Resnick Institute


abstract ocean desal image

August 15, 2017

A More Efficient Way to Drink the Ocean

Increasingly, landlubbers with better access to the ocean than to sources of freshwater are also employing technology that enables them to drink water from the sea. And a pair of students in Caltech’s PhD program, Jinglin Huang and Cong Wang, are developing a way to improve that technology.

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Leaf Image from JCAP

August 3, 2017

Carbon Conversion

A new additive helps researchers more selectively convert CO2 to multicarbon fuels.

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report cover

July 20, 2017

Reducing Caltech's Carbon Footprint

The Institute makes significant gains in energy efficiency, water savings, and electric vehicle support.

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Research image: Scanning electron microscope image of calcite.
Credit: Adam Subhas/Caltech

July 17, 2017

Key to Speeding Up Carbon Sequestration Discovered

Scientists at Caltech and USC identify how to encourage the chemical reaction by which carbon dioxide is locked away in the ocean.

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Research image: scanning ultrafast electron microscopy shows the diffusion of electrons in silicon over a period of picosconds

June 15, 2017

"Hot" Electrons Move Faster Than Expected

New study opens the door to solid-state devices that use excited electrons. A team led by Caltech's Marco Bernardi and the late Ahmed Zewail documented the electrons' motion using microscopes that captured images with a shutter speed of a trillionth of a second at a nanometer-scale spatial resolution. Their findings appear in a study published in Nature Communications on May 11.

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Process Diagram

June 12, 2017

Researchers Find a Surprise Just Beneath the Surface in Carbon Dioxide Experiment

In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers report the mechanics behind an early key step in artificially activating CO2 so that it can rearrange itself to become the liquid fuel ethanol.

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Tractor Image

May 25, 2017

Nitrogen Fixation Research Could Shed Light on Biological Mystery

New Process Could Make Fertilizer Production More Sustainable: Inspired by a natural process found in certain bacteria, a team of Caltech researchers is inching closer to a new method for producing fertilizer that could some day hold benefits for farmers—particularly in the developing world—while also shedding light on a biological mystery.

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Flow Logo

May 22, 2017

Meet FLOW's 2017 Cleantech UP Winners!

The University of Houston’s Vescence won the US Department of Energy sponsored $50,000 Cleantech UP prize at our 2017 First Look West (FLOW) competition. Vescence’s patented water repellant coating minimizes contaminant buildup on solar panels, significantly improving electrical output while reducing maintenance costs.

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 Congressman Adam Schiff, Francesca Hopkins of UC Riverside

April 26, 2017

Climate Change Panel Strikes Hopeful Note

On Friday, April 21—the evening before Earth Day—Congressman Adam Schiff hosted a climate change panel discussion at Caltech. Schiff and each of the three panelists gave an opening statement, then took questions from an audience of nearly 800 constituents and local community members.

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April 24, 2017

A March for Science

More than a thousand people—both from across Caltech and from various surrounding communities—gathered on Beckman Lawn on Saturday, April 22 before marching together through Pasadena in celebration of science.

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Adam Wierman

April 11, 2017

How Clean is the Cloud?

Computing "in the cloud" may sound ephemeral, but the cloud actually has a physical presence in the form of data centers filled with thousands of servers. The power infrastructure needed to run these servers is enormous. In fact, at this point in time, data centers lead to more carbon emissions than the airline industry.

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April 4, 2017

'Detergent' Molecules May Be Driving Fluctuations in Atmospheric Methane Concentrations

New study suggests hydroxyl radicals may be behind unexplained recent increase in methane levels.

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John Gregoire

March 6, 2017

New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future

A new materials discovery approach puts solar fuels on the fast track to commercial viability.

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February 24, 2017

Getting Rid of the Last Bits of Sulfur in Fuel

Scientists led by a team at Caltech have developed a new method for potentially removing nearly all sulfur compounds from gas and diesel fuel.

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A methane plume spotted in the Four Corners region by the TOPDOWN campaign

January 19, 2017

Tools and Techniques to Track and Study Methane

How do you find, track, and quantify the release of a colorless and odorless gas?

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Flow Competition Participants

January 6, 2017

FLOW’s Rocket Fund Wins Grant and Launches Cleantech 2 Edtech

Our FLOW Rocket Fund was named an LA 2050 Grants Challenge winner! The Fund will use the $100,000 award to launch Cleantech 2 Edtech. This initiative will partner promising clean energy and water technologies developed by young cleantech companies with the LAUSD and LADWP to pilot them.

