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Solar Powered, Electrochemical, Wastewater Treatment System

12-18-15

Cody Finke, Environmental Science and Engineering graduate student, and Justin Jasper, Resnick Sustainability Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar, are the runner ups for the Dow Resnick Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) at Caltech. They have been working Professor Michael Hoffmann to enhance a modular, solar powered, electrochemical, on-site wastewater treatment system created by their group for toilets in the developing and developed world. With an operating cost of less than 5 US cents per day, this wastewater treatment technology meets benchmarks for affordability in the developing world. It also has the potential to protect human health and ecosystem well-being in communities most at risk to disease and resource-loss through environmental pollution. [Resnick Institute story]

Tags: honors energy research highlights health ESE Michael Hoffmann Cody Finke Justin Jasper

Toward a Smarter Grid

10-19-15

The power network of the future—also known as the smart grid—will have to be much more dynamic and responsive than the current electric grid, handling tremendous loads while incorporating intermittent energy production from renewable resources such as wind and solar, all while ensuring that when you or I flip a switch at home or work, the power still comes on without fail. An interdisciplinary group of engineers, economists, mathematicians, and computer scientists, including Professors Steven Low and Adam Wierman are working to develop the devices, systems, theories, and algorithms to help guide this historic transformation and make sure that it is properly managed. [Caltech feature]

Tags: EE research highlights CMS Adam Wierman Steven Low

Inaugural Centers Announced for the Materials Genome Initiative

10-05-15

William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, will be the Caltech Principle Investigator for one of U.S. Department of Energy’s inaugural centers for the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI). The initiative was launched by the White House to “help businesses discover, develop, and deploy new materials twice as fast.” The three inaugural centers are receiving $8 million to “integrate theory and computation with experiment and provide the materials community with advanced tools and techniques in support of the MGI.” Professor Goddard and colleagues will be working on the Computational Synthesis of Materials Software Project with the goal of developing the next-generation of methods and software to predict and control materials processes at the level of electrons. [Learn more]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Goddard

Atomic Fractals in Metallic Glasses

09-18-15

Julia R. Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues including graduate student David Chen have shown that metallic glasses has an atomic-level structure although it differs from the periodic lattices that characterize crystalline metals. "Our group has solved this paradox by showing that atoms are only arranged fractally up to a certain scale," Greer says. "Larger than that scale, clusters of atoms are packed randomly and tightly, making a fully dense material, just like a regular metal. So we can have something that is both fractal and fully dense." [Caltech story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE MCE Julia Greer David Chen

New, Ultrathin Optical Devices Shape Light in Exotic Ways

09-03-15

Andrei Faraon, Assistant Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have created silicon nanopillars devices capable of manipulating light in ways that are very difficult or impossible to achieve with conventional optical components. The devices are precisely arranged into a honeycomb pattern to create a "metasurface" that can control the paths and properties of passing light waves. Professor Faraon describes, "this new technology is very similar to the one used to print semiconductor chips onto silicon wafers, so you could conceivably manufacture millions of systems such as microscopes or cameras at a time." [Caltech story] [BBC video clip]

Tags: APhMS research highlights MedE Andrei Faraon

Seeing Quantum Motion

08-31-15

Keith Schwab, Professor of Applied Physics, has found a way to observe and control the quantum motion of an object that is large enough to see. Schwab's group has learned how to cool the motion of small micrometer-scale objects to produce the quantum ground state. This quantum motion is theoretically an intrinsic part of the motion of all objects. Schwab and his colleagues designed a device that would allow them to observe this quantum motion and then manipulate it. The ability to control quantum noise could one day be used to improve the precision of very sensitive measurements, such as those designed to search for signs of gravitational waves. [Caltech Story]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Keith Schwab

Preparing for Earthquakes with ShakeAlert

08-03-15

United States Geological Survey (USGS) has announced an approximately $4 million in awards to Caltech, University of California Berkeley, the University of Washington and the University of Oregon, for the expansion and improvement of the ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. "Caltech's role in ShakeAlert will focus on research and development of the system so that future versions will be faster and more reliable," said Professor Thomas Heaton. "We currently collect data from approximately 400 seismic stations throughout California. The USGS grant will allow Caltech to upgrade or install new stations in strategic locations that will significantly improve the performance of ShakeAlert." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MCE Thomas Heaton

Dr. Rittel Recognized by Academy of Sciences of Turin

06-18-15

Dr. Daniel Rittel, long term GALCIT Visiting Associate working with Professors Ravichandran and Rosakis, has been awarded the 2015 “Angiola Gili e Cataldo Agostinelli” international prize for Applied or Theoretical Mechanics by the Academy of Sciences of Turin, Italy. Dr. Rittel has performed pioneering research in the mechanics of materials, with particular focus on the coupling thermomechanical solids. His work has demonstrated that the energy stored in the material is not only due to thermodynamic effects, but also due to changes in the microstructure identified as dynamic recrystallization. His research has also led to a paradigm shift in the modeling of the localization phenomena of sliding dynamics, combining the science of materials with the mechanics using numerical simulations. [List of past recipients]

Tags: honors research highlights GALCIT Guruswami Ravichandran Ares Rosakis Daniel Rittel

A Winning Sanitation Solution

06-11-15

The inventors of the solar-powered toilet, a unit developed by a team led by Professor Michael Hoffmann, have a new award winning project. Project Seva, which means "service" in Hindi. It was named the first place winner of the Vodafone's Wireless Innovation program. The Seva team realized that because the solar toilet and other sanitation systems like it are relatively simple, inexpensive sensors could be used to monitor the status of those systems' parts. Combining that insight with the knowledge that more than three-quarters of the world's people have access to a mobile phone, the team decided to design a self-diagnosing maintenance system for sanitation solutions that could alert designated local operators of a malfunction via cell phone message. [Caltech story]

Tags: energy research highlights ESE Michael Hoffmann