Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Sandra Troian and Mathias Dietzel Solve Decade-Long Mystery of Nanopillar Formations


Sandra Troian, Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering, and Dr. Mathias Dietzel have uncovered the physical mechanism by which arrays of nanoscale pillars can be grown on polymer films with very high precision, in potentially limitless patterns. "This is an example of how basic understanding of the principles of physics and mechanics can lead to unexpected discoveries which may have far-reaching, practical implications," said Ares Rosakis, Division Chair and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech. "This is the real strength of the EAS division." [Caltech Press Release] [video] [Download real player]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Sandra Troian

Brent Fultz Receives 2010 TMS-EMPMD Distinguished Scientist Award


Brent Fultz, Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, is the recipient of the 2010 TMS-EMPMD Distinguished Scientist Award of The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS). The award includes a TMS conference symposium in honor of Professor Fultz that will emphasize the vibrational entropy of materials, and studies of vibrational entropy by inelastic neutron scattering and modern computational methods of materials science. This work was the basis for the award.

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Julia Greer Recognized as a Rising Star by Advanced Functional Materials


Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering, has been recognized as a rising star by Advanced Functional Materials. Her latest publication is entitled Emergence of New Mechanical Functionality in Materials via Size Reduction. [Read Julia Greer's interview]

Tags: APhMS MCE Julia Greer

Kerry Vahala and Colleagues Create First-ever Phonon Laser


Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Professor of Applied Physics; Director, The Lee Center for Advanced Networking along with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have created the first-ever phonon laser--a device that amplifies phonons in much the way that optical lasers amplify photons of light. [View Article]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Kerry Vahala

Chiara Daraio Selected to Participate in the STS Forum - Future Leaders Initiative


Chiara Daraio, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, has been selected to participate in the 2009 Science & Technology in Society (STS) Forum - Future Leaders Initiative. Daraio will join nine other outstanding young scientists from Japan, England, Germany, Chile, Uruguay, Malawi, China and the United States to discuss the impact of their research on societal development. Daraio's research focuses on synthesizing and testing so-called "smart" materials that have a variety of potential applications, ranging from novel methods for sustainable engineering and nondestructive evaluation of civil and mechanical infrastructure (e.g., bridges, power plants) to new acoustic lenses for biomedical imaging and surgery.

The STS Forum is organized and sponsored by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). Guruswami Ravichandran, director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories and John E. Goode, Jr. Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, said, "I am delighted that Dr. Daraio will be representing GALCIT and Caltech at this internationally renowned, interdisciplinary, and cross-sectoral forum". "Dr. Daraio's selection to participate in this world forum is yet another indication of the importance and far reaching impact of the research conducted by the engineering and applied science faculty", said Professor Ares Rosakis, chair of Caltech's Division of Engineering and Applied Science and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering.

Tags: APhMS Chiara Daraio Guruswami Ravichandran

Michael Roukes and Akshay Naik Create First Nanoscale Mass Spectrometer


Michael L. Roukes, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering; Co-Director, Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleague Akshay Naik have created the first nanoscale mass spectrometer. This new technique simplifies and miniaturizes the measurement of the mass of molecules through the use of very tiny nanoelectromechanical system (NEMS) resonators. Askshay Naik explains, "the frequency at which the resonator vibrates is directly proportional to its mass. When a protein lands on the resonator, it causes a decrease in the frequency at which the resonator vibrates and the frequency shift is proportional to the mass of the protein". Professor Roukes points out, "the next generation of instrumentation for the life sciences must enable proteomic analysis with very high throughput. The potential power of our approach is that it is based on semiconductor microelectronics fabrication, which has allowed creation of perhaps mankind's most complex technology." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Michael Roukds Akshay Naik

Michael Elowitz and Avigdor Eldar Show How Evolution Can Allow for Large Developmental Leaps


Michael Elowitz, Associate Professor of Biology and Applied Physics; Bren Scholar, and Avigdor Eldar, Postdoctoral Scholar, show how evolution can allow for large developmental leaps. Most volutionary changes happen in tiny increments: an elephant grows a little larger, a giraffe's neck a little longer. Elowitz and Eldar's team have shown that such changes may at least sometimes be the result of noise, working alongside partial penetrance. Eldar, states "if you take a bunch of cells and grow them in exactly the same environment, they'll be identical twin brothers in terms of the genes they have, but they may still show substantial differences in their behavior". Elowitz adds that "noise—these random fluctuations of proteins in the cell—is not just a nuisance in this system; it's a key part of the process that allows genetically identical cells to do very different things." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS health Michael Elowitz Avigdor Eldar postdocs

Oskar Painter Developes a Nanoscale Device


Oskar Painter, Associate Professor of Applied Physics, has developed a nanoscale device that can be used for force detection, optical communication, and more. The nanoscale device is called a zipper cavity because of the way its dual cantilevers-or nanobeams, as Painter calls them-move together and apart when the device is in use. "If you look at it, it actually looks like a zipper," Painter notes. The device exploits the mechanical properties of light to create an optomechanical cavity in which interactions between light and motion are greatly strengthened and enhanced. These interactions are the largest demonstrated to date. [Caltech Press Release]

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Michael Winterrose and Brent Fultz Use High-Pressure "Alchemy" to Create Nonexpanding Metals


Graduate student Michael Winterrose, and Brent Fultz, professor of materials science and applied physics, and colleagues, describe the exotic behavior of materials existing at high pressures in a paper in the June 12th issue of Physical Review Letters. By squeezing a typical metal alloy at pressures hundreds of thousands of times greater than normal atmospheric pressure, the material does not expand when heated, as does nearly every normal metal, and acts like a metal with an entirely different chemical composition. This insight into the behavior of materials existing at high pressures becomes doubly interesting when you consider that some 90 percent of the matter in our solar system exists at these high pressures. [Caltech Press Release]

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DOE Names Harry Atwater as Director of EFRC Focusing on Light-Material Interactions


DOE Names Harry Atwater as Director of EFRC Focusing on Light-Material Interactions. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science has announced that it will fund the creation of 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) over the next five years, including one that will be housed at Caltech. That $15 million EFRC will be headed by Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor and professor of applied physics and materials science.

Tags: APhMS energy Harry Atwater