Popping Microbubbles Help Focus Light Inside the Body
Changhuei Yang, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, and Medical Engineering, and his postdoctoral colleague Dr. Haowen Ruan have developed a novel technique called time-reversed ultrasound microbubble encoded (TRUME) that uses gas-filled microbubbles to focus light inside tissue. "Ultrasound and X-ray techniques can only detect cancer after it forms a mass," Yang says. "But with optical focusing, you could catch cancerous cells while they are undergoing biochemical changes but before they undergo morphological changes." [Caltech story]
Toward a Smarter Grid
The power network of the future—also known as the smart grid—will have to be much more dynamic and responsive than the current electric grid, handling tremendous loads while incorporating intermittent energy production from renewable resources such as wind and solar, all while ensuring that when you or I flip a switch at home or work, the power still comes on without fail. An interdisciplinary group of engineers, economists, mathematicians, and computer scientists, including Professors Steven Low and Adam Wierman are working to develop the devices, systems, theories, and algorithms to help guide this historic transformation and make sure that it is properly managed. [Caltech feature]
Space Solar Power Initiative
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]
Ali Hajimiri's New Camera Chip Provides Superfine 3-D Resolution
To make an exact copy of an object with a 3-D printer, you must first produce a high-resolution scan of the object with a 3-D camera that measures its height, width, and depth. The most sensitive systems generally are too large and expensive to be used in consumer applications. Ali Hajimiri, Thomas G. Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering, has created a new device called a nanophotonic coherent imager (NCI) that is an inexpensive silicon chip less than a millimeter. The NCI provides the highest depth-measurement accuracy of any such nanophotonic 3-D imaging device. 3-D imaging may be a possible feature in future smartphones. [Caltech story]
Engineering and Art
Students in Professor Hillary Mushkin’s media arts seminar (E/H/Art 89 New Media Arts in the 20th and 21st Centuries) have once again put on a unique exhibition highlighting art and engineering. The course provides a platform for an expanded understanding of engineering and an active, project-based engagement with art history.
Variability Keeps The Body In Balance
By combining heart rate data from real athletes with a branch of mathematics called control theory, John Doyle, Jean-Lou Chameau Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems, Electrical Engineering, and Bioengineering and colleagues have devised a way to better understand the relationship between reduced heart rate variability (HRV) and health.
"A familiar related problem is in driving," Doyle says. "To get to a destination despite varying weather and traffic conditions, any driver—even a robotic one—will change factors such as acceleration, braking, steering, and wipers. If these factors suddenly became frozen and unchangeable while the car was still moving, it would be a nearly certain predictor that a crash was imminent. Similarly, loss of heart rate variability predicts some kind of malfunction or 'crash,' often before there are any other indications," he says. [Caltech Release] [Read the Paper]