News & Events


Making Robotic Assistive Walking More Natural


A team of graduate students in Caltech's Advanced Mechanical Bipedal Experimental Robotics Lab (AMBER), led by Professor Aaron Ames, Bren Professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering and Control and Dynamical Systems, is developing a new method of generating gaits for robotic assistive devices, which aims to guarantee stability and achieve more natural locomotion for different users. "If you're designing a trajectory for a robotic assistive device, a satisfactory gait should not only be stable but also feel natural," says Amy Li. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Yisong Yue Aaron Ames Maegan Tucker Kejun Li Rachel Gehlhar

Lab Earthquakes Show How Grains at Fault Boundaries Lead to Major Quakes


By simulating earthquakes in a lab, Caltech engineers have provided strong experimental support for a form of earthquake propagation now thought responsible for the magnitude-9.0 earthquake that devastated the coast of Japan in 2011. "Our novel experimental approach has enabled us to look into the earthquake process up close, and to uncover key features of rupture propagation and friction evolution in rock gouge," says Vito Rubino, research scientist and lead author of the Nature paper. The Nature paper is titled "Intermittent lab earthquakes in dynamically weakening fault gouge." Rubino and his co-authors Nadia Lapusta, Lawrence A. Hanson, Jr., Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, and Ares Rosakis, Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, show that so-called "stable" or "creeping" faults are not actually immune to major ruptures after all, as previously suspected. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE Ares Rosakis Nadia Lapusta Vito Rubino

Artificial Skin Gives Robots Sense of Touch and Beyond


A new artificial skin can now give robots the ability to sense temperature, pressure, and even toxic chemicals through a simple touch. The multimodal robotic-sensing platform, dubbed M-Bot, was developed in the lab of Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute; Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar. It aims to give humans more precise control over robots while also protecting the humans from potential hazards. "I think we have shown a proof of concept," says Gao. "But we want to improve the stability of this robotic skin to make it last longer. By optimizing new inks and new materials, we hope this can be used for different kinds of targeted detections. We want to put it on more powerful robots and make them smarter, more intelligent." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE Wei Gao You Yu Jiahong Li Samuel Solomon Jihong Min Changhao Xu Jiaobing Tu Yu Song

Nanofabrication Courses Let Caltech Undergraduates Get Hands-on at the Smallest Scales


The course combines topical lectures that give the students a preview of what they will be doing in the cleanroom along with hands-on practical training. Both components are conducted as a team effort between Scherer and the KNI technical staff. The first two lectures of the term were presented by KNI’s microscopist, Dr. Annalena Wolff, who lectured on scanning electron and focused ion beam microscopy. Additional lectures were presented by KNI’s Associate Director of Technical Operations, Dr. Guy DeRose, on electron beam lithography.

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Tags: APhMS EE research highlights MedE Axel Scherer KNI Changsoon Choi Paromita Mitchell Annalena Wolff Guy DeRose Bert Mendoza Alex Wertheim Kelly McKenzie

The 2022 Caltech Space Challenge—to Titan and Back


Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only planetary body in our solar system besides Earth where there is clear evidence of surface liquid. This is an essential element to life as we know it and makes Titan a prime target in the search for extraterrestrial life. Two teams of 16 space exploration enthusiasts, including five Caltech students along with university students from around the globe, were given five days to design an autonomous mission to collect three different samples from Titan. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Brit Wylie Maximilian Adang Lucas Pabarcius Liam Heidt Josefine Graebener Eric Smith Theresa Marlin

Böttger Luster: Solving an Artistic Cold Case


In the 18th century, a new purple overglaze enamel emerged from a factory near Dresden, Germany. Named after a German pioneer of porcelain and supposed alchemist, Johann Friedrich Böttger, this iridescent glaze became known as Böttger luster. Why this porcelain overglaze exhibited iridescence when other purple glazes of the time lacked a lustrous shine remained a mystery until now. The research that started at Northwestern University over a decade ago recently finished at Caltech under the leadership of Katherine Faber, Simon Ramo Professor of Materials Science. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights KNI Katherine Faber Celia Chari Zane Taylor Sujing Xie Anikó Bezur

Researchers Help Generate First Image of Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy


A multi-institution collaboration that includes a Caltech-led imaging team has generated the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This result provides conclusive evidence that the body, known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*, pronounced "sadge-ay-star"), is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such massive objects, which are thought to reside at the center of most galaxies. "We not only recovered an image of Sgr A*, but also characterized the uncertainty of features in the image," says He Sun. "This analysis helped the team deliver scientific results with some guarantees." [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Katie Bouman He Sun Junhan Kim Aviad Levis

Rapid Adaptation of Deep Learning Teaches Drones to Survive Any Weather


To be truly useful, drones—that is, autonomous flying vehicles—will need to learn to navigate real-world weather and wind conditions. A team of engineers from Caltech has developed Neural-Fly, a deep-learning method that can help drones cope with new and unknown wind conditions in real time just by updating a few key parameters. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT CMS Yisong Yue Soon-Jo Chung Animashree Anandkumar Xichen Shi Guanya Shi Michael O'Connell Kamyar Azizzadenesheli

Pioneering New Frontiers in Topological Physics


A team of engineers led by Alireza Marandi, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, recently opened a new frontier in topological physics, which is the field that seeks to understand the topological properties that arise in coupled systems based on how they are organized and coupled. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS EE research highlights Alireza Marandi James Williams Midya Parto

A Science Journey with Fernando Villafuerte


As part of the Science Journeys lecture series—designed to inspire scientific curiosity, especially among students in eighth grade and higher—graduate student Fernando Villafuerte discussed his path to Caltech and his research on batteries, including their role in sustainability solutions. Villafuerte works in the lab of Julia R. Greer, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Materials Science, Mechanics and Medical Engineering; and Fletcher Jones Foundation Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute. His research focuses on a novel material known as a solid polymer electrolyte, which could potentially be used to create batteries that can store more energy than currently possible. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE MCE Julia Greer Fernando Villafuerte