Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events


Wei Gao Receives IEEE EMBS Academic Early Career Achievement Award


Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, has won the 2020 IEEE EMBS Academic Early Career Achievement Award for innovative and pioneering contributions in the field of bioelectronic devices from wearable biosensors for continuous personalized health monitoring to synthetic micro/nanorobotics for in vivo biomedical applications. This award is given annually to an individual for significant contributions to the field of biomedical engineering as evidenced by innovative research design, product development, patents, and/or publications made by an individual who is within 10 years of completing their highest degree at the time of the nomination.

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Chengzhe Zhou Receives 2020 Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award


Chengzhe Zhou, a graduate student in Physics supervised by Sandra Troian, Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering, is a recipient of the 2020 Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award. His doctorate research focuses on the development of novel theoretical and computational tools for quantifying the nonlinear evolution and control of moving liquid boundaries driven by external fields. He hopes his findings offer new and useful analytic tools for investigating emergent small-scale dynamic phenomena in strongly driven nonlinear systems. The Richard B. Chapman Memorial Award is given to an EAS graduate student in hydrodynamics who has distinguished himself or herself in research.

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Professor Gao Named Young Scientist by the World Economic Forum


Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, has been selected as a 2020 Young Scientist by the World Economic Forum. Each year the selection Committee honours 25 Young Scientists under the age of 40 in recognition of their contribution to cutting-edge research. Candidates are selected based on their achievements in expanding the boundaries of knowledge and practical applications of science in issues as diverse as child psychology, chemical oceanography and artificial intelligence. Gao's research is focused on developing skin-interfaced wearable biosensors that will enable analytics through sweat rather than blood, leading to non-invasive and real-time analysis and timely medical intervention. [2020 Young Scientists] [Brochure]

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Michael Yao Receives 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award


Applied physics student Michael Yao, advised by Mikhail Shapiro, Professor of Chemical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute, and Andrei Faraon, Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, is a recipient of the 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award. At the intersection between physics and medicine, Michael is interested in how physical and computational tools can be used to enhance the ability to image and treat diseases within the body. This summer, he will be working as a SURF fellow to explore the applications of ultrasound in improving both the safety and efficacy of immunotherapy and other cancer treatments. Encouraged by his mentors and coursework at Caltech, Michael will be pursuing a physician-scientist training program following graduation. The Henry Ford II Scholar Award is funded under an endowment provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The award is made annually to engineering students with the best academic record at the end of the third year of undergraduate study.

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Electronic Skin Fully Powered by Sweat Can Monitor Health


One of the ways we experience the world around us is through our skin. From sensing temperature and pressure to pleasure or pain, the many nerve endings in our skin tell us a great deal. Our skin can also tell the outside world a great deal about us as well. Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering has developed an electronic skin, or e-skin, that is applied directly on top of your real skin. "We want this system to be a platform," he says. "In addition to being a wearable biosensor, this can be a human–machine interface. The vital signs and molecular information collected using this platform could be used to design and optimize next-generation prosthetics." [Caltech story]

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New Superconducting Film Resists a Magnet's Power to Thwart It


To Joseph Falson, Assistant Professor of Materials Science, electrons are like exotic supercars and his lab wants to build the racetrack. In Falson's analogy, he likens that to driving the supercar down a cobblestone street that limits its speed. "Our job is not to make the supercar, it's just to make the highway," he says. The problem for those who seek to study superconductivity and eventually make practical use of it is that, so far, it has been realized only at ultracold temperatures no warmer than -70 degrees Celsius. "There is a very strong push to realize room-temperature superconductivity—it is one of the holy grails of science," Falson says, "because then you are going to employ these materials in motors or transmission lines, and the loss would be significantly less. It would revolutionize society." [Caltech story]

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Tiny Optical Cavity Could Make Quantum Networks Possible


Andrei Faraon, Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering, and team have shown that atoms in optical cavities—tiny boxes for light—could be foundational to the creation of a quantum internet. They identified a rare-earth ytterbium ion in the center of a beam. The ytterbium ions are able to store information in their spin for 30 milliseconds. In this time, light could transmit information to travel across the continental United States. "It's a rare-earth ion that absorbs and emits photons in exactly the way we'd need to create a quantum network," says Faraon. "This could form the backbone technology for the quantum internet." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights KNI Andrei Faraon Andrei Ruskuc Jake Rochman John Bartholomew Yan Qi Huan

New Chip-Based Laser Gyroscope Measures Earth's Rotation


Optical gyroscopes are used in applications such as aircraft navigation systems, while MEMS gyroscopes are found in devices like smart phones. Kerry J. Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics; Executive Officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science, has developed an optical gyroscope that combines some of the best characteristics of each into one device. "For more than 20 years, researchers have speculated about placing optical gyroscopes onto a chip very much like the highly successful MEMS gyroscopes. But until recently, there have been very few compelling experiments," Vahala says. [Caltech story]

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Microstructures Self-Assemble into New Materials


A new process developed at Caltech makes it possible for the first time to manufacture large quantities of materials whose structure is designed at a nanometer scale—the size of DNA's double helix. Pioneered by Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering; Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, "nanoarchitected materials" exhibit unusual, often surprising properties—for example, exceptionally lightweight ceramics that spring back to their original shape, like a sponge, after being compressed. Now, a team of engineers at Caltech and ETH Zurich have developed a material that is designed at the nanoscale but assembles itself—with no need for the precision laser assembly. "We couldn't 3-D print this much nanoarchitected material even in a month; instead we're able to grow it in a matter of hours," says Carlos M. Portela, Postdoctoral Scholar. "It is exciting to see our computationally designed optimal nanoscale architectures being realized experimentally in the lab," says Dennis M. Kochmann, Visiting Associate. [Caltech story]

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Sweat Sensor Detects Stress Levels; May Find Use in Space Exploration


Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, has produced a wireless sweat sensor that can accurately detect levels of cortisol, a natural compound that is commonly thought of as the body's stress hormone. This could allow for more widespread and easier monitoring of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. "We aim to develop a wearable system that can collect multimodal data, including both vital sign and molecular biomarker information, to obtain the accurate classification for deep space stress and anxiety," Gao says. [Caltech story]

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