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The Utility of Instability

08-08-16

Professors Dennis M. Kochmann and Chiara Daraio along with colleagues from Harvard have designed and created mechanical chains made of soft matter that can transmit signals across long distances. Because they are flexible, the circuits could be used in machines such as soft robots or lightweight aircraft constructed from pliable, nonmetallic materials. "Engineers tend to shy away from instability. "Though there are many applications, the fundamental principles that we explore are most exciting to me," Kochmann says. "These nonlinear systems show very similar behavior to materials at the atomic scale but these are difficult to access experimentally or computationally. Now we have built a simple macroscale analogue that mimics how they behave." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Chiara Daraio GALCIT MCE Dennis Kochmann

Dr. Rittel Recognized by Academy of Sciences of Turin

06-18-15

Dr. Daniel Rittel, long term GALCIT Visiting Associate working with Professors Ravichandran and Rosakis, has been awarded the 2015 “Angiola Gili e Cataldo Agostinelli” international prize for Applied or Theoretical Mechanics by the Academy of Sciences of Turin, Italy. Dr. Rittel has performed pioneering research in the mechanics of materials, with particular focus on the coupling thermomechanical solids. His work has demonstrated that the energy stored in the material is not only due to thermodynamic effects, but also due to changes in the microstructure identified as dynamic recrystallization. His research has also led to a paradigm shift in the modeling of the localization phenomena of sliding dynamics, combining the science of materials with the mechanics using numerical simulations. [List of past recipients]

Tags: honors research highlights GALCIT Guruswami Ravichandran Ares Rosakis Daniel Rittel

Space Solar Power Initiative

04-28-15

Caltech and Northrop Grumman Corporation have signed a $17.5 million sponsored research agreement for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI). The initiative will develop technologies in three areas: high-efficiency ultralight photovoltaics; ultralight deployable space structures; and phased array and power transmission. "The Space Solar Power Initiative brings together electrical engineers, applied physicists, and aerospace engineers in the type of profound interdisciplinary collaboration that is seamlessly enhanced at a small place like Caltech... We are working on extremely difficult problems that could eventually provide the world with new, and very cost-competitive technology for sustainable energy,” said EAS Chair Ares Rosakis. [Caltech story] [Northrop Grumman Release]

Tags: APhMS EE energy research highlights GALCIT Harry Atwater Ares Rosakis Ali Hajimiri Sergio Pellegrino

How To Study High-Speed Flows

02-09-15

Joanna Austin, Professor of Aerospace, researches fundamental problems in reactive, compressible flows with applications in hypervelocity flight and planetary entry, supersonic combustion and detonation, bubble dynamics, and explosive geological events. She remarks, “gas dynamics, and particularly looking at gas dynamics in reacting flows… [is] the thing I really love. It's a very challenging, coupled, problem. As the fluid is going through the model that you're studying, you also have to account for the fact that the state of the fluid is changing—the gas is chemically reacting, so it's changing from reactants to products, or it's redistributing its energy states, or both. Understanding how best to model these processes, that's what excites me.” [Interview with Professor Austin]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Joanna Austin

Professor Ravichandran Receives SEM Murray Lecture and Medal

06-05-14

Guruswami (Ravi) Ravichandran, John E. Goode, Jr. Professor of Aerospace and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Director of GALCIT, has been awarded the Society of Experimental Mechanics (SEM) William M. Murray Lecture and Medal. He delivered the 2014 Murray Lecture entitled, Three-Dimensional Quantitative Visualization: Application to Studying Cell-Matrix Interactions, on June 3, 2014 during the SEM Annual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics. The award was made in recognition of his pioneering contributions in experimental mechanics of deformation, damage and failure of materials under multiaxial dynamic loading. The Murray Lecture is the highest distinction awarded by SEM and is the prestige lecture of its annual conference.  The Murray Lecture was established in 1952 in honor of the first President of SEM, William MacGregor Murray who was a Professor and Executive Officer of Mechanical Engineering at MIT.

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Tags: honors research highlights GALCIT MCE Guruswami Ravichandran Ares Rosakis Wolfgang Knauss

Using Space Wisely

01-09-14

The Winter 2013 issue of Engineering & Science features Professor Sergio Pellegrino's Space Structures Laboratory in the Guggenheim building. “The goal for much of my work,” says Pellegrino, “is to make simpler and cheaper spacecraft. I want to use clever structural engineering to make access to space more affordable.” The article also describes him and his team's work on the AAReST project (Autonomous Assembly of a Reconfigurable Space Telescope) as well as applications of his work to solar concentrators. [E&S Article]

Tags: energy research highlights GALCIT Sergio Pellegrino

Talking to Turbulence

07-31-13

Beverley McKeon, Professor of Aeronautics and Associate Director of GALCIT, and her colleagues have developed a new and improved way of looking at the composition of turbulence near walls, the type of flow that dominates our everyday life. "This kind of turbulence is responsible for a large amount of the fuel that is burned to move humans, freight, and fluids such as water, oil, and natural gas, around the world," Professor Mckeon describes. They have devised a new method of looking at wall turbulence by reformulating the equations that govern the motion of fluids—called the Navier-Stokes equations—into an infinite set of smaller, simpler subequations, or "blocks," with the characteristic that they can be simply added together to introduce more complexity and eventually get back to the full equations. [Caltech Release]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Beverley McKeon

Caltech's Unique Wind Projects Move Forward

06-10-13

John O. Dabiri, Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering, has big plans for a high school in San Pedro, military bases in California, and a small village on Bristol Bay, Alaska. "We have been able to demonstrate that using wind turbines that are 30 feet tall, as opposed to 300 feet tall, could generate sufficient power for wind-farm applications," Dabiri says. "One of the areas where these smaller turbines can have an immediate impact is in the military." The Office of Naval Research is funding a three-year project by Dabiri's group to test the smaller vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) and to further develop software tools to determine their optimal placement. "We believe that these smaller turbines provide the opportunity to generate renewable power while being complementary to the ongoing activities at the base," Dabiri explains. [Learn More]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT John Dabiri

Professor Coles Passes Away

05-06-13

Donald E. Coles, Professor of Aeronautics, Emeritus, passed away on May 2, 2013 at the age of 89. Professor Coles made pioneering contributions towards our understanding of boundary layers, turbulent shear flows, bluff-body aerodynamics, and novel experimental methods in fluid dynamics. He was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Physical Society. In 2011 he was honored with the Donald Coles Lecture in Aerospace. He remained active till his passing, working on a book on Turbulent Shear Flow that is very near completion. [Caltech Obituary]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT EAS history Donald Coles

2013 Caltech Distinguished Alumni

03-19-13

Caltech has recognized four Engineering and Applied Science (EAS) graduates with the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor regularly bestowed by the Institute. They are Y. C. L. Susan Wu (PhD '63 Aeronautics), Sébastien M. Candel (MS '69 and PhD '72 in Mechanical Engineering), Uma R. Chowdhry (MS '70 Engineering Science), and James R. Fruchterman (BS '80 Engineering and Applied Science, MS '80 Applied Physics). [Caltech Release]

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Tags: APhMS honors research highlights GALCIT MCE alumni