Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events


Michael Winterrose and Brent Fultz Use High-Pressure "Alchemy" to Create Nonexpanding Metals


Graduate student Michael Winterrose, and Brent Fultz, professor of materials science and applied physics, and colleagues, describe the exotic behavior of materials existing at high pressures in a paper in the June 12th issue of Physical Review Letters. By squeezing a typical metal alloy at pressures hundreds of thousands of times greater than normal atmospheric pressure, the material does not expand when heated, as does nearly every normal metal, and acts like a metal with an entirely different chemical composition. This insight into the behavior of materials existing at high pressures becomes doubly interesting when you consider that some 90 percent of the matter in our solar system exists at these high pressures. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Brent Fultz

Niles Pierce and Michael Elowitz on Nature List of Favourite Articles


The editors of Nature have published a list of 22 of their favourite articles from 2008 - including Programming biomolecular self-assembly pathways by Niles Pierce, Associate Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Bioengineering, and colleagues, and Frequency-modulated nuclear localization bursts coordinate gene regulation by Michael Elowitz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Applied Physics and Bren Scholar, and colleagues. 

Tags: APhMS research highlights CMS Niles Pierce Michael Elowitz

Douglas Hofmann and Colleagues Create Titanium-Based Structural Metallic-Glass Composites


Visiting scientist Douglas Hofmann (MS '06) and and colleagues, including William Johnson, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, have created structural metallic-glass composites, based in titanium, that are lighter and less expensive than any the group had previously created, while still maintaining their toughness and ductility--the ability to be deformed without breaking. They are among the toughest engineering materials that currently exist. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Johnson Douglas Hofmann

Michael Elowitz, Long Cai, and Chiraj Dalal Find Cells Coordinate Gene Activity with FM Bursts


How a cell achieves the coordinated control of a number of genes at the same time, a process that's necessary for it to regulate its own behavior and development, has long puzzled scientists. Michael Elowitz, assistant professor of biology and applied physics, along with postdoctoral research scholar Long Cai, and graduate student Chiraj Dalal, have discovered a surprising answer. Just as human engineers control devices ranging from dimmer switches to retrorockets using pulsed--or frequency modulated (FM)--signals, cells tune the expression of groups of genes using discrete bursts of activation. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Michael Elowitz postdocs

Paul Bellan Gives Explanation for a Strange Property of Night-shining Clouds


An explanation for a strange property of night-shining clouds has been proposed by Paul Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics. Noctilucent clouds - thin, wispy electric blue clouds clouds hovering at 85 km altitude - are highly reflective to radar. Ice grains in noctilucent clouds are coated with a thin film of metal, made of sodium and iron. The metal film causes radar waves to reflect off ripples in the cloud in a manner analogous to how x-rays reflect from a crystal lattice. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Paul Bellan

NSF Awards Sossina Haile ACI Fellowship


The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded an American Competitiveness and Innovation (ACI) Fellowship to Sossina M. Haile, Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering, "for her timely and transformative research in the energy field and her dedication to inclusive mentoring, education and outreach across many levels." This recognition program honors current NSF grantees who have demonstrated a combination of transformative research accomplishments and outstanding contributions toward education, mentoring, and broadening participation of women, underrepresented minorities, and people with disabilities.

Tags: APhMS honors energy research highlights Sossina Haile

Jeff Snyder and Colleagues Invent New Material that Will Make Cars More Efficient


Caltech Faculty Associate Jeff Snyder and colleagues have invented a new material that will make cars even more efficient by converting heat lost through engine exhaust into electricity. In a paper published July 25 in the journal Science, the scientists describe the unique thermoelectric material, which has twice the efficiency other such materials currently on the market, and works most effectively in the temperature range typical of automobile engines. The same technology could also work in power generators and heat pumps. Read more at

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Jeff Snyder

Axel van de Walle Developes Formalism to Represent Structure-property Relationships in Crystals


Axel van de Walle, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, has developed a general formalism to represent structure-property relationships in crystals. It enables the prediction, from a database of quantum mechanical calculations, of anisotropic material properties such as elasticity, piezoelectricity, dielectric constants, etc. As an application, he developed predictive models of anisotropic properties relevant to the design and optimization of III–V semiconductor epitaxial optoelectronic devices. This work was recently highlighted as the cover feature of Nature Materials. [Nature Article] [Commentary]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Axel van de Walle

Roukes and Rothemund Display Work at MoMA


"If you make structures that are impeccably designed, they also often tend to work really well," says Michael Roukes, Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering. He along with senior research associate in computation and neural systems and computer science Paul Rothemund are scientists who can now add artist to their resumes. Rothemund's DNA origami and a colorized electron micrograph of Roukes's nanoscience work were displayed in Design and the Elastic Mind at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. Roukes's micrograph was even selected for the museum's permanent collection. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health Michael Roukes Paul Rothemund

A New Take on Microbrewing


David Boyd, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, graduate student James Adleman, Demitri Psaltis, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, and David Goodwin, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, have crafted the world's tiniest still to concentrate scant amounts of micromolecules for easier detection. This device may help to overcome difficulties in tracking extremely low-abundance molecular biomarkers, which can indicate disease. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE David Boyd