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Bees "Surf" Atop Water

11-20-19

Chris Roh, Research Engineer, working with Professor Morteza Gharib, discovered a unique way that bees navigate the interface between water and air. When a bee lands on water, the water sticks to its wings, robbing it of the ability to fly. However, that stickiness allows the bee to drag water, creating waves that propel it forward."I was very excited to see this behavior and so I brought the honeybee back to the lab to take a look at it more closely," Roh says. [Caltech release]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Morteza Gharib Chris Roh

Professor McKeon Unlocked Secrets Behind Turbulence

11-06-19

Beverley McKeon, Theodore von Karman Professor of Aeronautics, has unlocked some of the secrets behind turbulence, a much-studied but difficult-to-pin-down phenomenon that mixes fluids when they flow past a solid boundary. "We knew that, underlying these very complicated structures, there had to be a very simple pattern. We just didn't know what that pattern was until now," says McKeon. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Beverley McKeon

New Polymer Heart Valve Implanted in First Patient

09-18-19

Professor Morteza Gharib, has designed a new generation of heart valves that are longer-lasting, cost less to manufacture, and are more biocompatible than options that are currently available to patients. One of the new valves has been implanted into a human for the first time. "This is among my proudest moments. Creating something with the potential to save and improve lives is one of the reasons I became an engineer," Gharib says. [Caltech release]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE Morteza Gharib

Professor Gharib Constructs Leonardo da Vinci's Model of Flow

07-16-19

Leonardo da Vinci studied the motion of blood in the human body. He was interested in the heart’s passive, three-cusp aortic valve, which he realized must be operated by the motion of blood. He theorized that vortices curl back to fill the cusps in the flask-shaped constriction at the aorta’s neck. Morteza Gharib, Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering; Booth-Kresa Leadership Chair, Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies; Director, Graduate Aerospace Laboratories; Director, Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies, has used modern imaging techniques to demonstrate the existence of the revolving vortices that Leonardo interpreted as closing the valve. [Nature Article]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE Morteza Gharib

"Neural Lander" Uses AI to Land Drones Smoothly

05-23-19

Professors Chung, Anandkumar, and Yue have teamed up to develop a system that uses a deep neural network to help autonomous drones "learn" how to land more safely and quickly, while gobbling up less power. The system they have created, dubbed the "Neural Lander," is a learning-based controller that tracks the position and speed of the drone, and modifies its landing trajectory and rotor speed accordingly to achieve the smoothest possible landing. The new system could prove crucial to projects currently under development at CAST, including an autonomous medical transport that could land in difficult-to-reach locations (such as a gridlocked traffic). "The importance of being able to land swiftly and smoothly when transporting an injured individual cannot be overstated," says Professor Gharib who is the director of CAST; and one of the lead researchers of the air ambulance project. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights Morteza Gharib Yisong Yue Soon-Jo Chung Animashree Anandkumar

Engineers Taught a Drone to Herd Birds Away From Airports

08-08-18

Soon-Jo Chung, Associate Professor of Aerospace and Bren Scholar; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Research Scientist, and colleagues have developed a new control algorithm that enables a single drone to herd an entire flock of birds away from the airspace of an airport. The effectiveness of the algorithm is only limited by the number and size of the incoming birds, Professor Chung says, adding that the team plans to explore ways to scale the project up for multiple drones dealing with multiple flocks.[Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Soon-Jo Chung

Dragonfly Larvae Inspire New Designs for Prosthetic Heart Valves

07-17-18

Professor Mory Gharib and postdoctoral researcher Chris Roh (MS '13, PhD '17) have studied the design and control of the jets that dragonfly larvae use to propel themselves to re-design health values. "The current heart valve design is a one-size-fits-all, where no patient-specific design is considered, and this causes many post-transplant complications," Dr. Roh says. "We believe that an intentionally off-centered opening of the heart valve to more closely match the patient's original blood flow will be an important design parameter that can be adjusted based on each patient's heart morphology." [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE Morteza Gharib Chris Roh postdocs

Engineers Create Stable Plasma Ring in Open Air

11-13-17

For the first time, Professor Morteza Gharib and colleagues have created a stable ring of plasma in open air using just a stream of water and a crystal plate. The team fired the water jet at surfaces of different textures and found that the smoother the surface, the clearer the structure of the plasma ring. The ring is stable, and as long as the water continues to flow, the ring maintains its shape and size. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MedE Morteza Gharib

How Friction Evolves During an Earthquake

08-15-17

Professor Ares Rosakis, and colleagues including Professor Nadia Lapusta and Research Scientist Vito Rubino, are studying the way friction changes along a fault during a seismic event by simulating quakes in a lab. "Our unique facility … allows us for the first time to study friction point-wise and without having to assume that sliding occurs uniformly, as is done in classical friction studies," Rosakis explains. Professor Lapusta adds, “some numerical models of earthquake rupture … have used friction laws with slip-velocity dependence… It is gratifying to see those formulations validated by the spontaneous mini-earthquake ruptures in our study. " [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT MCE Ares Rosakis Nadia Lapusta Vito Rubino

Holographic Imaging Could Be Used to Detect Signs of Life in Space

07-21-17

Jay Nadeau, Research Professor of Medical Engineering and Aerospace, and colleagues are exploring ways to sample and identify living microbes in the outer solar system. Her proposal is to use new microscopes on spacecraft that could visit the icy moons of Enceladus (Saturn) and Europa (Jupiter) and to collect and search water samples for life. [Caltech story]

Tags: research highlights GALCIT Jay Nadeau