News & Events


Professor Goddard and Team Find the Simplest Form of a Catalyst


William A. Goddard, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, is part of research team which finds that an electron is the simplest form of a catalyst. A catalyst is a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction by lowering the barriers from reactants to products. Traditionally, most catalysts contain transition metal as the source of activity. The most recent Nobel Prize in chemistry was awarded to Benjamin List and David W.C. MacMillan for the discovery of pure organic compounds as catalyst for asymmetric organic synthesis. Is there any catalyst simpler than small organic compounds? Yes, in an article published in the latest edition of Nature, a team of Northwestern University and Caltech discovered that an electron itself can play the role of catalyst for the process of molecular recognition. [Nature Article]

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Effective Pathway to Convert Greenhouse Gas into Valuable Products


A research team from Caltech and the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering has demonstrated a promising way to efficiently convert carbon dioxide into ethylene—an important chemical used to produce plastics, solvents, cosmetics, and other important products globally. They developed nanoscale copper wires with specially shaped surfaces to catalyze a chemical reaction that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously generating ethylene. "The idea of using copper to catalyze this reaction has been around for a long time, but the key is to accelerate the rate so it is fast enough for industrial production," says William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics. [Caltech story]

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Goddard Receives UCLA Samueli Lifetime Contribution Award


William Goddard, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, has been honored with the 2020 UCLA Samueli Lifetime Contribution Award for his significant contributions to the fields of engineering, quantum mechanics, physical chemistry and chemical physics. Goddard obtained his bachelor’s in engineering with highest honors from UCLA in 1960, and frequently collaborates with UCLA faculty members. “Each of Goddard’s academic achievements represents a key advance in its respective field,” said Yu Huang, a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA. “He has deservedly been recognized nationally and internationally for his highly accomplished academic career and, furthermore, has kept in close touch with UCLA colleagues and maintained fruitful collaborations with numerous UCLA faculty members.” [UCLA story]

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Inaugural Centers Announced for the Materials Genome Initiative


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]

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Extending a Battery's Lifetime with Heat


The research of alumnus Asghar Aryanfar (’15 PhD, ME) along with Professors Goddard and Hoffmann has shown that heat can break down the damaging branch-like structures that grow inside batteries, which may possibly be used to extend battery lifetimes. [Learn more] [Read the paper]

Tags: research highlights MCE ESE William Goddard alumni Michael Hoffmann Asghar Aryanfar

Highly Cited Researchers


The Thomson Reuters compilation of the most highly cited researchers— those in the top 1%—include EAS professors Harry Atwater, William Goddard, Babak Hassibi, Joel Tropp, Kerry Vahala, and Paul Wennberg. This compilation aims to identify researchers with exceptional impact on their respective fields. [Detailed information on the methodology]

Tags: APhMS EE honors Harry Atwater CMS ESE Paul Wennberg William Goddard Joel Tropp Kerry Vahala Babak Hassibi

From First Mile to Last Mile


Over his 47 year career, William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, has made seminal contributions to the theory and application of computational materials and molecular science which have led to numerous advances in diverse areas of science and engineering. In celebration of his career and 77th birthday his colleagues, students, and collaborators gathered at a celebration at Caltech entitled Bill Goddard and Computational Materials & Molecular Science: From First Mile to Last Mile. Special guests and speakers included Ares Rosakis, Carver Mead, Harry Gray, nobel laureate Rudolph Marcus and Sadasivan Shankar from Intel Corporation. [Tribute article about Professor Gaddard III]

Tags: APhMS EAS history Ares Rosakis William Goddard Carver Mead Harry Gray Rudolph Marcus

Developing Self-replicating Nanoscale Origami


William A. Goddard III, Charles and Mary Ferkel Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science, and Applied Physics, and colleagues including Postdoctoral Scholar Si-ping Han have been awarded a $2 million grant as part of the National Science Foundation’s Origami Design for Integration of Self-assembling Systems for Engineering Innovation program. The funds will be used to develop biomimetic materials which contain assembled complexes of molecules that self-replicate, evolve and adopt intricate three dimensional structures at the nanometer scale by combining DNA guided self-assembly with origami folding.

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Tags: APhMS research highlights health William Goddard Paul Rothemund Si-ping Han postdocs

New Insight into Acid Rain Chemistry


A multidisciplinary team led by Dr. A. J. Colussi, comprising of graduate student Himanshu Mishra, and Professor Michael Hoffmann along with Dr. Robert J. Nielsen and Professor William A. Goddard III from the Materials and Process Simulation Center, has shown that the dissociation of nitric acid on thin layers of water, such as those in contact with air or biological membranes, is dramatically different from the similar process inside water. They have found that the molecules of nitric acid do not dissociate when they collide with water unless its surface contains at least 1 anion per million water. This work explains how minute concentrations of anions might subtly participate in acid rain chemistry, the cycling of nitrogen oxide pollutants on urban haze, and in the charging of protein surfaces that drive enzyme activities. [The PNAS Article]

Tags: research highlights ESE William Goddard Michael Hoffmann A. J. Colussi Himanshu Mishra Robert Nielsen

Better, Stronger, Lighter Armor


Kaushik Bhattacharya, Howell N. Tyson, Sr., Professor of Mechanics and Professor of Materials Science, is the Caltech lead on a $90 million U.S. Army Research Laboratory funded program to improve protective gear and vehicles for soldiers. "…studying materials in very extreme conditions is an area where Caltech engineering really stand out," says Bhattacharya. "The tools we bring, on both the theoretical and experimental sides uniquely bridge deep fundamental principles with unprecedented application.” [Caltech Feature]

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Tags: APhMS GALCIT MCE Guruswami Ravichandran Julia Greer William Goddard Michael Ortiz Dennis Kochmann Kaushik Bhattacharya