Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

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Highlights

Caltech Startup Aims to Make Solar Panels More Efficient

10-18-18

Translational technology developed in Professor Harry A. Atwater’s laboratory seeks to improve the efficiency of solar panels by tweaking the architecture of the metal-grid layout of individual cells. The new startup company—ETC Solar, LLC—which is marketing the technology, took first place at the DOE's 2018 Cleantech University Prize national collegiate business plan competition in Houston. "To have been selected as a winner is a huge point of validation for the concept, both the innovation and also the impact," says Professor Atwater, who is also a co-founder of ETC Solar along with Thomas Russell, and Rebecca Saive. "It has helped us to make contacts with potential industrial partners and private equity investors," [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Harry Atwater alumni Thomas Russell Rebecca Saive

Building the Starshot Sail

06-04-18

Professor Harry A. Atwater, Jr. is an advisor to a multi-disciplinary $100-million project aimed at designing a spacecraft that can be launched to planets surrounding other stars and reach them within our lifetime. The Breakthrough Starshot Program has three big technical challenges: The first is to build the so-called photon engine, the laser that's capable of propelling the sail; the second is to design the sail itself; and the third is to design the payload, which will be a tiny spacecraft capable of taking images and spectral data and then beaming them back to the earth. Professor Atwater’s role is to help the program define pathways to making a viable lightsail that's compatible with the other objectives of the whole program. [Caltech story]

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Professors Recognized as Highly Cited Researchers

12-23-17

Professors Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Babak Hassibi, Oskar J. Painter, John Seinfeld, Joel A. Tropp, Kerry J. Vahala, and Paul Wennberg have been named by Clarivate Analytics and Web of Science as 2017 Highly Cited Researchers. Their research ranks among the top 1% most cited works in their fields and they are being recognizes for their dedication and focus to expanding the sphere of human knowledge.  [List of recipients]

Tags: APhMS honors Harry Atwater Paul Wennberg Oskar Painter John Seinfeld Joel Tropp Kerry Vahala Babak Hassibi

Nanostructures Detect Colors

06-28-17

Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director, Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, and colleagues have combined nanophotonics and thermoelectrics to generate materials capable of distinguishing between tiny differences in wavelengths of light. [Caltech story]

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Professor Atwater Elected APS Fellow

10-11-16

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) “for pioneering contributions to plasmonics and nanophotonics.” [APS Fellow Archive]

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Kevin Chen Receives 2016 Henry Ford II Scholar Award

05-31-16

Applied Physics student Kevin Chen, mentored by Professor Harry Atwater, is a recipient of the 2016 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. During his first two years at Caltech he worked on the optical and electrical components of an ultra-efficient photovoltaic module in the Atwater lab. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record at the end of the third year of undergraduate study.

Tags: APhMS honors Harry Atwater Henry Ford II Scholar Award Kevin Chen

Professor Atwater Receives James King Jr. Award

05-24-16

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as the Director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, is the 2016 recipient of the James King Jr. Award. The award is given annual by the Caltech Center for Diversity to an individual who stands out as a strong supporter of diversity. Professor Atwater received several nominations which recognized “his commitment to recruiting, training, and encouraging female scientists to join and thrive in his research group.” One of his nominators wrote, “He has stood up for his female students when they have faced gender-biased behavior from others, and is a true advocate for all his students.” Another nominator stated that he “is a glowing example of how supportive faculty members can be in advisory roles.” Professor Atwater’s “efforts have long term positive effects for combating gender imbalances in academia.”

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Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis

05-03-16

In a recent New York Times article Professor Harry A. Atwater, Jr. discussed the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). He said, “The grand prize is figuring out how to make carbon dioxide be recyclable, a renewable resource. That would be a millennial advance for society.” JCAP was established in 2010 as a U.S. Department of Energy Energy Innovation Hub that aims to find new and effective ways to produce fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. “You can rest assured that the energy and catalysis problems of humanity will not have been resolved five years from now,” Professor Atwater said in the interview. But there is growing interest in the work, particularly after the recently signed Paris climate treaty that calls for sharp emissions reductions to combat global warming. “We have some wind at our back that we haven’t had until recently,” he added. [New York Times article]

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A Bright Future in Photovoltaics

04-04-16

Alumna Carissa Eisler discusses her passion for science and her research in Professor Harry Atwater’s group on photovoltaics—the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy using semiconducting materials. She was part of a group tasked with developing an ultrahigh-efficiency solar-cell module that involves designing solar collectors, optical components, and electronics. [e&s article]

Tags: APhMS Harry Atwater alumni Carissa Eisler

Professor Atwater Elected to National Academy of Inventors

12-16-15

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director, Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, has been named fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI). His research focuses on photovoltaics and solar energy—he helped develop an artificial leaf as part of his work with JCAP—as well as plasmonics (oscillations of electrons on the surface of materials) and optical metamaterials (materials comprised of nanostructures). Election as an NAI fellow is an honor bestowed upon academic innovators and inventors who have "demonstrated a prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions and innovations that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, and the welfare of society." [Caltech story] [NAI release]

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