News & Events


Observations Reshape Basic Plasma Wave Physics


Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics , and colleagues have discovered a new way to determine the wavelength of energy flowing through plasma in space—a method that was recently applied during a NASA mission that yielded the first solid evidence of how energy sloshes back and forth in a magnetic wave that moves through the plasma surrounding the earth. [Caltech story]

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New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future


Researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have—in just two years—nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels. "The key advance made by the team was to combine the best capabilities enabled by theory and supercomputers with novel high throughput experiments to generate scientific knowledge at an unprecedented rate," says John Gregoire, JCAP thrust coordinator for Photoelectrocatalysis and leader of the High Throughput Experimentation group. [Caltech story]

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Engineers Create Artificial Skin That "Feels" Temperature Changes


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed an artificial skin capable of detecting temperature changes using a mechanism similar to the one used by the organ that allows pit vipers to sense their prey. [Caltech story]

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Tools and Techniques to Track and Study Methane


Methane is less prevalent in the atmosphere than fellow greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2), but it presents more difficult challenges for researchers attempting to study it. Professor Wennberg, is working with colleagues from across Caltech to study methane and its effects on the globe and to pioneer tools and techniques needed to identify, track, and characterize the gas and its sources. One such colleague is Professor Vahala who has paved the way for the miniaturization of high-resolution spectrometers. His new soliton-based system is the basis for a new collaboration with Professor Frankenberg to apply dual-comb spectrometer to methane tracking and analysis. [Caltech story]

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The Future is Flat (For Lenses)


Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have developed a system of flat optical lenses that can be easily mass-produced and integrated with image sensors, paving the way for cheaper and lighter cameras in everything from cell phones to medical devices. [Caltech story]

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Building Better Batteries


Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues have measured for the first time the strength of lithium metal at the nano- and microscale, a discovery with important implications for suppressing dendrite formation and improving lithium-ion batteries.  [Caltech story]

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Raising Temperature Changes an Element's Electronic "Topology"


Brent Fultz, Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn, Jr., Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, and colleagues have discovered a new way that heat tweaks the physical properties of a material. The potential value to engineers lies in the fact that it is much easier to raise the temperature of a material than it is to place it under the sort of pressure needed to force an electronic topological transition. [Caltech story]

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New Breed of Optical Soliton Wave Discovered


Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics, and colleagues have discovered a new type of optical soliton wave that travels in the wake of other soliton waves, hitching a ride on and feeding off of the energy of the other wave. Solitons are localized waves that act like particles. Professor Vahala likens these newly discovered solitons to pilot fish, carnivorous tropical fish that swim next to a shark so they can pick up scraps from the shark's meals. And by swimming in the shark's wake, the pilot fish reduce the drag of water on their own body, so they can travel with less effort. [Caltech story]

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Smaller Chips May Depend on Vacuum Tube Technology


A recent New York Times article featured Caltech alumnus, Gordon Moore (PhD ’54), and the research of Professor Axel Scherer on ultrasmall vacuum tube as a candidate to replace the transistor. [Read the article]

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Engineering Nanodevices to Store Information the Quantum Way


Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is interested in creating a device that could harness the power of entangled particles within a usable technology. A large part of his research is focused on finding ways to store and process quantum information. Quantum information is very fragile and even the smallest amount of external noise messes up quantum states. There are various schemes that tackle this problem and postpone decoherence, but the one that he is most interested in involves Majorana fermions. Relatively recently theorists figured out how to engineer these particles in the lab. Nadj-Perge explains, “it turns out that, under certain conditions, when you combine certain materials and apply high magnetic fields at very cold temperatures, electrons will form a state that looks exactly as you would expect from Majorana fermions. Furthermore, such engineered states allow you to store quantum information in a way that postpones decoherence.” [Caltech story]

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Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science