Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events


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

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

Best Paper Award


Postdoctoral Scholar Carlos M. Portela, working with Professor Julia Greer and Dennis Kochmann, has won the Gold Paper Award. The title of the paper is "Supersonic Impact on Carbon Nano-architected Materials." The award was granted to the best student contribution across all topic areas at the Society of Engineering Science (SES) 56th Technical Meeting.

Tags: APhMS honors Julia Greer Dennis Kochmann postdocs Carlos Portela

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

President Rosenbaum Highlights Postdocs as "Unsung Heroes"


In a letter to the Caltech community during National Postdoc Appreciation Week, the Caltech President emphasizes the role this key group plays at the Institute. He stated, “Caltech's mission of world-leading research and education depends crucially on our postdoctoral scholars. Although their time at Caltech may be short, they quickly become vital parts of the Institute's intellectual fabric.” [President’s Letter] [EAS Postdoc Resource Page]

Tags: APhMS EE GALCIT MedE MCE CMS ESE Thomas Rosenbaum postdocs

Solving Pieces of the Genetic Puzzle


Postdoctoral scholar Nathan Belliveau working in the laboratory of Professor Rob Phillips has applied a method called Sort-Seq to mutate small pieces of noncoding regions in E. coli and determined which regions contain binding sites. Binding sites are the locations where specialized proteins that are involved in transcription—the first step in the process of gene expression—attach to DNA. "Humans have such a wide variety of cells—muscle cells, neurons, photoreceptors, blood cells, to name a few," says Professor Phillips. "They all have the same DNA, so how do they each turn out so differently? The answer lies in the fact that genes can be regulated—turned on or off, dialed up and dialed down—differently in different tissues. Until now, there have been no general principles to help us understand how this regulation was encoded." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Rob Phillips APh postdocs Nathan Belliveau

Postdoctoral Scholar Receives Dissertation Award From American Physical Society


Moureen C. Kemei, Resnick Sustainability Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar in Applied Physics & Materials Science, has recieved the American Physical Society's Richard L. Green Dissertation Award in Experimental Condensed Matter or Condensed Matter Physics. The award recognizes her outstanding thesis on "Magnetostructural and Magnetodielectric Coupling in Spinel Oxides" citing her achievement in employing advanced characterization tools to gain new insights into the structure and electronic properties of magnetic materials and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) cathode materials. The exploration of SOFC cathode materials is the focus of Moureen’s research at the Resnick Sustianability Institute, which she works on in the lab of Professor Sossina Haile. [Dr. Kemei’s Dissertation]

Tags: APhMS honors energy Sossina Haile Moureen Kemei postdocs

Former Caltech Postdoc Receives Israel Prize


Mordechai (Moti) Segev, a former postdoctoral fellow in Professor Amnon Yariv's group, will be receiving the Israel Prize for Physics and Chemistry. Dr. Segev is receiving the prize for ground-breaking research in the field of optics and lasers. "I am naturally proud of the achievements of former students and postdocs who started their scientific career in my group," says Professor Yariv. "Among this group Moti has become, in the relatively short time since leaving us, one the best known and influential scientists in the world in the field of quantum electronics and its amazing offspring of nonlinear optics. I am looking forward to a continuing stream of intellectual and experimental innovation flowing from him and his research group at the Technion."

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Dr. Davenport Receives Award in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy


Timothy C. Davenport, Postdoctoral Scholar in Applied Physics and Materials Science, working with Professor Sossina Haile has been selected by the Solar Program of the Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) to receive an EERE postdoctoral research award.

Tags: APhMS honors energy Sossina Haile Timothy Davenport postdocs

Developing Self-replicating Nanoscale Origami


William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, and colleagues including Postdoctoral Scholar Si-ping Han have been awarded a $2 million grant as part of the National Science Foundation’s Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation program. The funds will be used to develop biomimetic materials which contain assembled complexes of molecules that self-replicate, evolve and adopt intricate three dimensional structures at the nanometer scale by combining DNA guided self-assembly with origami folding.

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Tags: APhMS research highlights health William Goddard Paul Rothemund Si-ping Han postdocs