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A Quantitative Snapshot of the Human Impact on the Planet

08-04-22

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

07-30-22

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

07-28-22

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?

07-12-22

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

06-27-22

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

06-09-22

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

06-07-22

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

Artificial Skin Gives Robots Sense of Touch and Beyond

06-02-22

A new artificial skin can now give robots the ability to sense temperature, pressure, and even toxic chemicals through a simple touch. The multimodal robotic-sensing platform, dubbed M-Bot, was developed in the lab of Wei Gao, Assistant Professor of Medical Engineering; Investigator, Heritage Medical Research Institute; Ronald and JoAnne Willens Scholar. It aims to give humans more precise control over robots while also protecting the humans from potential hazards. "I think we have shown a proof of concept," says Gao. "But we want to improve the stability of this robotic skin to make it last longer. By optimizing new inks and new materials, we hope this can be used for different kinds of targeted detections. We want to put it on more powerful robots and make them smarter, more intelligent." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights MedE Wei Gao You Yu Jiahong Li Samuel Solomon Jihong Min Changhao Xu Jiaobing Tu Yu Song

Nanofabrication Courses Let Caltech Undergraduates Get Hands-on at the Smallest Scales

05-27-22

The course combines topical lectures that give the students a preview of what they will be doing in the cleanroom along with hands-on practical training. Both components are conducted as a team effort between Scherer and the KNI technical staff. The first two lectures of the term were presented by KNI’s microscopist, Dr. Annalena Wolff, who lectured on scanning electron and focused ion beam microscopy. Additional lectures were presented by KNI’s Associate Director of Technical Operations, Dr. Guy DeRose, on electron beam lithography.

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Tags: APhMS EE research highlights MedE Axel Scherer KNI Changsoon Choi Paromita Mitchell Annalena Wolff Guy DeRose Bert Mendoza Alex Wertheim Kelly McKenzie

The 2022 Caltech Space Challenge—to Titan and Back

05-26-22

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only planetary body in our solar system besides Earth where there is clear evidence of surface liquid. This is an essential element to life as we know it and makes Titan a prime target in the search for extraterrestrial life. Two teams of 16 space exploration enthusiasts, including five Caltech students along with university students from around the globe, were given five days to design an autonomous mission to collect three different samples from Titan. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Brit Wylie Maximilian Adang Lucas Pabarcius Liam Heidt Josefine Graebener Eric Smith Theresa Marlin