News & Events


Microscopic Materials


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is fascinated by the interactions of quasiparticles and how they give rise to the world around us. He explains, “I'm most excited about the emphasis on fundamental science here. People can be really tempted by "flashy" science or experiments on hot topics. But to compute what I'm trying to look at, we have to first build our understanding on simple experiments and materials—boring things—before we are able to tackle materials at the frontier of condensed matter research.” [Interview with Prof. Bernardi]

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Professor Atwater Elected to National Academy of Inventors


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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Full Circle Physics


Dive into the thinking of several Institute for Quantum Information and Matter (IQIM) researchers including Oskar J. Painter, John G Braun Professor of Applied Physics and Fletcher Jones Foundation Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, to learn more about the frontiers of quantum science, the role IQIM plays in exploring that frontier, and the question oft thought but rarely spoken: Why should we care? [E&S article]

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Professor Atwater Receives David Adler Lectureship Award


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, has been awarded the 2016 David Adler Lectureship Award in the Field of Materials Physics by the American Physical Society. The Award recognizes “an outstanding contributor to the field of materials physics, who is noted for the quality of his research, review articles, and lecturing.” [Learn more]

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Inaugural Centers Announced for the Materials Genome Initiative


William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, will be the Caltech Principle Investigator for one of U.S. Department of Energy’s inaugural centers for the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). The initiative was launched by the White House to “help businesses discover, develop, and deploy new materials twice as fast.” The three inaugural centers are receiving $8 million to “integrate theory and computation with experiment and provide the materials community with advanced tools and techniques in support of the MGI.” Professor Goddard and colleagues will be working on the Computational Synthesis of Materials Software Project with the goal of developing the next-generation of methods and software to predict and control materials processes at the level of electrons. [Learn more]

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Atomic Fractals in Metallic Glasses


Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues including graduate student David Chen have shown that metallic glasses has an atomic-level structure although it differs from the periodic lattices that characterize crystalline metals. "Our group has solved this paradox by showing that atoms are only arranged fractally up to a certain scale," Greer says. "Larger than that scale, clusters of atoms are packed randomly and tightly, making a fully dense material, just like a regular metal. So we can have something that is both fractal and fully dense." [Caltech story]

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Highly Cited Researchers


The Thomson Reuters compilation of the most highly cited researchers— those in the top 1%—include EAS professors Harry Atwater, William Goddard, Babak Hassibi, Joel Tropp, Kerry Vahala, and Paul Wennberg. This compilation aims to identify researchers with exceptional impact on their respective fields. [Detailed information on the methodology]

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Professor Bernardi Wins the Psi-K Volker Heine Young Investigator Award


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, has won the 2015 Psi-K Volker Heine Young Investigator Award. The award is given in recognition of an individual’s outstanding computational work in condensed-matter, materials, or nanoscience research involving electronic structure calculations. Professor Bernardi has received it for his research in first principles electronic structure calculations of the ultrafast dynamics of excited electrons in materials. His research is addressing the question of “how does an excited electron lose its energy?” which is central in a variety of fields ranging from condensed matter physics to electrical engineering and energy. Bernardi has developed and applied calculations to study the dynamics of out-of-equilibrium charge carriers, also known as hot carriers, in semiconductors and metals. [Learn more]

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New, Ultrathin Optical Devices Shape Light in Exotic Ways


Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have created silicon nanopillars devices capable of manipulating light in ways that are very difficult or impossible to achieve with conventional optical components. The devices are precisely arranged into a honeycomb pattern to create a "metasurface" that can control the paths and properties of passing light waves. Professor Faraon describes, "this new technology is very similar to the one used to print semiconductor chips onto silicon wafers, so you could conceivably manufacture millions of systems such as microscopes or cameras at a time." [Caltech story] [BBC video clip]

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Seeing Quantum Motion


Keith Schwab, Professor of Applied Physics, has found a way to observe and control the quantum motion of an object that is large enough to see. Schwab's group has learned how to cool the motion of small micrometer-scale objects to produce the quantum ground state. This quantum motion is theoretically an intrinsic part of the motion of all objects. Schwab and his colleagues designed a device that would allow them to observe this quantum motion and then manipulate it. The ability to control quantum noise could one day be used to improve the precision of very sensitive measurements, such as those designed to search for signs of gravitational waves. [Caltech Story]

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Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science