News & Events


Tiny Optical Cavity Could Make Quantum Networks Possible


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


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


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 postdocs Carlos Portela

Sweat Sensor Detects Stress Levels; May Find Use in Space Exploration


Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering, has produced a wireless sweat sensor that can accurately detect levels of cortisol, a natural compound that is commonly thought of as the body's stress hormone. This could allow for more widespread and easier monitoring of stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. "We aim to develop a wearable system that can collect multimodal data, including both vital sign and molecular biomarker information, to obtain the accurate classification for deep space stress and anxiety," Gao says. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE Wei Gao

Team CoSTAR Takes First Place in Underground Robot Competition


A team including Caltech researchers and JPL earned top honors in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge. Whether robots are exploring caves on other planets or disaster areas here on Earth, they need to be able to navigate a location and seek out objects of interest without access to GPS or human guidance. The Subterranean Challenge tests this kind of cutting-edge technology. "One of the two courses we had to run had multiple levels, so it was great that the Boston Dynamics robots were fantastic on stairs," says Joel Burdick, the Richard L. and Dorothy M. Hayman Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering and JPL research scientist, and the leader of the Caltech campus section of the CoSTAR team. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick

Professor Wang Advances Photoacoustic Imaging Technology


Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, has developed variants of photoacoustic imaging that can show organs moving in real time, develop three-dimensional (3-D) images of internal body parts, and even differentiate cancerous cells from healthy cells. Photoacoustic imaging, a technique for examining living materials through the use of laser light and ultrasonic sound waves, has many potential applications in medicine because of its ability to show everything from organs to blood vessels to tumors. Wang has now further advanced photoacoustic imaging technology with what he calls Photoacoustic Topography Through an Ergodic Relay (PATER), which aims to simplify the equipment required for imaging of this type. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang

Ultrasound Can Selectively Kill Cancer Cells


Professor Michael Ortiz and Professor Morteza Gharib are exploring a new technique that could offer a targeted approach to fighting cancer. Low-intensity pulses of ultrasound have been shown to selectively kill cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed. In the past, ultrasound waves have been used as a cancer treatment with high-intensity bursts resulting in killing cancer and normal cells. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE MCE Morteza Gharib Michael Ortiz

Bionic Jellyfish Swim Faster and More Efficiently


John Dabiri, Centennial Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering, has developed a tiny prosthetic that enables jellyfish to swim faster and more efficiently than they normally do, without stressing the animals. Dabiri is envisioning a future in which jellyfish equipped with sensors could be directed to explore and record information about the ocean. "Only five to 10 percent of the volume of the ocean has been explored, so we want to take advantage of the fact that jellyfish are everywhere already to make a leap from ship-based measurements, which are limited in number due to their high cost," Dabiri says. "If we can find a way to direct these jellyfish and also equip them with sensors to track things like ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen levels, and so on, we could create a truly global ocean network where each of the jellyfish robots costs a few dollars to instrument and feeds themselves energy from prey already in the ocean." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE John Dabiri

Professor Wang Develops World's Fastest Camera


Lihong Wang, Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, has developed the world's fastest camera, a device capable of taking 10 trillion pictures per second. It's so fast that it can even capture light traveling in slow motion. "What we've done is to adapt standard phase-contrast microscopy so that it provides very fast imaging, which allows us to image ultrafast phenomena in transparent materials," says Wang. [Caltech story]

Tags: EE research highlights MedE Lihong Wang

Professor Hou Featured in Quanta Magazine


The Quanta Magazine has featured Thomas Y. Hou, Charles Lee Powell Professor of Applied and Computational Mathematics, for his work in Euler singularity. Mathematicians and physicists have used Euler equations to model how fluids evolve over time. If you toss a rock into a still pond, how will the water be moving five seconds later? The Euler equations can tell you. Hou provided a numerical description of the initial state of a fluid and used a computer to apply the Euler equations to determine the fluid’s motion in the future. “From the top the fluid is spiraling down, and from the bottom it is swirling up in the opposite direction,” said Professor Hou. [Quanta article]

Tags: research highlights CMS Thomas Hou