News & Events


Self-Contained, Photovoltaic Powered Domestic Toilet


Michael Robert Hoffmann, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science, and his team of graduate students Asghar Aryanfar, Clement Cid, Kangwoo Cho, Daejung Kwon, and Hao Zhang, along with post doctoral scholar Yan Qu have won the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Their winning proposal was to build a toilet that uses the sun to power an electrochemical reactor. The reactor breaks down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy. The treated water can then be reused to flush the toilet or for irrigation. [Caltech Feature] [CNN Ideas]

Tags: energy research highlights MCE ESE Michael Hoffmann Asghar Aryanfar Clement Cid Kangwoo Cho Daejung Kwon Hao Zhang Yan Qu

Winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes Announced


The student winners of the 2012 Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Prizes were announced at a special luncheon with the Demetriades - Tsafka – Kokkalis family. Philip Romero received the prize in Biotechnology for his work on developing statistical models of proteins with Frances Arnold. Michael Mello was the recipient of the prize in Seismo-Engineering, Prediction, and Protection for his work with Ares Rosakis on developing a novel methodology for identifying the unique ground motion signatures of supershear earthquakes. Leslie O’Leary received the prize in Environmentally Benign Renewable Energy Sources for her pathbreaking work on the properties of semiconductor interfaces with Nate Lewis and Bob Grubbs. This year there were two winners for the prize in Nanotechnology. One winner was Andrew Jennings for his experimental and modeling work in nanomechanics with Julia Greer. The other winner of the Nanotechnology prize was Jordan Raney who has worked with Chiara Daraio to develop new chemical synthesis methods to control the properties of carbon nanotubes.

Tags: APhMS honors research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT MCE Nate Lewis Julia Greer Ares Rosakis Demetriades - Tsafka - Kokkalis Philip Romero Frances Arnold. Michael Mello Leslie O’Leary Bob Grubbs Andrew Jennings Jordan Raney

Finalist for Library Senior Thesis Prize


Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student Robert Karol, who is also minoring in Aerospace and Control and Dynamical Systems, was the finalist for the 2012 Friends of Caltech Libraries Senior Thesis Prize. His thesis is entitled “Peak Seeking Controller for Real Time Mobile Satellite Tracking” and was written under the direction of Professor Richard Murray and Mechanical Engineering alumnus Gunnar Ristroph (BS '06) of IJK Controls.

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Tags: energy research highlights MCE CMS Richard Murray Robert Karol

Greater Insight into Earthquake Cycles


Nadia Lapusta, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics, and colleagues have developed the first computer model of an earthquake-producing fault segment that reproduces, in a single physical framework, the available observations of both the fault's seismic (fast) and aseismic (slow) behavior. "Earthquake science is on the verge of building models that are based on the actual response of the rock materials as measured in the lab—models that can be tailored to reproduce a broad range of available observations for a given region," says Lapusta. "This implies we are getting closer to understanding the physical laws that govern how earthquakes nucleate, propagate, and arrest." [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights MCE Nadia Lapusta

Building Infrastructure to Handle Growing Populations


Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student, Eric Chang, has been named a Watson Fellow. The fellowship enables graduating seniors to spend a year traveling around the world, exploring and learning about topics of their choice. Chang will spend about three months each in Taiwan, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Hyderabad, India. In Asia, more and more people are moving from rural areas to the cities, and these cities must be able to build the infrastructure to handle the new population. "I wanted to see how these problems are being approached in these countries," he says. "These issues are going to have a large impact on the world." [Caltech Feature]

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Tags: honors research highlights MCE Eric Chang

Student Leads New Keck Institute for Space Studies Program


Melissa M. Tanner, a Mechanical Engineering graduate student, is the student lead for a new Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) mini-program called, Tools and Algorithms for Sampling in Extreme Terrain. This program will give a handful of undergraduate students the opportunity to help develop instruments for an extreme-terrain rover called Axel, which could one day be used to explore the moon, Mars, or an asteroid. The Caltech faculty mentor to the mini-program is Joel W. Burdick, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering, who is part of the Caltech and JPL team developing Axel. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: research highlights MCE Joel Burdick Melissa Tanner

Four EAS Faculty Receive Named Chairs


Professors James (Jim) L. Beck, Sossina M. Haile, Melany L. Hunt, and Rob Phillips have received named chairs.  Jim Beck has been named the George W. Housner Professor of Engineering and Applied Science.  Sossina Haile has been named the Carl F Braun Professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering. Melany Hunt has been named the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Rob Phillips has been named the Fred and Nancy Morris Professor of Biophysics and Biology.

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Tags: APhMS honors research highlights MCE Sossina Haile James Beck Rob Phillips Melany Hunt

Light as a Feather, Stiffer Than a Board


Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, and colleagues have developed the world’s lightest solid material, with a density of 0.9 milligrams per cubic centimeter. The new material, called a micro-lattice, relies, on a lattice architecture: tiny hollow tubes made of nickel-phosphorous are angled to connect at nodes, forming repeating, asterisklike unit cells in three dimensions. "We're entering a new era of materials science where material properties are determined not only by the microscopic makeup of the material but also by the architecture of the constituents," Greer says. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: APhMS research highlights Julia Greer

Cell-phone Medical Devices


Mani Chandy, Simon Ramo Professor and Professor of Computer Science; Deputy Chair for Education, and Julian J. Bunn, Principal Computational Scientist at CACR, are working with a group of Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF) in CMS, EE, and MCE to building a collection of medical devices that can be connected to a cell phone. "We want to exploit cell-phone technology and the Internet to provide inexpensive health-care tests for the poor in remote rural villages," says Chandy. [Caltech Feature]

Tags: EE research highlights health MCE CMS Kanianthra Chandy Julian Bunn SURF

Compaction Bands in Sandstone are Permeable


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