Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


New Materials Exhibit Split Personality


Julia Greer, Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering, and colleagues have determined that the failure of architected materials—the point at which they break when compressed or stretched—can be described using classical continuum mechanics, which models the behavior of a material as a continuous mass rather than as individual (or "discrete") particles. This finding implies a duality to the nature of these materials—in that they can be thought of both as individual particles and also as a single collective. [Caltech story]

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Microscopic Devices That Control Vibrations Could Allow Smaller Mobile Devices


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed phononic devices that include parts that vibrate extremely fast, moving back and forth up to tens of millions of times per second. The devices were developed by creating silicon nitride drums that are just 90 nanometers thick. The drums are arranged into grids, with different grid patterns having different properties. Professor Daraio, along with former Caltech postdoctoral scholar Jinwoong Cha, have shown that arrays of these drums can act as tunable filters for signals of different frequencies and can act like one-way valves for high-frequency waves. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh postdocs Jinwoong Cha

Professor Daraio Receives Outstanding Alumni Award


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, has been awarded the UC San Diego Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Outstanding Alumna Award for her outstanding achievements in mechanical metamaterials and materials science. [Award recipients]

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"Folded" Optical Devices Manipulate Light in a New Way


Andrei Faraon, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have introduced a technology called "folded metasurface optics," which is a way of printing multiple types of metasurfaces onto either side of a substrate, like glass. In this way, the substrate itself becomes the propagation space for the light. As a proof of concept, the team used the technique to build a spectrometer. Such compact spectrometers have a variety of possible uses, including as a noninvasive blood-glucose measuring system. [Caltech story]

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Caltech Startup Aims to Make Solar Panels More Efficient


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

Caltech Awarded Federal Funding for Quantum Research


EAS Professors were among a small group of Caltech scientists and engineering who have won federal grants for research in quantum computing, and quantum networks. Professor Nadj-Perge (lead PI) along with co-PIs Professors Marco Bernardi and Andrei Faraon as well as co-investigator Professor Julia Greer have received funding for the program ”Quantum States in Layered Heterostructures Controlled by Electrostatic Fields and Strain," which is administered within the U.S. Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences division. Professor Austin Minnich is a co-PI of the program, "Quantum simulation of materials and molecules using quantum computation," which is part of the National Science Foundation's Research Advanced by Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering (RAISE)-Transformational Advances in Quantum Systems (TAQS) effort. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Julia Greer Austin Minnich Andrei Faraon Marco Bernardi Stevan Nadj-Perge

President Rosenbaum Highlights Postdocs as "Unsung Heroes"


In a letter to the Caltech community during National Postdoc Appreciation Week, the Caltech President emphasizes the role this key group plays at the Institute. He stated, “Caltech's mission of world-leading research and education depends crucially on our postdoctoral scholars. Although their time at Caltech may be short, they quickly become vital parts of the Institute's intellectual fabric.” [President’s Letter] [EAS Postdoc Resource Page]

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Sunash Sharma Receives 2018 Henry Ford II Scholar Award


Applied physics student Sunash Sharma, advised by Professor Stevan Nadj-Perge, is a recipient of the 2018 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. He has wide-ranging interests from biophysics to fluid mechanics to quantum computation. 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 Henry Ford II Scholar Award Stevan Nadj-Perge Sunash Sharma

Clues to Solar Cell Efficiency Found at Atomic Level


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, has teamed up with physics colleague Professor David Hsieh, to offers new insight into a promising solar cell material called perovskites. "Despite being a relatively new technology, perovskite solar cells are now almost as efficient as solar cell materials that have been around for decades. But we still don't know why perovskite solar cells work so well," says Professor Bernardi, [Caltech story]

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Exact Optical Frequencies on Demand


Professor Kerry J. Vahala and colleagues have developed a prototype of a miniature device that synthesizes frequencies on demand with about 1 Hertz accuracy. It combines a frequency comb developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with a "fine-toothed" frequency comb developed at Caltech. To create the finely spaced comb teeth, the Caltech resonator must be about 100 times larger than the NIST device. Its larger size can potentially make this comb very power hungry. "Too much power in a small space can damage any electronics to which the resonator is connected," Professor Vahala says. "Also, in the future, these synthesizer devices could operate on battery power in smartphone-sized devices where they cannot draw much power." But the Caltech comb can generate specific frequencies with minimal amounts of power. [Caltech story]

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