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Adam Wierman

December 20, 2016

Caltech Computes: Disrupting and Uniting Science and Engineering

Driven by the disruptive force of computer science—which increasingly impacts how researchers work and collaborate by providing them with the ability to extract meaningful information from enormous data sets—whole new fields are developing at the intersection of science and engineering that will shape our future.

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Nanoscale Image

December 19, 2016

Building Better Batteries

Lithium-ion batteries, widely used in devices ranging from electric cars to iPhones, are composed of a cathode made from a positively charged lithium compound and an anode composed of negatively charged carbon. Ideally, anodes would be made of lithium metal, which can store more energy than carbon. However, lithium metal anodes have a serious flaw—over time, the lithium metal grows dendrites, tiny needle-like branching structures that can grow through the battery causing it to short-circuit or even explode.

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Floating Ice

December 19, 2016

Satellites Observe "Traffic Jams" in Antarctic Ice Stream Caused by Tides

Studies on glacial movement could yield important data for scientists looking to model how glaciers will respond to the effects of climate change.

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Patricia Tavormina

December 16, 2016

Lessons from Aliso Canyon

"The Aliso Canyon leak is disaster but it's also an opportunity to study this unusual environmental perturbation experiment," says Victoria Orphan, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology at Caltech.

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France Córdova

December 14, 2016

Director of National Science Foundation Visits Caltech

France Córdova (PhD '79), director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), recently visited Caltech to meet with students and researchers, and to give a talk about the role of the NSF in advancing basic science research—and in translating that knowledge into future technologies.

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Caltech's 2016 Dow-SISCA winners

December 13, 2016

Dow and Caltech's Resnick Institute Award SISCA Prize to Recognize Student Innovations in Sustainability

Winners are working on sustainable chemical synthesis and solar power seawater desalination technologies.

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Bill Gates and Dianne Newman

November 30, 2016

Bill Gates Blogs about Visit to Caltech

"I've rarely been as envious of young people as I was during my recent visit to Caltech," Gates wrote --Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates blogged about his recent visit to Caltech and his thoughts on the pioneering research being done here.

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nanoscale image of cement

November 30, 2016

Weathering of Cement is an Important but Overlooked Sink for Carbon Dioxide

A new multinational study led by Resnick Prize Postdoctoral Scholar Zhu Liu shows that cement acts as a significant carbon dioxide (CO2) sink, one that has hitherto gone unaccounted for in global carbon-cycle analyses.

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Jennifer Kan

November 24, 2016

Bringing Silicon to Life

A new study is the first to show that living organisms can be persuaded to make silicon-carbon bonds—something only chemists had done before. Scientists at Caltech "bred" a bacterial protein to have the ability to make the man-made bonds, a finding that has applications in several industries.

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Zhu Liu

November 3, 2016

Resnick Postdoctoral Scholar Zhu Liu Named One of World's Top 25 Green Talents

Resnick Postdoctoral Scholar Zhu Liu was one of 25 young scientists invited to participate in the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research's (BMBF) Green Talents initiative for high-potential early career researchers in the field of sustainable development.

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Julia Kornfield

Fall 2016

The Dow Chemical Company and the Resnick Institute Partner to Solve Sustainability Challenges

What if we could make LEDs brighter, cooler and longer lived? Or reduce the energy required to make seawater drinkable? Or design new materials to improve the energy efficiency of buildings? Through a partnership between the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech and The Dow Chemical Company, we are working to make the next generation of materials and systems for a more sustainable future.

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September 13, 2016

Engineers Teach Machines to Recognize Tree Species

Engineers from Caltech have developed a method that uses data from satellite and street-level images, such as the ones that you can see in Google maps, to create automatically an inventory of street trees that cities may use to better manage urban forests.

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Xiaolin Zheng

September 12, 2016

Xiaolin Zheng Honored with 2016 Resonate Award

Xiaolin Zheng has been announced the winner of the 2016 Resonate Award for her research aimed at developing new, scalable and low cost methods to fabricate materials for clean energy technologies

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Symposium Updates

September 9, 2016

Presenting the Next Generation of Sustainable Research

Up-and-coming researchers from across the country will gather at Caltech's Ramo Auditorium on September 12 for the first-ever Resnick Young Investigators Symposium, an event aimed at spurring collaboration and innovation among scientists and engineers interested in sustainability.

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Resnick Fellows

June 12, 2016

Year-end Accolades for Resnick Fellows

Congratulations to Resnick Fellows Jackson Cahn, Michael Webb, Subrahmanyam Duvvuri and Anton Toutov! All have received honors for their exceptional work!

