Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events


2013 Caltech Distinguished Alumni


Caltech has recognized four Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) graduates with the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor regularly bestowed by the Institute. They are Y. C. L. Susan Wu (PhD '63 Aeronautics), Sébastien M. Candel (MS '69 and PhD '72 in Mechanical Engineering), Uma R. Chowdhry (MS '70 Engineering Science), and James R. Fruchterman (BS '80 Engineering and Applied Science, MS '80 Applied Physics). [Caltech Release]

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EAS Division Welcomes New Deputy Chair


Peter Schröder, Professor of Computer Science and Applied and Computational Mathematics, is the new Deputy Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. "I look forward to working with Peter over the next several years as we continue with our quest to remain a unique collaborative community of isolated singularities that sets a compelling model as a research and teaching institution," says Chair Ares Rosakis.

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Creating New Quantum Building Blocks


Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have laid the groundwork for an on-chip optical quantum network by showing that defects in diamond can be used as quantum building blocks that interact with one another via photons. "Right now we only have one nitrogen-vacancy center that's emitting photons, but in the future we envision creating multiple nitrogen-vacancy centers that emit photons on the same chip," Faraon says. [Caltech Release]

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Diving Into the Unknown: An Interview with Andrei Faraon


Assistant Professor and alumnus Andrei Faraon builds devices that are based on the fundamentals of light–matter interaction. He is trying to manipulate single quantum systems in solids—systems like single atoms or single quantum dots—using light. Light is great for this purpose because it allows him to address these systems without destroying their fragile quantum states, and because it can easily interconnect quantum systems over large distances. [Caltech Interview]

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Clean-Energy Research Accelerates


Caltech clean-energy research is accelerating thanks to the renovation of the Earle M. Jorgensen Laboratory. Transformed into a cutting-edge facility for energy science, the lab unites two powerhouse programs: the Resnick Sustainability Institute and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). "Our researchers are working with Caltech's chemists and chemical engineers to challenge the status quo and translate scientific discovery into clean-energy innovations that will directly benefit society for generations to come," says Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech Release]

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Weighing Molecules One at a Time


Michael L. Roukes, Robert M. Abbey Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering as well as Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleagues have created the first-ever mechanical device that measures the mass of a single molecule. The device—which is only a couple millionths of a meter in size—consists of a tiny, vibrating bridge-like structure. When a particle or molecule lands on the bridge, its mass changes the oscillating frequency in a way that reveals how much the particle weighs. [Caltech Press Release]

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Solar Loops and Space Weather


Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have reproduced plasma loops in the laboratory to help understand solar physics. "We're studying how these solar loops work, which contributes to the knowledge of space weather," says Professor Bellan, who compares the research to studying hurricanes. For example, you can't predict a hurricane unless you know more about the events that precede it, like high-pressure and low-pressure fronts. The same is true for solar flares. "It takes some time for the plasma to get to Earth from the sun, so it's possible that with more research, we could have up to a two-day warning period for massive solar flares." [Caltech Release] [E&S Article]

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Material's Spacing is Key to Brittle-to-ductile Transition


Julia R. Greer, her postdoctoral scholar Dr.Dongchan Jang, and colleagues have used experiments and atomistic simulations of nano-twinned metals (which have the unique combined effect of being strong and ductile) to decipher the specific role of the twin boundaries. They have found that it is the spacing between the twin boundaries that determines whether a material is brittle or ductile as opposed to the sample size, as would be expected. Greer states "this is probably the first study that truly isolated the twin boundaries by making samples which contained only twin boundaries, periodically spaced throughout the sample, and then tested them in tension. This understanding will help in the design of better structural materials and provide a certain amount of predictability in doing so, which has not been possible to date." [Nature Nanotechnology Article and Movies]

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Demonstrating the Quantum World at Macroscopic Scales


Keith Schwab, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues describe how, aided by optical cavities and superconducting circuits, researchers are coaxing ever-larger objects to wiggle, shake, and flex in ways that are distinctly quantum mechanical. [Physics Today Article] [Institute for Quantum Information and Matter]

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The Physics of Going Viral


Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology, and colleagues have measured the rate of DNA transfer from viruses to bacteria. They wanted to find out whether pressure plays a dominant role in transferring the DNA. Instead, he says, "What we discovered is that the thing that mattered most was not the pressure in the bacteriophage, but how much DNA was in the bacterial cell." When the bacteriophages try to inject their DNA into the cells, the factor that limits the rate of transfer is how jam-packed those cells are.  "In this case," Phillips says, "it had more to do with the recipient, and less to do with the pressure that had built up inside the phage." [Caltech Press Release]

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