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Developing the Next Generation of Microsensors

10-19-12

Oskar J. Painter, Professor of Applied Physics; Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science; and Co-Director, Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleagues have engineered a microscale optical accelerometer. In addition to transforming consumer electronics, such sensors could help with oil and gas exploration deep within the earth, could improve the stabilization systems of fighter jets, and could even be used in some biomedical applications where more traditional sensors cannot operate. "Professor Painter's research in this area nicely illustrates how the Engineering and Applied Science faculty at Caltech are working at the edges of fundamental science to invent the technologies of the future," says Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS energy health Oskar Painter

Taming Turbulence

08-29-12

"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]

Tags: energy research highlights GALCIT Beverley McKeon

Solar Loops and Space Weather

08-20-12

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]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Paul Bellan

Self-Contained, Photovoltaic Powered Domestic Toilet

08-15-12

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]

Tags: energy research highlights MCE ESE Michael Hoffmann Asghar Aryanfar Clement Cid Kangwoo Cho Daejung Kwon Hao Zhang Yan Qu

Professor Kitaev Receives $3M Fundamental Physics Prize

07-31-12

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]

Tags: honors energy research highlights CMS Alexei Kitaev

Professor Haile Receives International Ceramics Prize

07-02-12

Sossina M. Haile, Carl F Braun Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, is the 2012 recipient of the World Academy of Ceramics International Ceramics Prize for Research & Innovation. The Prize, which is only given out every four years, recognizes Professor Haile's work in using reactive oxides for creating solar fuels, and for advancing solid oxide fuel cells. [Past Recipients]

Tags: APhMS honors energy Sossina Haile

Seeing Inside Tissue

06-26-12

Changhuei Yang, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, and colleagues Ying Min Wang and Benjamin Judkewitz have developed a new method to focus light inside biological tissue. "It enables the possibilities of doing incision-less surgery," says Professor Yang. "By generating a tight laser-focus spot deep in tissue, we can potentially use that as a laser scalpel that leaves the skin unharmed." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE energy research highlights Changhuei Yang MedE health Ying Min Wang Benjamin Judkewitz

Melissa Yeung Wins DOE Fellowship for Computational Science

06-11-12

Graduate student Melissa Yeung, working with Professor Mathieu Desbrun, is one of 21 students nationally to receive a Department of Energy (DOE) 2012 Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. Yeung studies an area of mathematics known as discrete differential geometry, which has diverse applications in such fields as engineering, computer animation, product design, and medicine. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: honors energy CMS Mathieu Desbrun Melissa Yeung

Finalist for Library Senior Thesis Prize

06-06-12

Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student Robert Karol, who is also minoring in Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems, was the finalist for the 2012 Friends of Caltech Libraries Senior Thesis Prize. His thesis is entitled “Peak Seeking Controller for Real Time Mobile Satellite Tracking” and was written under the direction of Professor Richard Murray and Mechanical Engineering alumnus Gunnar Ristroph (BS '06) of IJK Controls.

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Tags: energy research highlights MCE CMS Richard Murray Robert Karol

Calculating the Capacity of a Network

06-04-12

Michelle Effros, Professor of Electrical Engineering, and information theorist colleagues have begun to tackle the difficult problem of calculating capacities for large communication networks such as the internet and mobile phone networks. In two recent publications, they introduce techniques useful for improving the performance of current communication networks and for designing the networks of the future. By demonstrating where current technology falls short of what's possible, these techniques provide a new tool for strategically guiding research and development. [Read the Publications]

Tags: EE energy research highlights Michelle Effros