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ev charging station

April 25, 2016

Smart Charging Network for EVs Installed at Caltech

In an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in our environment and begin a campuswide shift to the use of renewable resources, a research group led by Steven Low, professor of computer science and electrical engineering in the engineering and applied science division (-And Resnick Institute faculty board member), has installed 54 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations for use by all Caltech and JPL personnel and visitors.

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Sonja Francis and Colleague

April 22, 2016

Resnick Sustainability Institute Boosts Caltech's Earth Day Celebration

The Resnick Sustainability Institute—Caltech's hub for projects aimed at tackling some of the toughest sustainability-focused problems our society faces—played a key role in Caltech's Earth Week celebration, during which various events were held to show support for environmental protection and achieving a sustainable future.

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info Graphic

April 21, 2016

Even Before the Drought, Caltech Set Sights on Water Conservation

The California drought has become increasingly dire since its onset in 2012, recently prompting state officials to implement mandatory water use reductions of 25 percent. Various municipalities, including Pasadena, have urged even greater conservation. At Caltech that call to action has been more of an affirmation of efforts already under way for more than a decade.

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Paul Wennberg

April 18, 2016

Aliso Canyon, Methane, and Global Climate: A Conversation with Paul Wennberg

Wennberg is Caltech's R. Stanton Avery Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Science and Engineering, executive officer for Environmental Science and Engineering, and director of the Ronald and Maxine Linde Center for Global Environmental Science. Caltech news recently sat down with him to talk about methane emissions and how to put the Aliso Canyon event into perspective.

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Nate Lewis

January 21, 2016

Where Is Solar Energy Headed?

In a new paper in Science, Nate Lewis, the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry at Caltech, reviews recent developments in solar-energy utilization and looks at some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the research and development of solar-electricity, solar-thermal, and solar-fuels technologies.

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Flow Rocket Fund Logo

January 7, 2016

FLoW Rocket Fund Propels New University Startups Towards Success

Four first-time entrepreneurs have received a timely boost of money from the Resnick Sustainability Institute’s FLoW program that will help them realize their dream of starting a successful cleantech venture.

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Chemical reaction image

December 22, 2015

Toward Liquid Fuels from Carbon Dioxide

In the quest for sustainable alternative energy and fuel sources, one viable solution may be the conversion of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into liquid fuels.

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Caltech Smart Grid Researchers

December 17, 2015

ARPA-E Funds Caltech Smart Grid Team’s Innovative “NODES” Project

Caltech’s smart grid team led by Professors Steven Low, Adam Wierman, and John Doyle in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Southern California Edison (SCE), the University of Minnesota, and Harvard University, have been awarded $3.9 million for their ARPA-E NODES project: Real-time Optimization and Control of Next-Generation Distribution Infrastructure.

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Jonas Peters

October 23, 2015

Peters Named New Director of Resnick Sustainability Institute

Jonas C. Peters, the Bren Professor of Chemistry, has been appointed director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute. Launched in 2009 with an investment from philanthropists Stewart and Lynda Resnick and located in the Jorgenson Laboratory on the Caltech campus, the Resnick Institute concentrates on transformational breakthroughs that will contribute to the planet's sustainability over the long term.

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City Lights

October 19, 2015

Toward a Smarter Grid

Steven Low, professor of computer science and electrical engineering at Caltech, says we are on the cusp of a historic transformation—a restructuring of the energy system similar to the reimagining and revamping that the communication and computer networks experienced over the last two decades, making them layered, with distributed and interconnected intelligence everywhere.

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JCAP Researchers

August 27, 2015

Artificial Leaf Harnesses Sunlight for Efficient Fuel Production

Generating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy. When the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) was established at Caltech and its partnering institutions in 2010, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Innovation Hub had one main goal: a cost-effective method of producing fuels using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, mimicking the natural process of photosynthesis in plants and storing energy in the form of chemical fuels for use on demand. Over the past five years, researchers at JCAP have made major advances toward this goal, and they now report the development of the first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels.

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Resonate Logo

July 29, 2015

Caltech Awards Innovators of Carbon-Reducing Technologies

On the Caltech campus, a number of initiatives are under way to help achieve the Institute's goal of reducing its ecological footprint, including water conservation efforts and infrastructure upgrades to increase energy efficiency. Caltech's Resnick Sustainability Institute takes a broader view, encouraging and supporting science and engineering breakthroughs that can positively alter sustainability worldwide.

