Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


No Motor, No Battery, No Problem


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed robots capable of self-propulsion without using any motors, servos, or power supply. Instead, these first-of-their-kind devices paddle through water as the material they are constructed from deforms with temperature changes. "Combining simple motions together, we were able to embed programming into the material to carry out a sequence of complex behaviors," says Caltech postdoctoral scholar Osama R. Bilal, who is co-first author of the PNAS paper is titled "Harnessing bistability for directional propulsion of soft, untethered robots." [Caltech story]

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Caltech Climate School


To mark the start of Earth Week, Caltech hosted a two-day series of lectures about climate and climate change, which the organizers dubbed "climate school". The speakers included Professor Austin Minnich whose presentation focused on the myths and misconceptions associated with climate change. "Instead of asking for people to trust us, we should ask them notto trust and instead give them guidance for how they can check out what's going on for themselves," Minnich said. [Caltech story]

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Erika Ye Wins 2018 Google PhD Fellowship


Graduate student Erika Ye co-advised by Professors Austin Minnich, Garnet Chan, and Fernando Brandao, has been awarded a 2018 Google PhD Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students doing exceptional research in computer science and related disciplines. Erika is attempting to discover what current quantum computers can do that classical computers cannot. Currently she is focusing on computational chemistry—particularly, calculating the behavior of electrons in complex molecules, which ultimately could provide detailed information about reaction rates or how enzymes in cells work. [Caltech story]

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Building Blocks to Create Metamaterials


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have created a method to systematically design metamaterials using principles of quantum mechanics. "Before our work, there was no single, systematic way to design metamaterials that control mechanical waves for different applications," Professor Daraio says. "Instead, people often optimized a design to fulfill a specific purpose, or tried out new designs based on something they saw in nature, and then studied what properties would arise from repeated patterns." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh

Bergles-Rohsenow Young Investigator Award


Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, is a recipient of the Bergles-Rohsenow Young Investigator Award in Heat Transfer from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The award recognizes an engineer who is under 36 years of age and is committed to pursuing research in heat transfer, and has demonstrated the potential to make significant contributions to the field.

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Professor Minnich Receives IPPA Junior Prize


Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, is a recipient of the International Photothermal and Photoacoustics Association (IPPA) Junior Prize. He received the prize for outstanding contributions to the understanding of quasiballistic thermal transport, including the development of photothermal methods to directly probe heat conduction at length scales comparable to phonon mean free paths; for demonstrating how microscopic transport properties of thermal phonons in solids may be obtained using photothermal experimental methods along with ab-initio calculations; and for advances in the mathematical treatment of quasiballistic transport using the Boltzmann equation.

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2017 Library Thesis Prize


Senior Daniel Lim has received the 2017 Library Friends' Senior Thesis Prize for his work on sculpting nanofilms with laser illumination. Lim's thesis, titled "Revolution in large-area curved surface lithography: Nanofilm sculpting by thermocapillary modulation," is based on experimental research he conducted over two years in the laboratory of Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering Sandra M. Troian. "Our group has been working on thermocapillary sculpting of nanofilms for several years now,” says Troian. "Daniel advanced this concept by demonstrating an inverse projection method, which imbues the sculpting process with far greater versatility. Daniel is an exceptional student—a rare combination of superb talent, tremendous drive, utmost professionalism, and entrepreneurial chops. " [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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE

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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Professor Bhattacharya Named Vice Provost


On July 15, 2016, Kaushik Bhattacharya, Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Materials Science, will take over from Professor Morteza Gharib as Caltech vice provost. His research group studies the mechanical behavior of solids and uses theory to guide the development of new materials. He has made contributions on a wide array of topics, ranging from the fundamental mechanics of materials, to active materials and devices, to multi-scale and multi-physics scale simulation of materials. Though trained as a theoretician, he is well known for live demonstrations of shape-memory materials in action.  "Kaushik's technical strength, deep knowledge of the Institute, energy, and enthusiasm will serve him and us well as he takes on this important role," said EAS Division Chair G. (Ravi) Ravichandran. [Caltech story]

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