Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Applied Physics

News & Events


Tiny Optical Cavity Could Make Quantum Networks Possible


Professor Andrei Faraon and team have shown that atoms in optical cavities—tiny boxes for light—could be foundational to the creation of a quantum internet. They identified a rare-earth ytterbium ion in the center of a beam. The ytterbium ions are able to store information in their spin for 30 milliseconds. In this time, light could transmit information to travel across the continental United States. "It's a rare-earth ion that absorbs and emits photons in exactly the way we'd need to create a quantum network," says Faraon. "This could form the backbone technology for the quantum internet." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights Andrei Faraon Andrei Ruskuc Jake Rochman John Bartholomew Yan Qi Huan

New Chip-Based Laser Gyroscope Measures Earth's Rotation


Optical gyroscopes are used in applications such as aircraft navigation systems, while MEMS gyroscopes are found in devices like smart phones. Professor Kerry J. Vahala has developed an optical gyroscope that combines some of the best characteristics of each into one device. "For more than 20 years, researchers have speculated about placing optical gyroscopes onto a chip very much like the highly successful MEMS gyroscopes. But until recently, there have been very few compelling experiments," Vahala says. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala IST

Microstructures Self-Assemble into New Materials


A new process developed at Caltech makes it possible for the first time to manufacture large quantities of materials whose structure is designed at a nanometer scale—the size of DNA's double helix. Pioneered by Professor Julia R. Greer, "nanoarchitected materials" exhibit unusual, often surprising properties—for example, exceptionally lightweight ceramics that spring back to their original shape, like a sponge, after being compressed. Now, a team of engineers at Caltech and ETH Zurich have developed a material that is designed at the nanoscale but assembles itself—with no need for the precision laser assembly. "We couldn't 3-D print this much nanoarchitected material even in a month; instead we're able to grow it in a matter of hours," says Carlos M. Portela, Postdoctoral Scholar. "It is exciting to see our computationally designed optimal nanoscale architectures being realized experimentally in the lab," says Dennis M. Kochmann, Visiting Associate. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Julia Greer Dennis Kochmann postdocs Carlos Portela

Researchers Develop New Quantum Algorithm


Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, Fernando Brandão, Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, and Garnet Chan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, have developed an algorithm for quantum computers that will help them find use in simulations in the physical sciences. The new algorithm allows a user to find the lowest energy of a given molecule or material. Many people are interested in how to simulate the ground states of molecules and materials. "If we want to do a simulation of water, we could look at how water behaves after it has been blasted into a plasma—an electrically charged gas—but that's not the state water is usually found in; it is not the ground state of water. Ground states are of special interest in understanding the world under ordinary conditions," says Chan. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Austin Minnich Fernando Brandão Garnet Chan

How Electrons Break the Speed Limit


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and Jinjian Zhou, Postdoctoral Scholar, have developed a way to predict how electrons interacting strongly with atomic motions will flow through a complex material. "Using a new method, we have been able to predict both the formation and the dynamics of polarons in strontium titanate. This advance is crucial since many semiconductors and oxides of interest for future electronics and energy applications exhibit polaron effects," says Bernardi. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Marco Bernardi postdocs Jinjian Zhou

Caltech Announces the Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering


Caltech has launched the Schmidt Academy for Software Engineering to train the next generation of science-savvy software engineers and set new standards in scientific software. "This is a recognition that computing, software, and machine learning are going to play a very big role in science. Because Caltech is small and collaborative, we have the opportunity to really make a push in that direction," says Kaushik Bhattacharya, the Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Materials Science and vice provost. [Caltech release]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights MCE CMS Tapio Schneider Donnie Pinkston Kaushik Bhattacharya

New Metamaterial Changes Shape in a Tunable Fashion


Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering, has developed a new type of architected metamaterial that has the ability to change shape in a tunable fashion. The material has potential applications in next-generation energy storage and bio-implantable micro-devices. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE Julia Greer

Self-folding “Rollbot” paves the way for fully untethered soft robots


Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed soft robotic systems, inspired by origami, that can move and change shape in response to external stimuli, paving the way for fully untethered soft robots. "This work demonstrates how the combination of responsive polymers in an architected composite can lead to materials with self-actuation in response to different stimuli. In the future, such materials can be programmed to perform ever more complex tasks, blurring the boundaries between materials and robots," said Professor Daraio. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh

Finding the Magic in the Magic Angle


Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have built upon, the discovery of the "magic angle" for stacked sheets of graphene, by generating an image of the atomic structure and electronic properties of magic angle-twisted graphene, yielding new insight into the phenomenon by offering a more direct way of studying it. They have developed a new method of creating samples of magic angle-twisted graphene that can be used to align the two sheets of graphene very precisely while leaving it exposed for direct observation. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Stevan Nadj-Perge

Levitating Objects with Light


Ognjen Ilic, postdoctoral scholar in Professor Harry Atwater’s laboratory, and colleagues have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces. "We have come up with a method that could levitate macroscopic objects," says Professor Atwater, who is also the director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. "There is an audaciously interesting application to use this technique as a means for propulsion of a new generation of spacecraft. We're a long way from actually doing that, but we are in the process of testing out the principles." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Harry Atwater postdocs Ognjen Ilic