Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

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Highlights

Solar Decathlon Team

10-03-11

The high-tech house built by a joint team of students from Caltech and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), known as Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype (CHIP), placed 6th at the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. In the category of Energy Balance we tied for first place; in the categories of engineering and home entertainment, we placed 2nd, and in affordability we placed third. [Final scores and photos] [Walkthrough video of CHIP]

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Tags: APhMS energy Harry Atwater CMS Richard Murray Solar Decathlon

CHIP Goes to Washington

09-06-11

The high-tech house built by a joint team of students from Caltech and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), known as Compact Hyper-Insulated Prototype (CHIP), is heading to Washington D.C. for the 2011 Solar Decathlon competition. The SCI-Arc / Caltech team has been supported by a variety of people including Richard Murray, Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering, and Harry Atwater, Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science; Director, Resnick Sustainability Institute. CHIP will be competing with 18 other teams for the title of the most energy-efficient, affordable, and attractive house. [Caltech Feature] [Walkthrough video of CHIP]

Tags: APhMS energy Harry Atwater CMS Richard Murray Solar Decathlon

Nano-mechanics of Carbon Nanotube Research Wins Art Competition

08-22-11

Siddhartha (Sid) Pathak, a W. M. Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) Postdoctoral Fellow in Material Science, has received the first prize in the NanoArt 2011 International Competition. The inspiration for Dr. Pathak's entry entitled "In-situ SEM deformation of CNT micro-pillars" is his research on nano-mechanics of carbon nanotubes.  As a KISS postdoc Dr. Pathak is working with  Professor Julia Greer on mechanical testing of carbon nanotubes at submicron length scales, with a particular emphasis towards space applications.  

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Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Julia Greer KISS Siddhartha Pathak

Disorder Is Key to Nanotube Mystery

08-12-11

William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics; and Posdoctoral Scholar Tod Pascal believe to have solved the mystery of why water spontaneously flows into extremely small tubes of graphite or graphene, called carbon nanotubes.  Using a novel method to calculate the dynamics of water molecules they have found that entropy is the missing key.  "It's a pretty surprising result," says Professor Goddard "People normally focus on energy in this problem, not entropy." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights William Goddard Tod Pascal

Engineers Solve Longstanding Problem in Photonic Chip Technology

08-04-11

Liang Feng, a Postdoctoral Scholar in Electrical Engineering who works with Professor Axel Scherer, has designed a new type of optical waveguide - a 0.8-micron-wide silicon device. The waveguide allows light to go in one direction but changes the mode of the light when it travels in the opposite direction. This new technique to isolate light signals on a silicon chip, solves a longstanding problem in engineering photonic chips. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS EE energy research highlights Liang Feng Axel Scherer

One-way Transmission System for Sound Waves

07-26-11

Postdoctoral scholar, Georgios Theocharis, and GALCIT alumnus Nicholas Boechler; working with Professor Chiara Daraio, have created the first tunable acoustic diode- a device that allows acoustic information to travel only in one direction, at controllable frequencies. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT Georgios Theocharis Nicholas Boechler

Converting Heat into Electricity in Space and on Earth - High-Performance Bulk Thermoelectrics

05-23-11

Jeff Snyder, Faculty Associate in Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have developed a thermoelectric material that might be able to operate off nothing more than the heat of a car's exhaust. "You'll see applications wherever there's a solid-state advantage," Snyder predicts. "One example is the charging system. The electricity to keep your car's battery charged is generated by the alternator, a mechanical device driven by a rubber belt powered by the crankshaft. You've got friction, slippage, strain, internal resistance, wear and tear, and weight, in addition to the mechanical energy extracted to make the electricity. Just replacing that one subsystem with a thermoelectric solution could instantly improve a car's fuel efficiency by 10 percent." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Jeff Snyder

New Reactor Paves the Way for Efficiently Producing Fuel from Sunlight

01-20-11

Sossina Haile, Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, and colleagues have built a reactor at the heart of which is a cylindrical lining of ceria—a metal oxide. The reactor takes advantage of ceria's ability to "exhale" oxygen from its crystalline framework at very high temperatures and then "inhale" oxygen back in at lower temperatures - concentrating solar energy in order to convert carbon dioxide and water into fuels .  Ultimately, Haile says, the process could be adopted in large-scale energy plants, allowing solar-derived power to be reliably available during the day and night. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Sossina Haile fuel metal oxide reactor

Amnon Yariv Awarded National Medal of Science

10-15-10

Amnon Yariv, Martin and Eileen Summerfield Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Electrical Engineering, has received one of the highest honors bestowed by the United States government on scientists, and engineers. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Science. Professor Yariv's research group has pioneered the field of optoelectronics. Many innovations such as distributed Feedback (DFB) Semiconductor Lasers, Integrated Optoelectronic Circuits, Optical Phase Conjugation, External Cavity Tunable Semiconductor Lasers, Quantum Well Infrared Photodetectors (QWIP's), and all-fiber add/drop filters have found their beginnings in his research group. Currently, his group’s research aims at developing the new technologies that will be mandated by the seemingly endless appetite for optical bandwidth. Specifically, they are working at extending, to the field of laser optics, some key ideas that form the foundation of the microwaves and the radio frequencies fields. [Caltech Press Release], [White House Press Release] [Watch the White House Cermony]

Tags: Amnon Yariv APhMS EE honors energy research highlights

2010 Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics

10-04-10

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, along with colleagues Nate Lewis, George L. Argyros Professor and Professor of Chemistry, and Dr. Michael Kelzenberg are recipients of a 2010 Breakthrough Award by Popular Mechanics for their work on flexible solar cells. [Popular Mechanics Article]

Tags: APhMS honors energy research highlights Popular Mechanics Harry Atwater Nate Lewis Michael Kelzenberg