A Bright Future in Photovoltaics
Alumna Carissa Eisler discusses her passion for science and her research in Professor Harry Atwater’s group on photovoltaics—the conversion of solar energy into electrical energy using semiconducting materials. She was part of a group tasked with developing an ultrahigh-efficiency solar-cell module that involves designing solar collectors, optical components, and electronics.
Using Applied Physics to Explain How Accretion Disks Drive Astrophysical Jets
Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, has developed a new model explaining why astrophysical jets always originate from stars having accretion disks, the progenitors of planets. The relationship between jets and accretion disks has eluded scientists for many years and what happens to the angular momentum of accreting particles has also long been a mystery. Professor Bellan’s model explains how the disks power the jets as well as how angular momentum is removed from accreting material in the disks. The model involves peculiar inward spiraling trajectories of clumps of charged and neutral particles, and shows that the disk and jets together form an electric circuit where the disk is the battery and the jet is the load. [Read the Paper]
Seeking a Balanced Equation
Applied Physics graduate student Peter Hung, working with Professor Roukes, is one of the Caltech students featured in a recent E&S article. “In our lab, we shoot molecules of different sizes and shapes at really small mechanical resonators—tiny bridges almost 1,000 times smaller than the width of your hair—and use the change in the resonant frequency (how fast these bridges are vibrating) to reconstruct the shape and mass of the molecules that we’re shooting,” Hung explains. [E&S article]
Professor Faraon Receives ONR Young Investigator Award
Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is a recipient of a 2016 Office of Naval Research (ONR) Young Investigator Award. The objectives of the Young Investigator Program are to attract to naval research outstanding new faculty members, to support their research, and to encourage their teaching and research careers. Professor Faraon’s award is for his proposal entitled, Quantum Transduction Between Optical and Microwave Photons using Rare-Earth-Doped Materials. [Recipient List] [Caltech story]
Moriah Bischann Wins SURF Speaking Competition
Material science undergraduate student Moriah Bischann, mentored by aerospace postdoctoral scholar, Dr. Owen Kingstedt, is the winner of the Doris S. Perpall Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) Speaking Competition. She was recognized as the best speakers-out of the 200 students who presented their SURF research. Her summer research focused on exploring the next generation of structural materials. During her ten week SURF project she studied the effects of alloying and processing on the dynamic behavior of magnesium (Mg). This work was done to address the larger question of whether Mg is a useful material for the automotive, aerospace, energy, and defense industries where a material is needed that has low density, but also the strength to withstand high impact forces.
Novel Calibration Tool Will Help Astronomers
Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics; Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have developed a novel calibration tool, called a laser frequency comb, which could allow astronomers to take a major step in discovering and characterizing earthlike planets around other stars. The comb produces easily resolvable lines, without any need for filtering and is built from off-the-shelf components developed by the telecommunications industry. "We have demonstrated an alternative approach that is simple, reliable, and relatively inexpensive," says Professor Vahala. [Caltech story]
Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, is fascinated by the interactions of quasiparticles and how they give rise to the world around us. He explains, “I'm most excited about the emphasis on fundamental science here. People can be really tempted by "flashy" science or experiments on hot topics. But to compute what I'm trying to look at, we have to first build our understanding on simple experiments and materials—boring things—before we are able to tackle materials at the frontier of condensed matter research.” [Interview with Prof. Bernardi]