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  • Schematic illustration of vapor harvesting structure

    Researchers propose new structures to harvest untapped source of fresh water

    An almost limitless supply of fresh water exists in the form of water vapor above Earth’s oceans, yet remains untapped, researchers said. A new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is the first to suggest an investment in new infrastructure capable of harvesting oceanic water vapor as a solution to limited supplies of fresh water in various locations around the world.

  • Researchers

    Organizing nanoparticles into pinwheel shapes offers new twist on engineered materials

    Researchers have developed a new strategy to help build materials with unique optical, magnetic, electronic and catalytic properties. These pinwheel-shaped structures self-assemble from nanoparticles and exhibit a characteristic called chirality – one of nature’s strategies to build complexity into structures at all scales, from molecules to galaxies.  

  • Photo of the researchers on this year's list.

    Nine Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Nine U. of I. researchers have been named to the 2022 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes research scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated exceptional influence – reflected through their publication of multiple papers frequently cited by their peers during the last decade. This year’s list includes 6,938 individuals from around the world whose papers rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in the Web of Science.

  • Postdoctoral research associate Wenxiang Chen using a transmission electron microscope .

    Previously unseen processes reveal path to better rechargeable battery performance

    To design better rechargeable ion batteries, engineers and chemists from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign collaborated to combine a powerful new electron microscopy technique and data mining to visually pinpoint areas of chemical and physical alteration within ion batteries.

  • Photo of Ann-Perry Witmer

    What is place-based adaptation to climate change?

    A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll states that roughly half of registered voters say climate change is either “very important” or “one of the most important issues” in their vote for Congress this year. However, many citizens struggle to understand their place in this global issue. Applied Research Institute senior research scientist Ann-Perry Witmer, also a lecturer in agricultural and biological engineering, spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about a more digestible approach to the climate crisis and encouraged readers to participate in a public panel discussion this week.

  • Artists rendering of cornaviruses. A virus in the foreground is wrapped in a DNA net that is giving off a glowing signal.

    DNA nets capture COVID-19 virus in low-cost rapid-testing platform

    Tiny nets woven from DNA strands can ensnare the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19, lighting up the virus for a fast-yet-sensitive diagnostic test – and also impeding the virus from infecting cells, opening a new possible route to antiviral treatment, according to a new study led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Researchers seated at table with instrument used to perform their new metal fatigue testing methodoloy

    Deformation fingerprints will help researchers identify, design better metallic materials

    Engineers can now capture and predict the strength of metallic materials subjected to cycling loading, or fatigue strength, in a matter of hours – not the months or years it takes using current methods.

  • Nick Holonyak Jr.

    Nick Holonyak Jr., pioneer of LED lighting, dies

    Nick Holonyak Jr., a renowned innovator of illumination, has died. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor was 93 years old.

    Holonyak (pronounced huh-LON-yak) is credited with the development of the first practical visible-spectrum LED, now commonly used in light bulbs, device displays and lasers worldwide. 

  • Eleftheria Kontou

    Can we evacuate from hurricanes in electric vehicles?

    As emergency coordinators across the U.S. prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, they are busy planning evacuation routes. Currently, these plans don’t anticipate the needs of people driving electric vehicles, which have shorter driving ranges than gas vehicles and require recharging at stations with charging ports. Civil and environmental engineering professor Eleftheria Kontou spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about this issue and her newly published study.

  • U. of I. researchers Marcelo Garcia, left, Mayandi Sivaguru, seated, and Bruce Fouke.

    Layered limestone deposits give unique insight to Roman aqueducts

    Mineral-rich waters originating from the Apennine Mountains of Italy flowed through ancient Rome’s Anio Novus aqueduct and left behind a detailed rock record of past hydraulic conditions, researchers said. Two studies characterizing layered limestone – called travertine – deposits within the Anio Novus are the first to document the occurrence of anti-gravity growth ripples and establish that these features lend clues to the history of ancient water conveyance and storage systems.

  • Graduate student Binxin Fu, left, and civil and environmental engineering professor Rosa Espinosa-Marzal

    Nanoscale observations simplify how scientists describe earthquake movement

    Using single calcite crystals with varying surface roughness allows engineers to simplify the complex physics that describes fault movement. In a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, researchers show how this simplification may lead to better earthquake prediction.

  • A masked student holds a saliva collection test tube

    SHIELD program a model for effective pandemic management, data show

    In the fall of 2020, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign welcomed students back for in-person instruction amid the powerful first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university successfully maintained operations throughout the semester – with zero COVID-19-related deaths or hospitalizations in the campus community – thanks to its “SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell” program. In a sweeping report, the team behind the campuswide collaboration details the innovations in modeling, saliva testing and results reporting that helped mitigate the spread of the virus, and shares the data collected and lessons learned through the process.

  • A photo of the Chicago skyline, looking north with Lake Michigan in the foreground

    Lake Michigan water-level rise affects inland waterways, study finds

    2020 marked Lake Michigan’s highest water level in 120 years, experts said, and climate variance makes future water levels challenging to predict. Coastal impacts are well-documented, but the effect of lake level rise on the area’s inland waterways is poorly understood. A University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study examined how Lake Michigan’s rising levels affect water quality, flood control and invasive species management within the Chicago-area waterway system that connects the lake to Illinois, Indiana and the Mississippi River basin.  

