News & Events


Mimicking Termites to Generate New Materials


Inspired by the way termites build their nests, researchers at Caltech have developed a framework to design new materials that mimic the fundamental rules hidden in nature's growth patterns. "We thought that by understanding how a termite contributes to the nest's fabrication, we could define simple rules for designing architected materials with unique mechanical properties," says Chiara Daraio, G. Bradford Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE

Tweaking Turbine Angles Squeezes More Power Out of Wind Farms


A new control algorithm for wind farms that alters how individual turbines are oriented into the wind promises to boost farms' overall efficiency and energy output by optimizing how they deal with their turbulent wake. "Individual turbines generate choppy air, or a wake, which hurts the performance of every turbine downwind of them," says John O. Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering. "To cope with that, wind farm turbines are traditionally spaced as far apart as possible, which unfortunately takes up a lot of real estate." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE John Dabiri alumni Michael Howland

New Research "UNCOVERS" Hidden Objects in High Resolution


Imagine driving home after a long day at work. Suddenly, a car careens out of an obscured side street and turns right in front of you. Luckily, your autonomous car saw this vehicle long before it came within your line of sight and slowed to avoid a crash. This might seem like magic, but a novel technique developed in the laboratory of Changhuei Yang, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Medical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute, could bring it closer to a reality. "We can see all the traffic on the crossroads with this method. This might help the cars to foresee the potential danger that one is not able to see directly." explains electrical engineering graduate student Ruizhi Cao. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights Changhuei Yang MedE Ruizhi Cao

A Quantitative Snapshot of the Human Impact on the Planet


Caltech researchers have developed a database containing global data on how humans have impacted the planet. The Human Impacts Database is designed to be accessible to scientists, policymakers, and everyday citizens. "In my view, the root to understanding is numeracy: once you have the numbers, it becomes clear what the problems are, which things are significant, and which things are less so," says Rob Phillips, Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics, Biology, and Physics. [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights alumni Rob Phillips Griffin Chure Rachel Banks

New Optical Switch Could Lead to Ultrafast All-Optical Signal Processing


One of the major limitations of optics-based systems at present is that, at a certain point, they still need to have electronics-based transistors to efficiently process the data. Now, a team led by Alireza Marandi, assistant professor of electrical engineering and applied physics at Caltech, has created an all-optical switch. Such a switch could eventually enable data processing using photons. Device nanofabrication was performed at the Kavli Nanoscience Institute (KNI) at Caltech. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights KNI Alireza Marandi Rajveer Nehra Saman Jahani Luis Ledezma Arkadev Roy Qiushi Guo Ryoto Sekine Robert Gray

Improving Aircraft Design with Machine Learning and a More Efficient Model of Turbulent Airflows


Turbulent airflows are chaotic and unpredictable: consider the bumps and jolts one might experience during an airplane flight encountering turbulent air. With increased knowledge of turbulent airflows, airplane designs could become safer, more resilient, and ultimately more fuel efficient.  H. Jane Bae, Assistant Professor of Aerospace, has developed a way to use machine learning to further improve the design process. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT H. Jane Bae

How Do We Predict Climate Change?


To explore and predict how the climate will change, researchers create computer models of the real world. These mathematical models are based on the laws of physics and chemistry, which explain how water and air move, heat up, and cool in the atmosphere and ocean, how pollutants react in the atmosphere, and how sunlight and infrared radiation interact with molecules. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS ESE Tapio Schneider Andrew Stuart Anna Jaruga

Methods from Weather Forecasting Can Be Adapted to Assess Risk of COVID-19 Exposure


Techniques used in weather forecasting can be repurposed to provide individuals with a personalized assessment of their risk of exposure to COVID-19 or other viruses, according to new research published by Caltech scientists. The technique has the potential to be more effective and less intrusive than blanket lockdowns for combatting the spread of disease, says Tapio Schneider, Theodore Y. Wu Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio ESE Tapio Schneider Oliver Dunbar Lucas Böttcher Dmitry Burov Alfredo Garbuno-Inigo Gregory Wagner Sen Pei Raffaele Ferrari Jeffrey Shaman Jinlong Wu

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