"Turbulence is everywhere," says Professor Beverley McKeon—from continent-spanning weather systems down to the swirls of air your car leaves behind itself as you drive. "I think about things like ships, planes, and pipelines," she explains, noting that about half of the energy consumed by each of those three transportation systems goes to counteract turbulence-induced drag. In her Watson Lecture she notes that finding a way to reduce that turbulence by 30 percent would save the global economy well over $100,000,000 dollars in fuel costs annually. [Learn More]
Dennis Kochmann, Assistant Professor of Aerospace, has received the 2012 International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics (IUTAM) Bureau Prize in Solid Mechanics. The prize is awarded every four years by the union to outstanding young scientists based on their papers and presentations at the international congress. Professor Kochmann's presentation was entitled "Making positive use of instability - ultra-high stiffness and damping composites and structures due to constrained instabilities". The presentation described how engineers can make positive use of mechanical instabilities. While engineering design commonly aims to prevent instabilities of any kind (leading to failure or collapse), controlled and careful use of mechanical instabilities can result in new material and structural systems that possess superior properties such as very high stiffness (meaning minimal deformation under loads) and high damping (meaning any external vibrations are effectively attenuated). [Past Winners of Prize]
Michael L. Roukes, Robert M. Abbey Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering as well as Co-Director of the Kavli Nanoscience Institute, and colleagues have created the first-ever mechanical device that measures the mass of a single molecule. The device—which is only a couple millionths of a meter in size—consists of a tiny, vibrating bridge-like structure. When a particle or molecule lands on the bridge, its mass changes the oscillating frequency in a way that reveals how much the particle weighs. [Caltech Press Release]
Paul M. Bellan, Professor of Applied Physics, and colleagues have reproduced plasma loops in the laboratory to help understand solar physics. "We're studying how these solar loops work, which contributes to the knowledge of space weather," says Professor Bellan, who compares the research to studying hurricanes. For example, you can't predict a hurricane unless you know more about the events that precede it, like high-pressure and low-pressure fronts. The same is true for solar flares. "It takes some time for the plasma to get to Earth from the sun, so it's possible that with more research, we could have up to a two-day warning period for massive solar flares." [Caltech Release] [E&S Article]
Guruswami Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Professor of Mechanical Engineering as well as the Director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, has been elected into the European Academy of Sciences and Arts under the class of Technical and Environmental Sciences. The Academy focuses on interdisciplinary discussion across specialist areas, ideologies and scientific cultures as well as promoting transnational dialog and visionary developments of new scientific knowledge and academic thinking.
Alexei Y. Kitaev, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Computer Science, and Mathematics, has received the $3 million Yuri MilnerFundamental Physics Prize. The prize citation recognizes Professor Kitaev's "theoretical idea of implementing robust quantum memories and fault-tolerant quantum computation using topological quantum phases with anyons and unpaired Majorana modes." This new prize is the most lucrative academic prize in the world and Professor Kitaev is one of only nine scientists to receive it this year. [New York Times Article] [The Guardian Article] [Caltech Release]
Chiara Daraio, Professor of Aeronautics and Applied Physics, has won a 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Daraio was recognized for her "pioneering contributions to nonlinear mechanical phenomena in acoustic crystals, granular material, and multifunctional nanostructures, and for mentoring women and providing research opportunities for high school and undergraduate students."
"The entire Caltech community is proud to see Professor Daraio recognized with this presidential honor, not only for her pioneering research accomplishments, but also for her commitment to students and diversity," says Chair Ares Rosakis. "Even though she is near the beginning of her career she already embodies the key attributes of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech." [Caltech Release]
Guruswami Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who is also the Director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, has been elected as a 2012 Fellow of American Academy of Mechanics (AAM). He recieved this honor for “his outstanding contributions to the understanding of mechanical behavior of materials under extreme loading environments.”
Graduate student Janna C. Nawroth, working with Professor John Dabiri and colleagues at Harvard, has turned solid element—silicon—and muscle cells into a freely swimming jellyfish.
"It is fascinating to witness the evolution of the Dabiri group's research from their initial ground-breaking work in understanding the fluid dynamics of jellyfish propulsion to the building of these complex engineered systems using biological materials," says Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech Press Release]