Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events

Highlights

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

Experiments Settle Long-Standing Debate about Mysterious Array Formations in Nanofilms

05-19-11

Sandra M. Troian, Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues' experiments have confirmed which of three possible mechanisms is responsible for the spontaneous formation of three-dimensional (3-D) pillar arrays in nanofilms (polymer films that are billionths of a meter thick). "My ultimate goal is to develop a suite of 3-D lithographic techniques based on remote, digital modulation of thermal, electrical, and magnetic surface forces," Troian says. Confirmation of the correct mechanism has allowed her to deduce the maximum resolution or minimum feature size ultimately possible with these patterning techniques. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Sandra Troian

Strong, Tough, and Now Cheap: New Way to Process Metallic Glass

05-12-11

William L. Johnson, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, and his team of researchers have developed a new technique that allows them to make metallic-glass parts utilizing the same inexpensive processes used to produce plastic parts. "We've taken the economics of plastic manufacturing and applied it to a metal with superior engineering properties,” Professor Johnson says. "We end up with inexpensive, high-performance, precision net-shape parts made in the same way plastic parts are made—but made of a metal that's 20 times stronger and stiffer than plastic.” [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Johnson Metallic Glass

How an Idea Becomes a Business

03-29-11

Students in Ken Pickar's course Entrepreneurial Development (E 102) have the opportunity to identify a technology currently under study at Caltech and develop a business plan for it. The ideas used by the students this year included a solid-state memory technology developed by Jehoshua (Shuki) Bruck, Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Computation and Neural Systems and Electrical Engineering. In this business plan the students proposed targeting Netflix and other high-volume streaming content providers. Another team pinpointed a new market for the vertical wind turbines of John O. Dabiri, Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering. A third team pitched a noninvasive method for breaking up arterial plaques using the concentrated-acoustic-pulse technology developed by Chiara Daraio, Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT Jehoshua Bruck John Dabiri Ken Pickar

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]

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Chiara Daraio Named One of Popular Science's Brilliant 10

10-14-10

Chiara Daraio, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, has been named one of Popular Science's Brilliant 10. The article states that Professor Daraio is "brilliant because: she manipulates simple laws of physics to make cancer-destroying 'sound bullets'." [Learn More on page 80-01]

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT

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

Novel Negative-Index Metamaterial that Responds to Visible Light

04-23-10

Stanley Burgos, researcher at the Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion Energy Frontier Research Center, Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have engineered a novel negative-index metamaterial that responds to visible light. This material bends light in the "wrong" direction from what normally would be expected, irrespective of the angle of the approaching light. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Harry Atwater Stanley Burgos

Caltech Researchers Create "Sound Bullets"

04-22-10

Alessandro Spadoni, Postdoctoral Scholar, and Chiara Daraio, Assistant Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, have built a nonlinear acoustic lens that produces highly focused, high-amplitude acoustic signals dubbed "sound bullets." The combination of the acoustic lens and sound bullets have "the potential to revolutionize applications from medical imaging and therapy to the nondestructive evaluation of materials and engineering systems," says Professor Daraio. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT health Alessandro Spadoni