), the entire endeavor might not have been possible. [Caltech Release] [KTLA 5 Interview with Professor Brennen]

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Caltech Welcomes Professor Chandrasekaran


Venkat Chandrasekaran, Assistant Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, arrived at Caltech in early September 2012. His area of research is mathematical optimization. He describes, "Almost anything we wish to do in engineering design is about maximizing objectives subject to certain constraints—trading off different aspects of a system to optimize a few others. For instance, if you work in jet-engine design, you have certain constraints in the amount of material you can use, the weight of these materials, aerodynamic issues, etc. But then you want to be able to design your wings and so on in such a way that you maximize, for example, how fast you are able to go. My specific focus deals with trying to look at optimization problems that (a) are tractable to solve—not all optimization problems are ones that can be efficiently solved on a computer—and (b) arise in the information sciences." [Caltech Release]

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Professor Sir Martin Sweeting Receives International von Kármán Wings Award


Professor Sir Martin Sweeting, Founder and Executive Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Limited and Director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, is the 2012 recipient of the International von Kármán Wings Award. He was honored for his technical and leadership contributions to aerospace academia and industry—in particular, for pioneering the concept of rapid-response, low-cost, and highly capable small satellites for Earth observation, communications, and space science. The von Kármán Wings Award acknowledges outstanding contributions by international innovators, leaders, and pioneers in aerospace and is presented by the Aerospace Historical Society, which is part of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at Caltech (GALCIT). [Caltech Release]

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Jorgensen Renovation Recognized by American Institute of Architects


The Pasadena-Foothill Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIAPF) has given an Honor Award to the renovation of the Earle M. Jorgensen Laboratory into the Resnick Institute and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. The AIAPF Awards Program celebrates design excellence and innovation. [Learn More]

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Taming Turbulence


"Turbulence is everywhere," says Professor Beverley McKeon—from continent-spanning weather systems down to the swirls of air your car leaves behind itself as you drive. "I think about things like ships, planes, and pipelines," she explains, noting that about half of the energy consumed by each of those three transportation systems goes to counteract turbulence-induced drag. In her Watson Lecture she notes that finding a way to reduce that turbulence by 30 percent would save the global economy well over $100,000,000 dollars in fuel costs annually. [Learn More]

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Professor Kochmann Receives International Prize in Solid Mechanics


Dennis Kochmann, Assistant Professor of Aerospace, has received the 2012 International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM) Bureau Prize in Solid Mechanics. The prize is awarded every four years by the union to outstanding young scientists based on their papers and presentations at the international congress. Professor Kochmann's presentation was entitled "Making positive use of instability - ultra-high stiffness and damping composites and structures due to constrained instabilities". The presentation described how engineers can make positive use of mechanical instabilities. While engineering design commonly aims to prevent instabilities of any kind (leading to failure or collapse), controlled and careful use of mechanical instabilities can result in new material and structural systems that possess superior properties such as very high stiffness (meaning minimal deformation under loads) and high damping (meaning any external vibrations are effectively attenuated). [Past Winners of Prize]

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Weighing Molecules One at a Time


Michael L. Roukes, Robert M. Abbey Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering as well as Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleagues have created the first-ever mechanical device that measures the mass of a single molecule. The device—which is only a couple millionths of a meter in size—consists of a tiny, vibrating bridge-like structure. When a particle or molecule lands on the bridge, its mass changes the oscillating frequency in a way that reveals how much the particle weighs. [Caltech Press Release]

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Solar Loops and Space Weather


Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have reproduced plasma loops in the laboratory to help understand solar physics. "We're studying how these solar loops work, which contributes to the knowledge of space weather," says Professor Bellan, who compares the research to studying hurricanes. For example, you can't predict a hurricane unless you know more about the events that precede it, like high-pressure and low-pressure fronts. The same is true for solar flares. "It takes some time for the plasma to get to Earth from the sun, so it's possible that with more research, we could have up to a two-day warning period for massive solar flares." [Caltech Release] [E&S Article]

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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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