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Wind-turbine Placement Produces Tenfold Power Increase

07-13-11

Field tests of John O. Dabiri, Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering, and colleagues' vertical-axis wind turbines have shown that the power output of wind farms can be increased by an order of magnitude—at least tenfold— by optimizing the placement of turbines on a given plot of land. "Dabiri's bioinspired engineering research is challenging the status quo in wind-energy technology," says Ares Rosakis, Division Chair and Theodore von Kármán Professor of Aeronautics and Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "This exemplifies how Caltech engineers' innovative approaches are tackling our society's greatest problems." [Caltech Press Release] [Videos of Turbines]

Tags: energy research highlights GALCIT John Dabiri

Sander Weinreb Awarded the Karl G. Jansky Lectureship

06-16-11

Dr. Sander Weinreb, Faculty Associate in Electrical Engineering, has been awarded the Karl G. Jansky Lectureship. This is an honor established to recognize outstanding contributions to the advancement of radio astronomy. Weinreb’s development of the first autocorrelation spectrometer and the detection of the first interstellar molecule at radio wavelengths revolutionized astronomy. He has been a leader in the technological development of cm and mm astronomy throughout his career.

Tags: EE honors energy research highlights Sander Weinreb

Geographical Load Balancing with Renewables

06-14-11

Professors Adam Wierman and Steven Low, along with CMS graduate students Zhenhua Liu and Minghong Lin have received the best paper award at the ACM GreenMetrics conference for their paper "Geographical Load Balancing with Renewables". The paper provides algorithms that can allow renewable energy to be efficiently used by geographically distributed data centers (such as those used by Google) in order to almost completely eliminate the usage of brown energy. [Read the Paper]

Tags: honors energy research highlights CMS Adam Wierman Steven Low Minghong Lin Zhenhua Liu

Compaction Bands in Sandstone are Permeable

06-06-11

José E. Andrade, Associate Professor of Civil and Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues have analyzed X-ray images of Aztec sandstone and revealed that compaction bands are actually more permeable than earlier models indicated. Their paper provides the first permeability calculations based on actual rock samples taken directly from the field in the Valley of Fire, Nevada. They conclude that these formations are not as impermeable as previously believed, and that therefore their ability to trap fluids—like oil, gas, and CO2—should be measured based on 3D images taken from the field. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: energy research highlights MCE Jose Andrade

Largest Biochemical Circuit Built Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules

06-02-11

Lulu Qian, Senior Postdoctoral Scholar in Bioengineering, and colleagues including Erik Winfree, Professor of Computer Science, Computation and Neural Systems, and Bioengineering, have built the most complex biochemical circuit ever created from scratch made with DNA-based devices in a test tube that are analogous to the electronic transistors on a computer chip."We're trying to borrow the ideas that have had huge success in the electronic world, such as abstract representations of computing operations, programming languages, and compilers, and apply them to the biomolecular world," says Dr. Qian. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: EE research highlights health CMS Erik Winfree Lulu Qian postdocs

Converting Heat into Electricity in Space and on Earth - High-Performance Bulk Thermoelectrics

05-23-11

Jeff Snyder, Faculty Associate in Applied Physics and Materials Science, and colleagues have developed a thermoelectric material that might be able to operate off nothing more than the heat of a car's exhaust. "You'll see applications wherever there's a solid-state advantage," Snyder predicts. "One example is the charging system. The electricity to keep your car's battery charged is generated by the alternator, a mechanical device driven by a rubber belt powered by the crankshaft. You've got friction, slippage, strain, internal resistance, wear and tear, and weight, in addition to the mechanical energy extracted to make the electricity. Just replacing that one subsystem with a thermoelectric solution could instantly improve a car's fuel efficiency by 10 percent." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS energy research highlights Jeff Snyder

Stimulating Electrode Array Assists Paraplegic Man to Stand and Move Legs Voluntarily

05-20-11

Joel W. Burdick, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, and colleagues including Yu-Chong Tai, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, have used a stimulating electrode array to assist a paralyzed man to stand, step on a treadmill with assistance, and, over time, to regain voluntary movements of his limbs. Using a combination of experimentation, computational models of the array and spinal cord, and machine-learning algorithms, Professor Burdick and his colleagues are now trying to optimize the stimulation pattern to achieve the best effects, and to improve the design of the electrode array. Further advances in the technology should lead to better control of the stepping and standing processes. 

Tags: EE research highlights MedE health Yu-Chong Tai MCE Joel Burdick

Experiments Settle Long-Standing Debate about Mysterious Array Formations in Nanofilms

05-19-11

Sandra M. Troian, Professor of Applied Physics, Aeronautics, and Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues' experiments have confirmed which of three possible mechanisms is responsible for the spontaneous formation of three-dimensional (3-D) pillar arrays in nanofilms (polymer films that are billionths of a meter thick). "My ultimate goal is to develop a suite of 3-D lithographic techniques based on remote, digital modulation of thermal, electrical, and magnetic surface forces," Troian says. Confirmation of the correct mechanism has allowed her to deduce the maximum resolution or minimum feature size ultimately possible with these patterning techniques. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights GALCIT MCE Sandra Troian

Strong, Tough, and Now Cheap: New Way to Process Metallic Glass

05-12-11

William L. Johnson, Ruben F. and Donna Mettler Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, and his team of researchers have developed a new technique that allows them to make metallic-glass parts utilizing the same inexpensive processes used to produce plastic parts. "We've taken the economics of plastic manufacturing and applied it to a metal with superior engineering properties,” Professor Johnson says. "We end up with inexpensive, high-performance, precision net-shape parts made in the same way plastic parts are made—but made of a metal that's 20 times stronger and stiffer than plastic.” [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: APhMS research highlights William Johnson Metallic Glass

Warm Water Causes Extra-cold Winters

03-30-11

Tapio Schneider, Frank J. Gilloon Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, and Dr. Yohai Kaspi have found a mechanism that helps explain why average winter temperatures in northern Europe are at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than similar latitudes on the northeastern coast of the United States. Using computer simulations of the atmosphere, they have found that the warm water off an eastern coast will heat the air above it and lead to the formation of atmospheric waves, drawing cold air from the northern polar region. The cold air forms a plume just to the west of the warm water. In the case of the Atlantic Ocean, this means the frigid air ends up right over the northeastern United States. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights ESE Tapio Schneider