Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Clean-Energy Research Accelerates


Caltech clean-energy research is accelerating thanks to the renovation of the Earle M. Jorgensen Laboratory. Transformed into a cutting-edge facility for energy science, the lab unites two powerhouse programs: the Resnick Sustainability Institute and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). "Our researchers are working with Caltech's chemists and chemical engineers to challenge the status quo and translate scientific discovery into clean-energy innovations that will directly benefit society for generations to come," says Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech Release]

Tags: energy research highlights Caltech infrastructure Jorgensen Renovation

Developing the Next Generation of Microsensors


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

Number One Engineering and Technology University


For the third year the Times Higher Education world university rankings has ranked Caltech as number one in engineering and technology. [View Rankings] [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS EE GALCIT MCE CMS ESE Graduate school rankings

Professor Greer Receives Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics magazine


Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, is receiving a 2012 Breakthrough Award from Popular Mechanics magazine as part of the team that engineered the world's lightest solid material. "I am delighted that Professor Greer is being honored with this award," says Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) at Caltech. "She is a great example of how we in EAS are working at the edges of fundamental science to invent the technologies of the future." [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS MCE Popular Mechanics Julia Greer

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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Michael Roukes

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]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Paul Bellan

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]

Tags: APhMS honors Chiara Daraio GALCIT PECASE

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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Julia Greer Dongchan Jang

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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Keith Schwab

Professor Haile Receives International Ceramics Prize


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