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]
Professor Minnich Receives IPPA Junior Prize
Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, is a recipient of the International Photothermal and Photoacoustics Association (IPPA) Junior Prize. He received the prize for outstanding contributions to the understanding of quasiballistic thermal transport, including the development of photothermal methods to directly probe heat conduction at length scales comparable to phonon mean free paths; for demonstrating how microscopic transport properties of thermal phonons in solids may be obtained using photothermal experimental methods along with ab-initio calculations; and for advances in the mathematical treatment of quasiballistic transport using the Boltzmann equation.
Heat Transfer Sets the Noise Floor for Ultrasensitive Electronics
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]