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New Climate Model to Be Built from the Ground Up

12-13-18

"Projections with current climate models—for example, of how features such as rainfall extremes will change—still have large uncertainties, and the uncertainties are poorly quantified," says Professor Tapio Schneider, principal investigator of the Climate Modeling Alliance (CliMA). "For cities planning their stormwater management infrastructure to withstand the next 100 years' worth of floods, this is a serious issue; concrete answers about the likely range of climate outcomes are key for planning." The new climate model will be built by a consortium of researchers led by Caltech, in partnership with MIT; the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS); and JPL, which Caltech manages for NASA. It will use data-assimilation and machine-learning tools to improve itself in real time, harnessing both Earth observations and the nested high-resolution simulations. "The success of computational weather forecasting demonstrates the power of using data to improve the accuracy of computer models; we aim to bring the same successes to climate prediction," says Professor Andrew Stuart. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights CMS ESE Tapio Schneider Andrew Stuart

Microscopic Devices That Control Vibrations Could Allow Smaller Mobile Devices

12-12-18

Chiara Daraio, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Physics, and colleagues have developed phononic devices that include parts that vibrate extremely fast, moving back and forth up to tens of millions of times per second. The devices were developed by creating silicon nitride drums that are just 90 nanometers thick. The drums are arranged into grids, with different grid patterns having different properties. Professor Daraio, along with former Caltech postdoctoral scholar Jinwoong Cha, have shown that arrays of these drums can act as tunable filters for signals of different frequencies and can act like one-way valves for high-frequency waves. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio MCE APh postdocs Jinwoong Cha

The Big Picture

12-03-18

Thanks to Professor Pietro Perona and his graduate students including Grant Van Horn and Sara Beery, the next wildlife photo you snap might set you on a path to helping map life on Earth. “The whole web, this huge repository of wonderful information, is indexed by words,” Perona says. “But when we have an image—a visual query—we don’t know what to do unless there is an expert next to us. We’ve gotten so numb to the idea that we’ll never find the answer out.” [Breakthrough story]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Pietro Perona Grant Van Horn Sara Beery

Nailing It: Caltech Engineers Help Show That InSight Lander Probe Can Hammer Itself Into Martian Soil

11-26-18

Professor José Andrade’s research team including Postdoctoral researchers Ivan Vlahinic and Jason Marshall have helped the InSight Mars lander boldly go where no one has gone before: beneath the surface of Mars. InSight is equipped with two main instrument packages: a seismometer for studying how seismic waves (for example, from marsquakes and meteorite impacts) travel through the planet and a "mole" that will burrow into the ground, dragging a tether with temperature sensors behind it to measure how temperatures change with depth on the planet. These instruments will tell scientists about Mars's interior structure (similar to the way an ultrasound lets doctors "see" inside a human body) and also about the heat flow from the planet's interior. When designing the mole the engineers at JPL wanted to be certain that it would be capable of reaching the necessary depth, and so they called on Professor Andrade, an expert on the physics of granular materials. He was able to develop new computer models that helped the JPL team predict the mole's effectiveness in Martian soil. Unless the mole encounters an obstacle, Andrade is confident that it will be successful. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Jose Andrade postdocs Ivan Vlahinic Jason Marshall

Partners In Innovation

11-13-18

Ten years ago, Caltech and City of Hope forged a partnership that combined what each institute was best at—engineering and medicine, respectively—with the goal of developing new biomedical technologies. At this year’s partnership celebration two projects were highlighted one involving Professor Yu-Chong Tai’s work on tracking tumors and the other building on Professor Morteza Gharib’s device to measure heart health. [Caltech story] [ENGenious MedE feature]

Tags: research highlights MedE Yu-Chong Tai Morteza Gharib

"Folded" Optical Devices Manipulate Light in a New Way

10-30-18

Andrei Faraon, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have introduced a technology called "folded metasurface optics," which is a way of printing multiple types of metasurfaces onto either side of a substrate, like glass. In this way, the substrate itself becomes the propagation space for the light. As a proof of concept, the team used the technique to build a spectrometer. Such compact spectrometers have a variety of possible uses, including as a noninvasive blood-glucose measuring system. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Andrei Faraon APh

Spinning the Light: The World's Smallest Optical Gyroscope

10-25-18

Professor Ali Hajimiri and colleagues have developed a new optical gyroscope that is 500 times smaller than the current state-of-the-art device, yet they can detect phase shifts that are 30 times smaller than those systems. Their device achieves this improved performance by using a new technique called "reciprocal sensitivity enhancement." In this case, "reciprocal" means that it affects both beams of the light inside the gyroscope in the same way. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights Ali Hajimiri

Caltech Startup Aims to Make Solar Panels More Efficient

10-18-18

Translational technology developed in Professor Harry A. Atwater’s laboratory seeks to improve the efficiency of solar panels by tweaking the architecture of the metal-grid layout of individual cells. The new startup company—ETC Solar, LLC—which is marketing the technology, took first place at the DOE's 2018 Cleantech University Prize national collegiate business plan competition in Houston. "To have been selected as a winner is a huge point of validation for the concept, both the innovation and also the impact," says Professor Atwater, who is also a co-founder of ETC Solar along with Thomas Russell, and Rebecca Saive. "It has helped us to make contacts with potential industrial partners and private equity investors," [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Harry Atwater alumni Thomas Russell Rebecca Saive

Illuminating New Possibilities

10-10-18

Alireza Marandi, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, explores how nonlinear photonics, a field of optics, enables a broad range of previously less-explored opportunities for using lasers and light detectors for a variety of purposes, including molecular sensing and computing. One possible application of his work is in breath analysis. He describes, “ there's a lot of useful information about your health contained in your breath, but it is difficult to analyze because the concentrations are so low. To overcome that, you could analyze the spectra of exhaled breath using lasers, searching for the spectral "fingerprints," or signatures, that reveal the presence of those compounds.” [Interview with Professor Marandi]

Tags: EE research highlights Alireza Marandi

Professors Barr and Schröder Elected to ACM SIGGRAPH Academy

10-05-18

Alan Barr, Professor of Computer Science, and Peter Schröder, Shaler Arthur Hanisch Professor of Computer Science and Applied and Computational Mathematics, have been elected to the first class of the ACM SIGGRAPH Academy. Professor Barr was selected for his contributions to graphics, primarily for extending computer graphics shape modeling to include physically based and teleological modeling. Professor Schröder was recognized for his pioneering work in geometry processing and multiresolution modeling. The ACM SIGGRAPH Academy is an honorary group of individuals who have made substantial contributions to the field of computer graphics and interactive techniques. These are principal leaders of the field, whose efforts have shaped the disciplines and/or industry, and led the research and/or innovation in computer graphics and interactive techniques. [Full list of academy members]

Tags: honors research highlights CMS Peter Schröder Alan Barr