News & Events


Lab-Grown Earthquakes Reveal the Frictional Forces Acting Beneath Our Feet


Simulating an earthquake on a miniature scale in a laboratory known unofficially as the "seismological wind tunnel," engineers and seismologists have produced the most comprehensive look to date at the complex physics of friction driving destructive thrust-fault earthquakes. "Simulating earthquakes in a lab lets us observe how these brief and violent events grow and evolve by ‘slowing down' their motion through high-speed photography and optics," says Ares Rosakis, the Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE Ares Rosakis

AI for a Better Prediction COVID-19 Model


A team of Caltech students, led by Professor Yaser Abu-Mostafa, have developed a tool to predict the impact of COVID-19 using artificial intelligence (AI). While many models to predict the spread of a disease already exist, few if any incorporate AI, which makes predications based on observations of what is actually happening as opposed to what the model's designers think should happen. AI has the power to discover patterns hidden in data that the human eye might not recognize. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Yaser Abu-Mostafa

Collecting Hot Carriers: New Process Harvests Excited Quasiparticles


Professor Harry Atwater has developed a way to eke more energy out of solar power by collecting freshly charged particles before they have an opportunity to cool off. This fundamental research could one day help scientists harvest energy from the sun more efficiently than by the natural photosynthesis used by plants. "If hot carriers, transporting more energy, could be captured, we would be able to wring three to four times as much energy from solar power," says Atwater. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Harry Atwater

A Pathway to Longer-Lasting Lithium Batteries


The energy density of batteries have been a major challenge for consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and renewable energy sources. Professor Julia R. Greer has made a discovery that could lead to lithium-ion batteries that are both safer and more powerful. Findings provide guidance for how lithium-ion batteries, one of the most common kinds of rechargeable batteries, can safely hold up to 50 percent more energy. "Every power-requiring application would benefit from batteries with lithium instead of graphite anodes because they can power so much more," says Greer. "Lithium is lightweight, it doesn't occupy much space, and it's tremendously energy dense." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MCE Julia Greer

Ari Rosner Develops Tool That Configures Socially-Distanced Students In Classrooms


Mechanical engineering student Ari Rosner, has developed an interactive Excel worksheet powered by advanced algorithms to help schools with social distancing in classrooms. Schools can plug a room’s dimensions and social distancing parameters into the worksheet, and the most efficient configuration of students for a designated classroom would automatically be mapped out. Rosner’s model situates students in rows or in a hexagonal pattern, depending on a room’s shape, in order to safely maximize space. "I cried when I saw how this worked," said Rachael Burton, the development director at a small private school in Brooklyn, New York. "I knew Ari’s mathematical chart could save our lives." [Forbes story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Ari Rosner

Superconducting Twisted Bilayer Graphene—Magic not Needed?


A new study shows that superconductivity in twisted bilayer graphene can exist away from the magic angle when coupled to a two-dimensional semiconductor. "Our observations were quite unexpected. It implies that we only scratched the surface of graphene twistronics. These are exciting times for the field," says Stevan Nadj-Perge, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Stevan Nadj-Perge

Machine Learning Helps Robot Swarms Coordinate


Soon-Jo Chung, Bren Professor of Aerospace, Yisong Yue, Professor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, postdoctoral scholar Wolfgang Hönig, and graduate students Benjamin Rivière and Guanya Shi, have designed a new data-driven method to control the movement of multiple robots through cluttered, unmapped spaces, so they do not run into one another. "Our work shows some promising results to overcome the safety, robustness, and scalability issues of conventional black-box artificial intelligence (AI) approaches for swarm motion planning with GLAS and close-proximity control for multiple drones using Neural-Swarm," says Chung. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT CMS Yisong Yue Soon-Jo Chung postdocs Benjamin Rivière Guanya Shi Wolfgang Hönig

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


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

Seeing Through Opaque Media


Changhuei Yang, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Medical Engineering, has developed a technique that combines fluorescence and ultrasound to peer through opaque media, such as biological tissue. "We hope that one day this method can be deployed to extend the operating depth of fluorescence microscopy and help image fluorescent labeled cells deep inside living animals," says Yang. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights Changhuei Yang MedE

New Ultrafast Camera Takes 70 Trillion Pictures Per Second


A new camera developed by Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, is capable of taking as many as 70 trillion frames per second. The camera technology, which Wang calls compressed ultrafast spectral photography (CUSP), combines a laser that emits extremely short pulses of laser light that last only one quadrillionth of a second (one femtosecond) with optics and a specialized type of camera. The technology could open up new avenues of research in fields that include fundamental physics, next-generation semiconductor miniaturization, and the life sciences. "We envision applications in a rich variety of extremely fast phenomena, such as ultrashort light propagation, wave propagation, nuclear fusion, photon transport in clouds and biological tissues, and fluorescent decay of biomolecules, among other things," Wang says. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang