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Optical Microcomb Device May Result in Improved Telecommunications, Sensors, Clocks

06-19-20

Modern telecommunications often makes use of multiple lasers of different colors to transmit data, but a new device the size of a cigarette pack can replace them. A team of researchers from Caltech, UC Santa Barbara, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a new device that will lead to improved optical data transmission and could have applications ranging from communications to the miniaturization of time standards or to the search for exoplanets. Their device converts laser light of a single frequency into an evenly spaced set of many distinct frequencies (a comb of frequencies). The resulting optical frequency microcomb is built from a single piece of silicon, in much the same way as computer chips. And its many colors can replace many separate lasers for data transmission. "The new approach makes the process as easy as switching on a room light," says co-author Kerry Vahala, Ted and Ginger Jenkins Professor of Information Science and Technology and Applied Physics and executive officer for Applied Physics and Materials Science. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Kerry Vahala

Michael Yao Receives 2020 Henry Ford II Scholar Award

05-19-20

Applied physics student Michael Yao, advised by Professor Mikhail Shapiro and Professor Andrei Faraon, 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.

Tags: APhMS honors Henry Ford II Scholar Award Mikhail Shapiro Michael Yao

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

04-02-20

To Professor Joseph Falson, 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]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Joseph Falson

Tiny Optical Cavity Could Make Quantum Networks Possible

03-31-20

Professor Andrei Faraon 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 Andrei Faraon Andrei Ruskuc Jake Rochman John Bartholomew Yan Qi Huan

New Chip-Based Laser Gyroscope Measures Earth's Rotation

03-05-20

Optical gyroscopes are used in applications such as aircraft navigation systems, while MEMS gyroscopes are found in devices like smart phones. Professor Kerry J. Vahala 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

03-03-20

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 Professor Julia R. Greer, "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 MCE Julia Greer Dennis Kochmann Carlos Portela

Goddard Receives UCLA Samueli Lifetime Contribution Award

02-24-20

Professor William Goddard 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]

Tags: APhMS honors William Goddard

Professor Nadj-Perge Receives Sloan Research Fellowship

02-12-20

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 Stevan Nadj-Perge

Professor Vahala Elected to the National Academy of Engineering

02-06-20

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

How Electrons Break the Speed Limit

12-10-19

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 Jinjian Zhou