A Winning Sanitation Solution
The inventors of the solar-powered toilet, a unit developed by a team led by Professor Michael Hoffmann, have a new award winning project. Project Seva, which means "service" in Hindi. It was named the first place winner of the Vodafone's Wireless Innovation program. The Seva team realized that because the solar toilet and other sanitation systems like it are relatively simple, inexpensive sensors could be used to monitor the status of those systems' parts. Combining that insight with the knowledge that more than three-quarters of the world's people have access to a mobile phone, the team decided to design a self-diagnosing maintenance system for sanitation solutions that could alert designated local operators of a malfunction via cell phone message. [Caltech story]
Tracking Photosynthesis from Space
Professor Paul Wennberg and colleagues have developed a new technique to analyze plant productivity using data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite. To perform photosynthesis, the chlorophyll in leaves absorbs sunlight and a small fraction of the absorbed light is reemitted as near-infrared light. This reemitted light makes the plants appear to glow—a property called solar induced fluorescence (SIF). "The measurements of SIF from OCO-2 greatly extend the science of this mission", says Professor Wennberg. "OCO-2 was designed to map carbon dioxide, and scientists plan to use these measurements to determine the underlying sources and sinks of this important gas. The new SIF measurements will allow us to diagnose the efficiency of the plants—a key component of the sinks of carbon dioxide." [Caltech story]
The Thomson Reuters compilation of the most highly cited researchers— those in the top 1%—from the period 2002–2012 include EAS professors Harry Atwater, Richard Murray, Joel Tropp, John Seinfeld, Kerry Vahala, and Paul Wennberg. Other Caltech professors were also among the top 1%—including Colin Camerer, Mark Davis, Richard Ellis, William Goddard, Robert Grubbs, Hiroo Kanamori, Jeff Kimble, John O’Doherty, and Charles Steidel. This compilation aims to identify researchers with exceptional impact on their respective fields. [Detailed information on the methodology]
Caltech and JPL Collaborate with Indian Space Program
The Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Charles Elachi, and the Chair of Caltech’s EAS Division, Ares Rosakis, recently hosted the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan. The visit focused on plans regarding a joined Earth-orbiting mission that will be the first radar mission to systematically and globally study the solid Earth, the ice masses, and ecosystems, all of which are sparsely sampled at present. While at Caltech Dr. Koppillil Radhakrishnan visited research facilities and delivered the Klein Lecture in Aerospace. In his presentation he highlighted the long history of connections between engineers and scientist at Caltech and in India. Dr. Radhakrishnan prides himself to be the last student of Caltech alumnus Satish Dhawan (Eng '49, PhD '51) who participated in the creation of India's space program. “Caltech has been instrumental in the training of many international space leaders,” explains Chair Rosakis “these include Satish Dhawan who was pivotal in the creation of the Indian space program and Qian Xuesen (also known as Tsien Hsue-Shen) who was the father of Chinese rocketry.” Last year the Indian Department of Space and ISRO established a fellowship at Caltech in the name of Satish Dhawan to further encourage the training of Indian students at Caltech and specifically at GALCIT.