Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


A Method to Map Brain Circuits in Real Time


A new approach called integrated neurophotonics could allow researchers to track the activity of all the neurons that make up a particular brain circuit. To deepen their understanding of the brain, neuroscientists must be able to map in great detail the neural circuits that are responsible for tasks such as processing sensory information or forming new memories. Now, a new approach may allow for the activity of all of the thousands to millions of neurons within a particular brain circuit to be observed in real time. Dense recording at depth—that is the key," says Michael Roukes, Frank J. Roshek Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Michael Roukes

Effective Pathway to Convert Greenhouse Gas into Valuable Products


A research team from Caltech and the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has demonstrated a promising way to efficiently convert carbon dioxide into ethylene—an important chemical used to produce plastics, solvents, cosmetics, and other important products globally. They developed nanoscale copper wires with specially shaped surfaces to catalyze a chemical reaction that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously generating ethylene. "The idea of using copper to catalyze this reaction has been around for a long time, but the key is to accelerate the rate so it is fast enough for industrial production," says William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Goddard

Optical Clock Collaboration Awarded 2020 Team Engineering Excellence Award


The 2-Photon Optical Clock Collaboration has been awarded OSA’s 2020 Paul F. Forman Team Engineering Excellence Award. The team comprises researchers and engineers from Caltech, Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Stanford University, and the University of Colorado, Boulder. Caltech contributed the microwave rate frequency microcomb to the clock. [OSA story]

Tags: honors Kerry Vahala Boqiang Shen Myoung Gyun Suh Ki Youl Yang

Advancing Future Quantum Science Efforts


Five new Department of Energy centers will apply quantum information science to emerging technologies. The centers will develop cutting-edge quantum technologies for use in a wide range of possible applications including scientific computing; fundamental physics and chemistry research; and the design of solar cells and of new materials and pharmaceuticals. Caltech faculty will participate in four of the new science centers: the Quantum Systems Accelerator, led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, also known as Berkeley Lab; the Quantum Science Center, led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Q-NEXT, led by Argonne National Laboratory; and the Co-design Center for Quantum Advantage, led by Brookhaven National Laboratory. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights CMS Oskar Painter Andrei Faraon

Collecting Hot Carriers: New Process Harvests Excited Quasiparticles


Professor Harry Atwater has developed a way to eke more energy out of solar power by collecting freshly charged particles before they have an opportunity to cool off. This fundamental research could one day help scientists harvest energy from the sun more efficiently than by the natural photosynthesis used by plants. "If hot carriers, transporting more energy, could be captured, we would be able to wring three to four times as much energy from solar power," says Atwater. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Harry Atwater

A Pathway to Longer-Lasting Lithium Batteries


The energy density of batteries have been a major challenge for consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and renewable energy sources. Professor Julia R. Greer has made a discovery that could lead to lithium-ion batteries that are both safer and more powerful. Findings provide guidance for how lithium-ion batteries, one of the most common kinds of rechargeable batteries, can safely hold up to 50 percent more energy. "Every power-requiring application would benefit from batteries with lithium instead of graphite anodes because they can power so much more," says Greer. "Lithium is lightweight, it doesn't occupy much space, and it's tremendously energy dense." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Julia Greer

Superconducting Twisted Bilayer Graphene—Magic not Needed?


A new study shows that superconductivity in twisted bilayer graphene can exist away from the magic angle when coupled to a two-dimensional semiconductor. "Our observations were quite unexpected. It implies that we only scratched the surface of graphene twistronics. These are exciting times for the field," says Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Stevan Nadj-Perge

Optical Microcomb Device May Result in Improved Telecommunications, Sensors, Clocks


Modern telecommunications often makes use of multiple lasers of different colors to transmit data, but a new device the size of a cigarette pack can replace them. A team of researchers from Caltech, UC Santa Barbara, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a new device that will lead to improved optical data transmission and could have applications ranging from communications to the miniaturization of time standards or to the search for exoplanets. Their device converts laser light of a single frequency into an evenly spaced set of many distinct frequencies (a comb of frequencies). The resulting optical frequency microcomb is built from a single piece of silicon, in much the same way as computer chips. And its many colors can replace many separate lasers for data transmission. "The new approach makes the process as easy as switching on a room light," says co-author Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics and executive officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala

Chengzhe Zhou Receives 2020 Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award


Chengzhe Zhou, a graduate student in Physics supervised by Professor Sandra Troian, is a recipient of the 2020 Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award. His doctorate research focuses on the development of novel theoretical and computational tools for quantifying the nonlinear evolution and control of moving liquid boundaries driven by external fields. He hopes his findings offer new and useful analytic tools for investigating emergent small-scale dynamic phenomena in strongly driven nonlinear systems. The Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award is given to an EAS graduate student in hydrodynamics who has distinguished himself or herself in research.

Tags: honors Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award Sandra Troian Chengzhe Zhou

Michael Yao Receives 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award


Applied physics student Michael Yao, advised by Professor Mikhail Shapiro and Professor Andrei Faraon, is a recipient of the 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. At the intersection between physics and medicine, Michael is interested in how physical and computational tools can be used to enhance the ability to image and treat diseases within the body. This summer, he will be working as a SURF fellow to explore the applications of ultrasound in improving both the safety and efficacy of immunotherapy and other cancer treatments. Encouraged by his mentors and coursework at Caltech, Michael will be pursuing a physician-scientist training program following graduation. 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 Mikhail Shapiro Michael Yao