Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science - Materials Science

News & Events


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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala IST

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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MedE MCE Julia Greer KNI Dennis Kochmann postdocs Carlos Portela

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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE KNI Wei Gao

Goddard Receives UCLA Samueli Lifetime Contribution Award


William Goddard, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, has been honored with the 2020 UCLA Samueli Lifetime Contribution Award for his significant contributions to the fields of engineering, quantum mechanics, physical chemistry and chemical physics. Goddard obtained his bachelor’s in engineering with highest honors from UCLA in 1960, and frequently collaborates with UCLA faculty members. “Each of Goddard’s academic achievements represents a key advance in its respective field,” said Yu Huang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA. “He has deservedly been recognized nationally and internationally for his highly accomplished academic career and, furthermore, has kept in close touch with UCLA colleagues and maintained fruitful collaborations with numerous UCLA faculty members.” [UCLA story]

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Professor Nadj-Perge Receives Sloan Research Fellowship


Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, has been awarded the prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship for 2020. Recipients represent the most promising scientific researchers working today. Their achievements and potential place them among the next generation of scientific leaders. [Past fellows]

Tags: APhMS honors KNI Stevan Nadj-Perge

Professor Vahala Elected to the National Academy of Engineering


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 been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Professor Vahala was elected for “research and application of nonlinear optical microresonators to the miniaturization of precision time and frequency systems." Election to the National Academy of Engineering is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Academy membership honors those who have made outstanding contributions to "engineering research, practice, or education, including, where appropriate, significant contributions to the engineering literature," and to "the pioneering of new and developing fields of technology, making major advancements in traditional fields of engineering, or developing/implementing innovative approaches to engineering education." [NAE release]

Tags: APhMS honors CMS National Academy of Engineering Kerry Vahala KNI

Ultrasound Can Selectively Kill Cancer Cells


Michael Ortiz, Frank and Ora Lee Marble Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, Emeritus, and Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering; Booth-Kresa Leadership Chair, Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies; Director, Graduate Aerospace Laboratories; Director, Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies, are exploring a new technique that could offer a targeted approach to fighting cancer. Low-intensity pulses of ultrasound have been shown to selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. In the past, ultrasound waves have been used as a cancer treatment with high-intensity bursts resulting in killing cancer and normal cells. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MedE MCE Morteza Gharib Michael Ortiz

Researchers Develop New Quantum Algorithm


Austin Minnich, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, Fernando Brandão, Bren Professor of Theoretical Physics, and Garnet Chan, Bren Professor of Chemistry, have developed an algorithm for quantum computers that will help them find use in simulations in the physical sciences. The new algorithm allows a user to find the lowest energy of a given molecule or material. Many people are interested in how to simulate the ground states of molecules and materials. "If we want to do a simulation of water, we could look at how water behaves after it has been blasted into a plasma—an electrically charged gas—but that's not the state water is usually found in; it is not the ground state of water. Ground states are of special interest in understanding the world under ordinary conditions," says Chan. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE KNI Austin Minnich Fernando Brandão Garnet Chan

How Electrons Break the Speed Limit


Marco Bernardi, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and Jinjian Zhou, Postdoctoral Scholar, have developed a way to predict how electrons interacting strongly with atomic motions will flow through a complex material. "Using a new method, we have been able to predict both the formation and the dynamics of polarons in strontium titanate. This advance is crucial since many semiconductors and oxides of interest for future electronics and energy applications exhibit polaron effects," says Bernardi. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Marco Bernardi postdocs Jinjian Zhou