Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

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Highlights

The Physics of Going Viral

06-28-12

Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology, and colleagues have measured the rate of DNA transfer from viruses to bacteria. They wanted to find out whether pressure plays a dominant role in transferring the DNA. Instead, he says, "What we discovered is that the thing that mattered most was not the pressure in the bacteriophage, but how much DNA was in the bacterial cell." When the bacteriophages try to inject their DNA into the cells, the factor that limits the rate of transfer is how jam-packed those cells are.  "In this case," Phillips says, "it had more to do with the recipient, and less to do with the pressure that had built up inside the phage." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Rob Phillips

Winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Announced

06-14-12

The student winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at a special luncheon with the Demetriades - Tsafka – Kokkalis family. Philip Romero received the prize in Biotechnology for his work on developing statistical models of proteins with Frances Arnold. Michael Mello was the recipient of the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection for his work with Ares Rosakis on developing a novel methodology for identifying the unique ground motion signatures of supershear earthquakes. Leslie O’Leary received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for her pathbreaking work on the properties of semiconductor interfaces with Nate Lewis and Bob Grubbs. This year there were two winners for the prize in Nanotechnology. One winner was Andrew Jennings for his experimental and modeling work in nanomechanics with Julia Greer. The other winner of the Nanotechnology prize was Jordan Raney who has worked with Chiara Daraio to develop new chemical synthesis methods to control the properties of carbon nanotubes.

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT MCE Nate Lewis Julia Greer Ares Rosakis Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Philip Romero Frances Arnold. Michael Mello Leslie O’Leary Bob Grubbs Andrew Jennings Jordan Raney

Liquid-like Materials May Pave Way for New Thermoelectric Devices

03-23-12

Jeff Snyder, Faculty Associate in Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have identified a liquid-like compound whose properties give it the potential to be even more efficient than traditional thermoelectrics. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Jeff Snyder

Plasmas Torn Apart

02-15-12

Using high-speed cameras to look at jets of plasma in the lab, Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have made a discovery that may be important in understanding phenomena like solar flares and in developing nuclear fusion as a future energy source. "Trying to understand nature by using engineering techniques is indeed a hallmark of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech," says Ares Rosakis, Chair of the Engineering and Applied Science Division. [Caltech release] [Plasma movie]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Paul Bellan

Explaining Superconductivity at High Temperatures

12-16-11

William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed a hypothesis to explain the strange behavior of high-temperature superconductors—copper oxides, or cuprates, that conduct electricity without any resistance at temperatures much higher than other superconducting metals. Their hypothesis also points the way to a method for making even higher-temperature superconductors. [Caltech press release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Goddard

Four EAS Faculty Receive Named Chairs

12-14-11

Professors James (Jim) L. Beck, Sossina M. Haile, Melany L. Hunt, and Rob Phillips have received named chairs.  Jim Beck has been named the George W. Housner Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.  Sossina Haile has been named the Carl F Braun Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering. Melany Hunt has been named the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Rob Phillips has been named the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology.

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Tags: APhMS honors research highlights MCE Sossina Haile James Beck Rob Phillips Melany Hunt

Accelerating Nanoscience out of the Laboratory and into the Marketplace

12-13-11

The Alliance for Nanosystems VLSI (very-large-scale-integration)—a collaboration between the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and Leti-Minatec in France—has launched its first start-up company. The Alliance, which began informally in 2005, was officially created in 2007 to transform academic, nanotechnology-based prototypes into robust, complex sensing systems and thus accelerate nanoscience out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. The start-up company, Analytical Pixels, will focus on the design, manufacture, and commercialization of multi-gas sensing systems created over the past five years in the field of nanoelectromechanical devices, read-out electronics, and system integration, and built on two decades of prior research carried out at Caltech. [Caltech Feature]

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Tags: APhMS research highlights Michael Roukes Oskar Painter KNI

Light as a Feather, Stiffer Than a Board

11-18-11

Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues have developed the world’s lightest solid material, with a density of 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter. The new material, called a micro-lattice, relies, on a lattice architecture: tiny hollow tubes made of nickel-phosphorous are angled to connect at nodes, forming repeating, asterisklike unit cells in three dimensions. "We're entering a new era of materials science where material properties are determined not only by the microscopic makeup of the material but also by the architecture of the constituents," Greer says. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Julia Greer

Using DNA to Manufacture Nanoscale Devices

11-16-11

William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, has received $1.25 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a process that takes advantage of DNA's talent for self-assembly to arrange nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and proteins into configurations designed for use in devices such as sensors, transistors, and optical components. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health William Goddard NSF

An Incredible Shrinking Material

11-07-11

Graduate student, Chen Li, and colleagues including Brent Fultz,  Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, have shown how scandium trifluoride (ScF3) contracts with heat.  "A pure quartic oscillator is a lot of fun," Professor Fultz says. "Now that we've found a case that's very pure, I think we know where to look for it in many other materials." Understanding quartic oscillator behavior will help engineers design materials with unusual thermal properties. "In my opinion," Fultz says, "that will be the biggest long-term impact of this work." [Caltech Press Release] [Nature Article]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Brent Fultz Chen Li