Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events

Highlights

New Technique Could Harvest More of the Sun's Energy

11-26-14

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and colleagues have created a new technique to harness the lost energy from solar panels. “Silicon absorbs only a certain fraction of the spectrum, and it's transparent to the rest. If I put a photovoltaic module on my roof, the silicon absorbs that portion of the spectrum, and some of that light gets converted into power. But the rest of it ends up just heating up my roof," explains Professor Atwater. Now they have found a way to absorb and make use of these infrared waves with a structure composed not of silicon, but entirely of metal. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Harry Atwater

Heat Transfer Sets the Noise Floor for Ultrasensitive Electronics

11-10-14

Austin Minnich, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have identified a source of electronic noise that could affect the functioning of instruments operating at very low temperatures, such as devices used in radio telescopes and advanced physics experiments. The team's findings also suggest that it may be possible to develop engineering strategies to make phonon heat transfer more efficient at low temperatures. For example, one possibility might be to change the design of transistors so that phonon generation takes place over a broader volume. "If you can make the phonon generation more spread out, then in principle you could reduce the temperature rise that occurs," Professor Minnich says. "We don't know what the precise strategy will be yet, but now we know the direction we should be going. That's an improvement." [Caltech release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Austin Minnich

Making Hotter Engines and Lasting Artwork

11-07-14

Katherine Faber, Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science, studies the reasons why brittle ceramics fracture—and how these materials can be made stronger and tougher in the future. Her research interests have also been applied to sustainability and the arts. [Interview with Professor Faber] [ENGenious article]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Katherine Faber

Inside the Caltech Laboratories of Professors Atwater and Arnold

10-17-14

The creators of the Austrian TV documentary TM Wissen (TM Knowledge) go inside the laboratories of Professors Harry A. Atwater, Jr. and Frances H. Arnold to learn more about their research at Caltech.

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Harry Atwater

Sensors to Simplify Diabetes Management

10-10-14

As part of their Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) projects, several engineering students have contributed to the development of tiny biosensors that could one day eliminate the need for manual blood sugar tests. The students were advised by Caltech medical engineering faculty Axel Scherer, and Hyuck Choo. [Caltech Release] [ENGenious MedE Feature]

Tags: APhMS EE MedE health Axel Scherer Hyuck Choo

Professor Greer Awarded the Kavli Early Career Lecture in Nanoscience

09-23-14

Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, has been awarded the Kavli Early Career Lecture in Nanoscience. This honor recognizes significant novel contributions to materials science by a young researcher in the early stages of her career. Professor Greer’s nomination emphasized her creative, ingenious, and elegant work in nanoscience.

Tags: APhMS honors MCE Julia Greer

Ceramics Don't Have To Be Brittle

09-11-14

Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and her colleagues are on the path to developing materials that possess unheard-of combinations of properties. "Ceramics have always been thought to be heavy and brittle," says Professor Greer. "We're showing that in fact, they don't have to be either. This very clearly demonstrates that if you use the concept of the nanoscale to create structures and then use those nanostructures like LEGO to construct larger materials, you can obtain nearly any set of properties you want. You can create materials by design." [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Julia Greer

Caltech Engineering Ranks High on U.S. News Best Grad Schools List

09-11-14

Caltech’s undergraduate and graduate engineering programs have been ranked fourth in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Engineering graduate programs ranked very well with second in aerospace / aeronautical / astronautical, third in mechanical, third in applied math, fourth in electrical / electronic / communications, sixth in materials, and eight in environmental / environmental health. [All 2015 Caltech Rankings]

Tags: APhMS EE GALCIT MCE CMS ESE Graduate school rankings

Alumnus Receives Award from Council on Large Electric Systems

08-28-14

Alumnus Thales Papazoglou (MS ME ’70), who was advised by Professor Noel R. Corngold, has been awarded the Council on Large Electric Systems (CIGRE) Technical Committee Award for his contribution in the area of system operation and control.  He was a Professor of Electric Power, and Director of Electric Power Systems Laboratory at the Technological Educational Institute of Crete, Greece for 35 years.

Tags: APhMS honors alumni Thales Papazoglou Noel Corngold

Professor Atwater Receives Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics

08-13-14

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, has received the Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics for pioneering achievements in plasmonics and novel nanophotonic routes to ultrahigh-efficiency solar energy conversion. Professor Atwater’s scientific interests have two themes: plasmonics and optical metamaterials as well as photovoltaics and solar energy conversion. He is an early pioneer in nanophotonics and plasmonics, giving the name to the field of plasmonics in 2001. The Julius Springer Prize is awarded annually to scientists who have made an outstanding and innovative contribution to the field of applied physics. [Caltech Release] [Springer release]

Tags: APhMS honors energy Harry Atwater