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Space Image

May 4, 2015

Tracking Photosynthesis from Space

Watching plants perform photosynthesis from space sounds like a futuristic proposal, but a new application of data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite may enable scientists to do just that. The new technique, which allows researchers to analyze plant productivity from far above Earth, will provide a clearer picture of the global carbon cycle and may one day help researchers determine the best regional farming practices and even spot early signs of drought.

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April 30, 2015

JCAP Receives a 5-Year, $75M Funding Renewal

On Monday, April 27, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a five-year, $75 million renewal of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP). JCAP's mission is to explore the science and technology of artificial photosynthesis to harness solar energy for the production of fuel.

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Chemist's reflection

April 28, 2015

Space-Based Solar Power Project Funded

A sponsored research agreement with Northrop Grumman Corporation will provide Caltech up to $17.5 million over three years for the development of the Space Solar Power Initiative (SSPI).

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Chemist's reflection

March 9, 2015

One Step Closer to Artificial Photosynthesis and "Solar Fuels"

Caltech scientists, inspired by a chemical process found in leaves, have developed an electrically conductive film that could help pave the way for devices capable of harnessing sunlight to split water into hydrogen fuel.

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Potasium Art

February 4, 2015

Potassium Salt Outperforms Precious Metals As a Catalyst

A team of Caltech chemists, including Resnick Fellow Anton Toutov, has discovered a method for producing a group of silicon-containing organic chemicals without relying on expensive precious metal catalysts.

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Moureen Kemei

December 9, 2014

Kemei Awarded Dissertation Award from APS

Congratulations to Resnick Institute postdoctoral scholar Moureen Kemei! Moureen has been selected by the American Physical Society (APS) as one of two winners of the inaugural Richard L. Green Dissertation Award in Experimental Condensed Matter or Condensed Matter Physics. The award recognizes her outstanding thesis on "Magnetostructural and Magnetodielectric Coupling in Spinel Oxides" citing her achievement in employing advanced characterization tools to gain new insights into the structure and electronic properties of magnetic materials and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) cathode materials. The exploration of SOFC cathode materials is the focus of Moureen’s research at the Resnick Sustianability Institute, which she works on in the lab of Professor Sossina Haile. As part of the APS honor, Moureen will give an invited talk at their 2015 annual meeting.

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Research Image

November 26, 2014

New Technique Could Harvest More of the Sun's Energy

As solar panels become less expensive and capable of generating more power, solar energy is becoming a more commercially viable alternative source of electricity. However, the photovoltaic cells now used to turn sunlight into electricity can only absorb and use a small fraction of that light, and that means a significant amount of solar energy goes untapped.

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2014 SISCA Winners

November 5, 2014

2014 SISCA Winners Announced

Congratulations to the Dow-Resnick Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) winners Anton Toutov and Prineha Narang. Toutov won the grand prize for his research discovery titled, "Ending our Dependence on Precious Metals: A Potassium Catalyst to Sustain the Chemical Industry". Narang is this year's runner up for her research on “Light Capture, Conversion & Catalysis Strategies for an Integrated Photosynthetic Solar-Fuels Generator via New Materials Physics”.

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Harry Atwater

August 21, 2014

Atwater to Receive Applied Physics Prize

Harry Atwater, Caltech's Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and director of the Resnick Sustainability Institute, has been named a recipient of this year's Julius Springer Prize for Applied Physics.

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abstract pattern

June 20, 2014

DOE Awards $15 Million to Caltech's Solar Energy Research

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced on Wednesday that it will be awarding $15.2 million to Caltech's Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion (LMI) program, one of 32 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) nationwide that will receive a combined $100 million over the next four years to pursue innovative energy research.

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Daniel Yergin

June 16, 2014

Daniel Yergin Visits Caltech and the Resnick Sustainability Institute

This year's commencement speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning energy expert Daniel Yergin, came to campus a day early to get better acquainted with Caltech's faculty and students, and in particular to learn more about Caltech's energy initiatives.

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May 29, 2014

JCAP Stabilizes Common Semiconductors For Solar Fuels Generation

Caltech researchers devise a method to protect the materials in a solar-fuel generator.

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Resnick Institute logo

May 6, 2014

New Gift Helps Caltech Address Global Challenges in Clean Energy and Sustainability

A new $15 million gift by Lynda and Stewart Resnick in support of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech will help scientists and engineers advance research aimed at helping humanity sustainably meet its needs for energy, food, clean water, and a healthy environment.

