Wind-turbine Placement Produces Tenfold Power Increase, Caltech Researchers Say

The power output of wind farms can be increased by an order of magnitude—at least tenfold—simply by optimizing the placement of turbines on a given plot of land, say researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) who have been conducting a unique field study at an experimental two-acre wind farm in northern Los Angeles County. 

Going with the Flow: Caltech Researchers Find Compaction Bands in Sandstone are Permeable

When geologists survey an area of land for the potential that gas or petroleum deposits could exist there, they must take into account the composition of rocks that lie below the surface. Previous research had suggested that compaction bands might act as barriers to the flow of oil or gas. Now, researchers led by José Andrade have analyzed X-ray images of Aztec sandstone and revealed that compaction bands are actually more permeable than earlier models indicated.

 

 

Caltech Researchers Build Largest Biochemical Circuit Out of Small Synthetic DNA Molecules

In many ways, life is like a computer. An organism's genome is the software that tells the cellular and molecular machinery—the hardware—what to do. But instead of electronic circuitry, life relies on biochemical circuitry—complex networks of reactions and pathways that enable organisms to function. Now, researchers at Caltech 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.

Caltech Researchers Develop High-Performance Bulk Thermoelectrics

Caltech scientists have concocted a recipe for a thermoelectric material—one that converts heat energy into electricity—that might be able to operate off nothing more than the heat of a car's exhaust. In a paper published in Nature this month, G. Jeffrey Snyder and his colleagues reported on a compound that shows high efficiency in a temperature range of around 260 to 1160 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, the heat escaping out your car's tailpipe could be used to help power its electrical components.

Caltech Research Helps Paraplegic Man Stand and Move Legs Voluntarily

A team of researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Caltech, and the University of Louisville 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. The electrical signals provided by the array, the researchers have found, stimulate the spinal cord's own neural network so that it can use the sensory input derived from the legs to direct muscle and joint movements.

 

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

Caltech scientists have conducted experiments confirming which of three possible mechanisms is responsible for the spontaneous formation of 3-D pillar arrays in nanofilms. These protrusions appear suddenly when the surface of a molten nanofilm is exposed to an extreme temperature gradient and self-organize into hexagonal, lamellar, square, or spiral patterns. 

Caltech Faculty Receive Early Career Grants

Four Caltech faculty members are among the 65 scientists from across the nation selected to receive Early Career Research Awards from the Department of Energy. The grant winners are Guillaume Blanquart, Julia R. Greer, Chris Hirata, and Ryan Patterson. The Early Career Research Program is designed to bolster the nation's scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

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

Stronger than steel or titanium—and just as tough—metallic glass is an ideal material for everything from cell-phone cases to aircraft parts. Now, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a new technique that allows them to make metallic-glass parts utilizing the same inexpensive processes used to produce plastic parts. With this new method, they can heat a piece of metallic glass at a rate of a million degrees per second and then mold it into any shape in just a few milliseconds.

Engineering Design Competition: "Extreme Recycling"

Congratulations to Chris Hallacy, Brad Saund, and Janet Chen for their victory March 8 in the 26th annual ME 72 engineering design competition. This year's theme: "Extreme Recycling." The mission: Design, build, and deploy two vehicles and traverse difficult terrain (water, sand, rocks, and wood chips, with one type of terrain in each of four different 6' x 10' boxes) to collect plastic water bottles, aluminum cans, and steel cans.

Young Caltech Engineers Recognized for Innovative Work in Disease Diagnostic Technologies

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) graduate student Guoan Zheng is the recipient of the 2011 $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Caltech Student Prize.

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