Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events

Highlights

Making Hotter Engines and Lasting Artwork

11-07-14

Katherine Faber, Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science, studies the reasons why brittle ceramics fracture—and how these materials can be made stronger and tougher in the future. Her research interests have also been applied to sustainability and the arts. [Interview with Professor Faber] [ENGenious article]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Katherine Faber

Inside the Caltech Laboratories of Professors Atwater and Arnold

10-17-14

The creators of the Austrian TV documentary TM Wissen (TM Knowledge) go inside the laboratories of Professors Harry A. Atwater, Jr. and Frances H. Arnold to learn more about their research at Caltech.

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Harry Atwater

Ceramics Don't Have To Be Brittle

09-11-14

Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and her colleagues are on the path to developing materials that possess unheard-of combinations of properties. "Ceramics have always been thought to be heavy and brittle," says Professor Greer. "We're showing that in fact, they don't have to be either. This very clearly demonstrates that if you use the concept of the nanoscale to create structures and then use those nanostructures like LEGO to construct larger materials, you can obtain nearly any set of properties you want. You can create materials by design." [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Julia Greer

'Comb on a Chip' Powers New Atomic Clock Design

07-22-14

Scott Diddams who was a 2012 Caltech Moore Distinguished Scholar and is a Project Lead at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and colleagues including Professor Kerry Vahala have demonstrated a new design for an atomic clock that is based on a chip-scale frequency comb, or a microcomb. The microcomb clock is the first demonstration of all-optical control of the microcomb, and its accurate conversion of optical frequencies to lower microwave frequencies. Caltech researchers made the 2-millimeter-wide silica disk that generates the frequency comb for the new clock. [NIST Press Release] [Learn More]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala IST Scott Diddams

Future Electronics May Depend on Lasers, Not Quartz

07-18-14

Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics as well as the Executive Officer for APhMS, and colleagues have developed a method to stabilize microwave signals in the range of gigahertz, or billions of cycles per second—using a pair of laser beams as the reference, in lieu of a quartz crystal. "There are always tradeoffs between the highest performance, the smallest size, and the best ease of integration. But even in this first demonstration, these optical oscillators have many advantages; they are on par with, and in some cases even better than, what is available with widespread electronic technology," Vahala says. [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala IST

Tricking the Uncertainty Principle

05-15-14

Keith Schwab, Professor of Applied Physics and the Fletcher Jones Foundation Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleagues have found a way to make measurements that go beyond the limits imposed by quantum physics. "Our mechanical device is a tiny square of aluminum—only 40 microns long, or about the diameter of a hair. We think of quantum mechanics as a good description for the behaviors of atoms and electrons and protons and all of that, but normally you don't think of these sorts of quantum effects manifesting themselves on somewhat macroscopic objects," Schwab says. "This is a physical manifestation of the uncertainty principle, seen in single photons impacting a somewhat macroscopic thing." [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Keith Schwab

Professor Greer Named One of Most Creative People in 2014

05-13-14

Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, has been named one of Fast Company's Most Creative People in 2014. "What if you could fabricate nanotrusses--materials made up of tiny, intricate geometric structures linked together--in a way that might resemble, say, the webwork of the Eiffel Tower?" describes Professor Greer. [Fast Company release] [research highlight]

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Julia Greer

Quantum Photon Properties Revealed in Another Particle—the Plasmon

04-03-14

Harry A. Atwater, Jr., Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science as well as Director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and colleagues’ experiments have confirmed that two indistinguishable photons can be converted into two indistinguishable surface plasmons that, like photons, display quantum interference. This finding could be important for the development of quantum computing, says Atwater. "Remarkably, plasmons are coherent enough to exhibit quantum interference in waveguides," he says. "These plasmon waveguides can be integrated in compact chip-based devices and circuits, which may one day enable computation and measurement schemes based on quantum interference." [Caltech Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Harry Atwater

A New Laser for a Faster Internet

02-26-14

Amnon Yariv, Martin and Eileen Summerfield Professor of Applied Physics and Professor of Electrical Engineering, and his group have developed a new laser that has the potential to increase by orders of magnitude the rate of data transmission in the optical-fiber network—the backbone of the Internet. "What became the prime motivator for our project was that the present-day laser designs have an internal architecture which is unfavorable for high spectral-purity operation. This is because they allow a large and theoretically unavoidable optical noise to comingle with the coherent laser and thus degrade its spectral purity," Professor Yariv describes. [Caltech Release]

Tags: Amnon Yariv APhMS EE energy research highlights

Celebrating 50 Years of the Argon Ion Laser

02-14-14

William Bridges, Carl F Braun Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, discovered and patented the Argon ion laser on February 14, 1964, while at Hughes Research Laboratories. Today noble gas (argon, krypton, xenon) lasers are used in a variety of applications including DNA sequencers, cell sorters, eye surgery, and laser light shows. Professor Bridges' research work with lasers involved an airborne night reconnaissance system (AN/AVD-3), space communications systems, early high power laser weapons (the carbon dioxide gas dynamic laser), and hydrogen maser clocks for the global positioning system. He also holds the patent for the Ionized Noble Gas Laser. [Oral History of Prof. Bridges]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights EAS history William Bridges