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Harry Atwater

February 4, 2014

Nanoscale Materials and Big Solar Energy: An Interview with Resnick Institute director Harry Atwater

As a high school student during the oil crisis of the 1970s, Harry Atwater recognized firsthand the impact of energy supply issues. Inspired to contribute to renewable energies, his research at Caltech today works to develop better thin-film photovoltaics—cheaper, lighter, more efficient alternatives to the bulky cells now used in solar panels.

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Jonas Peters

November 27, 2013

Chemical Transformations for Food and Fuel: An Interview with Resnick Institute faculty board member Jonas Peters

Many science disciplines are dedicated to investigating naturally occurring curiosities that have yet to be explained. However, in the laboratory of Jonas Peters, researchers must first create the curiosities they'll study—in the form of new chemical compounds and molecular configurations. Peters's research with the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at Caltech is focused on finding chemical compounds that can turn sunlight and water into fuel—much like the photosynthetic processes used by plants. In addition, his laboratory's interest in nitrogen fixation—a chemical transformation that, ultimately, enables the delivery of nitrogen to the molecules of life (DNA, RNA, proteins)—could one day influence how fertilizer is produced and is used to feed the world.

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nitrogen on the periodic table

September 6, 2013

Caltech Researchers Synthesize Catalyst Important In Nitrogen Fixation

Inspired by an enzyme in soil microorganisms, researchers advised by Resnick Institute Faculty Board member Jonas Peters develop first synthetic iron-based catalyst for the conversion of nitrogen to ammonia.

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September 5, 2013

Made-to-Order Materials

Caltech engineers, funded in part by the Resnick Sustainability Institute focus on the nano to create strong, lightweight materials.

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2013 Solar Decathlon Team Members

August 27, 2013

Meet DALE: Solar Decathlon 2013 Construction is Under Way

Trading in their textbooks for power tools this summer, a group of nine Caltech students and recent graduates have had a unique opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world challenges.

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July 30, 2013

Figuring Out Flow Dynamics

Engineers gain insight into turbulence formation and evolution in fluids. Research could lead to significant energy savings if applied to counteract turbulence-induced drag.

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John Dabiri

June 10, 2013

Caltech's Unique Wind Projects Move Forward

Caltech fluid-mechanics expert John Dabiri has some big plans for a high school in San Pedro, military bases in California, and a small village on Bristol Bay, Alaska—not to mention for the future of wind power generation, in general.

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photosynthesis image

March 28, 2013

Picking Apart Photosynthesis

Chemists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory believe they can now explain one of the remaining mysteries of photosynthesis, the chemical process by which plants convert sunlight into usable energy and generate the oxygen that we breathe. The finding suggests a new way of approaching the design of catalysts that drive the water-splitting reactions of artificial photosynthesis.

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Frances Arnold

December 22, 2012

Caltech's Frances Arnold Awarded National Medal of Technology and Innovation

Frances H. Arnold, a leader in the field of protein engineering and a member of the faculty at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has been named one of 11 inventors who are the recipients of the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

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hands holding seedling

November 8, 2012

How to Grow an Entrepreneur

Many new college graduates worry about getting jobs. Recent Caltech grads Cole Hershkowitz (BS '11) and Ka Suen (BS '12) don't-because they're trying a different route, working overtime as the cofounders and sole full-time staffers of Chai, a start-up marketing a mobile app that people can use to track and reduce their energy use at home.

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energy researcher

October 21, 2012

Clean-Energy Research Accelerates

Caltech clean-energy research is accelerating thanks to the renovation of the Earle M. Jorgensen Laboratory. Transformed into a cutting-edge facility for energy science, the lab unites two powerhouse programs: the Resnick Sustainability Institute and the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).

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October 21, 2012

Showing the Way to Improved Water-Splitting Catalysts

Scientists and engineers around the world are working to find a way to power the planet using solar-powered fuel cells. Such green systems would split water during daylight hours, generating hydrogen (H2) that could then be stored and used later to produce water and electricity.

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August 15, 2012

Caltech Wins Toilet Challenge

Caltech's solar-powered toilet has won the Reinventing the Toilet Challenge issued by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Caltech engineer Michael Hoffmann and his colleagues were awarded $100,000 for their design, which they demonstrated at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair, a two-day event held August 14–15 in Seattle.

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energy researcher

July 9, 2012

New Class of Catalysts Opens Up Green Route to a Range of Chemical Products

Caltech chemists in the lab of Nobel laureate Bob Grubbs have developed a new class of catalysts that will increase the range of chemicals—from pharmaceuticals, insect pheromones, and perfume musks to advanced plastics—that can be synthesized using environmentally friendly methods.

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