Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events


Four EAS Faculty Receive Named Chairs


Professors James (Jim) L. Beck, Sossina M. Haile, Melany L. Hunt, and Rob Phillips have received named chairs.  Jim Beck has been named the George W. Housner Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.  Sossina Haile has been named the Carl F Braun Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering. Melany Hunt has been named the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Rob Phillips has been named the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology.

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Tags: APhMS honors research highlights MCE Sossina Haile James Beck Rob Phillips Melany Hunt

Accelerating Nanoscience out of the Laboratory and into the Marketplace


The Alliance for Nanosystems VLSI (very-large-scale-integration)—a collaboration between the Kavli Nanoscience Institute and Leti-Minatec in France—has launched its first start-up company. The Alliance, which began informally in 2005, was officially created in 2007 to transform academic, nanotechnology-based prototypes into robust, complex sensing systems and thus accelerate nanoscience out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. The start-up company, Analytical Pixels, will focus on the design, manufacture, and commercialization of multi-gas sensing systems created over the past five years in the field of nanoelectromechanical devices, read-out electronics, and system integration, and built on two decades of prior research carried out at Caltech. [Caltech Feature]

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Tags: APhMS research highlights Michael Roukes Oskar Painter KNI

Light as a Feather, Stiffer Than a Board


Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues have developed the world’s lightest solid material, with a density of 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter. The new material, called a micro-lattice, relies, on a lattice architecture: tiny hollow tubes made of nickel-phosphorous are angled to connect at nodes, forming repeating, asterisklike unit cells in three dimensions. "We're entering a new era of materials science where material properties are determined not only by the microscopic makeup of the material but also by the architecture of the constituents," Greer says. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Julia Greer

Using DNA to Manufacture Nanoscale Devices


William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, has received $1.25 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a process that takes advantage of DNA's talent for self-assembly to arrange nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and proteins into configurations designed for use in devices such as sensors, transistors, and optical components. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS research highlights health William Goddard NSF

An Incredible Shrinking Material


Graduate student, Chen Li, and colleagues including Brent Fultz,  Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics, have shown how scandium trifluoride (ScF3) contracts with heat.  "A pure quartic oscillator is a lot of fun," Professor Fultz says. "Now that we've found a case that's very pure, I think we know where to look for it in many other materials." Understanding quartic oscillator behavior will help engineers design materials with unusual thermal properties. "In my opinion," Fultz says, "that will be the biggest long-term impact of this work." [Caltech Press Release] [Nature Article]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Brent Fultz Chen Li

Using Laser Light to Cool Object to Quantum Ground State


Oskar J. Painter, Professor of Applied Physics and Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues including graduate student Jasper Chan have cooled a miniature mechanical object—a tiny mechanical silicon beam— to its lowest possible energy state using laser light. The achievement paves the way for the development of exquisitely sensitive detectors. "In many ways, the experiment we've done provides a starting point for the really interesting quantum-mechanical experiments one wants to do," Painter says. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Oskar Painter Jasper Chan

Nano-mechanics of Carbon Nanotube Research Wins Art Competition


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


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


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


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