Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

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Highlights

Professor Greer Receives Sia Nemat-Nasser Early Career Award

10-07-11

Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, has been selected by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Materials Division Executive Committee to receive the 2011 Sia Nemat-Nasser Early Career Award for her research contributions in “physical origins of size-dependent mechanical properties in nano-scale solids”.

Tags: APhMS honors Julia Greer

Using Laser Light to Cool Object to Quantum Ground State

10-07-11

Oskar J. Painter, Professor of Applied Physics and Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues including graduate student Jasper Chan have cooled a miniature mechanical object—a tiny mechanical silicon beam— to its lowest possible energy state using laser light. The achievement paves the way for the development of exquisitely sensitive detectors. "In many ways, the experiment we've done provides a starting point for the really interesting quantum-mechanical experiments one wants to do," Painter says. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Oskar Painter Jasper Chan

Solar Decathlon Team

10-03-11

The high-tech house built by a joint team of students from Caltech and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), known as Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype (CHIP), placed 6th at the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. In the category of Energy Balance we tied for first place; in the categories of engineering and home entertainment, we placed 2nd, and in affordability we placed third. [Final scores and photos] [Walkthrough video of CHIP]

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Tags: APhMS energy Harry Atwater CMS Richard Murray Solar Decathlon

CHIP Goes to Washington

09-06-11

The high-tech house built by a joint team of students from Caltech and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), known as Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype (CHIP), is heading to Washington D.C. for the 2011 Solar Decathlon competition. The SCI-Arc / Caltech team has been supported by a variety of people including Richard Murray, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, and Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director, Resnick Sustainability Institute. CHIP will be competing with 18 other teams for the title of the most energy-efficient, affordable, and attractive house. [Caltech Feature] [Walkthrough video of CHIP]

Tags: APhMS energy Harry Atwater CMS Richard Murray Solar Decathlon

Nano-mechanics of Carbon Nanotube Research Wins Art Competition

08-22-11

Siddhartha (Sid) Pathak, a W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) Postdoctoral Fellow in Material Science, has received the first prize in the NanoArt 2011 International Competition. The inspiration for Dr. Pathak's entry entitled "In-situ SEM deformation of CNT micro-pillars" is his research on nano-mechanics of carbon nanotubes.  As a KISS postdoc Dr. Pathak is working with  Professor Julia Greer on mechanical testing of carbon nanotubes at submicron length scales, with a particular emphasis towards space applications.  

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Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Julia Greer KISS Siddhartha Pathak

Disorder Is Key to Nanotube Mystery

08-12-11

William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics; and Posdoctoral Scholar Tod Pascal believe to have solved the mystery of why water spontaneously flows into extremely small tubes of graphite or graphene, called carbon nanotubes.  Using a novel method to calculate the dynamics of water molecules they have found that entropy is the missing key.  "It's a pretty surprising result," says Professor Goddard "People normally focus on energy in this problem, not entropy." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights William Goddard Tod Pascal

Engineers Solve Longstanding Problem in Photonic Chip Technology

08-04-11

Liang Feng, a Postdoctoral Scholar in Electrical Engineering who works with Professor Axel Scherer, has designed a new type of optical waveguide - a 0.8-micron-wide silicon device. The waveguide allows light to go in one direction but changes the mode of the light when it travels in the opposite direction. This new technique to isolate light signals on a silicon chip, solves a longstanding problem in engineering photonic chips. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS EE energy research highlights Liang Feng Axel Scherer

One-way Transmission System for Sound Waves

07-26-11

Postdoctoral scholar, Georgios Theocharis, and GALCIT alumnus Nicholas Boechler; working with Professor Chiara Daraio, have created the first tunable acoustic diode- a device that allows acoustic information to travel only in one direction, at controllable frequencies. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT Georgios Theocharis Nicholas Boechler

Converting Heat into Electricity in Space and on Earth - High-Performance Bulk Thermoelectrics

05-23-11

Jeff Snyder, Faculty Associate in Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have developed a thermoelectric material that might be able to operate off nothing more than the heat of a car's exhaust. "You'll see applications wherever there's a solid-state advantage," Snyder predicts. "One example is the charging system. The electricity to keep your car's battery charged is generated by the alternator, a mechanical device driven by a rubber belt powered by the crankshaft. You've got friction, slippage, strain, internal resistance, wear and tear, and weight, in addition to the mechanical energy extracted to make the electricity. Just replacing that one subsystem with a thermoelectric solution could instantly improve a car's fuel efficiency by 10 percent." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Jeff Snyder

Experiments Settle Long-Standing Debate about Mysterious Array Formations in Nanofilms

05-19-11

Sandra M. Troian, Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues' experiments have confirmed which of three possible mechanisms is responsible for the spontaneous formation of three-dimensional (3-D) pillar arrays in nanofilms (polymer films that are billionths of a meter thick). "My ultimate goal is to develop a suite of 3-D lithographic techniques based on remote, digital modulation of thermal, electrical, and magnetic surface forces," Troian says. Confirmation of the correct mechanism has allowed her to deduce the maximum resolution or minimum feature size ultimately possible with these patterning techniques. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Sandra Troian