  • An image of the first direct visual evidence of Sagittarius A star, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy

    Illinois astronomers help capture first image of Milky Way's black hole

    A team of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers led by physics and astronomy professor Charles Gammie is part of a large international collaboration that unveiled the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This result provides evidence that the object is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such giants, which researchers think reside at the center of most galaxies.

  • Portrait of Nancy Sotttos

    Engineering professor Nancy Sottos elected to National Academy of Sciences

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive. She is among 120 members and 30 international members elected this year to recognize their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.

  • Portraits of professors Nancy Sottos, left, and Maria Todorova.

    Two Illinois faculty members elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos and history professor Maria Todorova have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest honor societies in the nation.  They are among 261 new members elected to the academy this year in recognition of their accomplishments and leadership in academia, the arts, industry, public policy and research.

  • Portrait of coauthor Rashid Bashir

    Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test discerns alpha variant from earlier strains

    A point-of-care COVID-19 test developed by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign can now detect and differentiate the alpha variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from earlier strains in saliva samples.

  • Portrait of researcher Kelly Stephani

    Why is the use of hypersonic missiles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict significant?

    The U.S. recently confirmed that the Russian Ministry of Defence fired a hypersonic ballistic missile to destroy an underground arms depot in western Ukraine. This event marks Russia’s first use of the Kinzhal ballistic missile in this war and the first known use of a hypersonic missile in combat. Mechanical science and engineering professor Kelly Stephani spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the significance of this technology.

  • Researchers at a table with various models of new multimaterial devices.

    New approach to flexible robotics and metamaterials design mimics nature, encourages sustainability

    A new study challenges the conventional approach to designing soft robotics and a class of materials called metamaterials by utilizing the power of computer algorithms. Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Technical University of Denmark can now build multimaterial structures without dependence on human intuition or trial-and-error to produce highly efficient actuators and energy absorbers that mimic designs found in nature.

  • Photo of researchers Colleen Lewis and Paul Bruno

    Studies examine effects of California's push for computer science education

    Despite California’s push for computer science education, race and gender disparities persist among the high schools offering these courses, the students enrolled in them and the teachers.

  • Portrait of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers involved in this study

    Water filtration membranes morph like cells

    Morphogenesis is nature’s way of building diverse structures and functions out of a fixed set of components. While nature is rich with examples of morphogenesis – cell differentiation, embryonic development and cytoskeleton formation, for example – research into the phenomenon in synthetic materials is scant. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers are taking a step forward using electron tomography, fluid dynamics theories and machine learning to watch soft polymers as the polymers learn from nature.

  • Deborah Leckband

    'Molecular Velcro' enables tissues to sense, react to mechanical force

    The Velcro-like cellular proteins that hold cells and tissues together also perform critical functions when they experience increased tension. A new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study observed that when tugged upon in a controlled manner, these proteins – called cadherins – communicate with growth factors to influence in vitro tumor growth in human carcinoma cells.

  • Illinois researchers, from left, Sudheer Salana, Joseph Puthussery, Haoran Yu and professor Vishal Verma recently conducted a comprehensive assessment of the oxidative potential of air pollution in the Midwestern U.S.

    Rural air pollution may be as hazardous as urban, study finds

    New research shows that chemical reactivity, seasonality and distribution of airborne particulate matter are critical metrics when considering air pollution’s impact on human health. Current environmental regulations focus on the mass of pollutant particles, and researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are pushing to refocus regulatory efforts on more regional and health-relevant factors.

  • Photo of researcher.

    14 Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows

    Fourteen University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected 2021 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • A microscope image of cells

    CRISPR-Cas13 targets proteins causing ALS, Huntington's disease in the mouse nervous system

    A new study by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers used a targeted CRISPR technique in the central nervous systems of mice to turn off production of mutant proteins that can cause ALS and Huntington’s disease. Rather than the popular DNA-editing CRISPR-Cas9 technique, the new approach uses CRISPR-Cas13, which can target mRNA – the messenger molecule that carries protein blueprints transcribed from DNA. The Illinois team developed Cas13 systems that could target and cut RNAs that code for the proteins that trigger ALS and Huntington’s disease, effectively silencing the genes without disturbing the cell’s DNA.

  • Sheldon H. Jacobson

    Models predict optimal airplane seating for reduced viral transmission

    As airline ticket sales have soared during the holiday season and the omicron variant causes surges of COVID-19 cases, a new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study may help passengers and airlines reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission by optimally seating passengers to minimize potential virus spread. Researchers used the most current data on aerosol spread on airplanes to calculate optimal seating assignments for common Boeing aircraft at different capacities. 

  • Book cover and portrait of author and researcher Rakesh Kumar

    How does society impact the benefits and challenges of technology?

    Technology is a big part of life. In India, for example, street vendors and rickshawallahs use cellphones, the internet and Aadhar cards – 12-digit identification numbers given to every citizen of India based on their biometric and demographic data. However, charismatic gurus and superstition still thrive in India. In the new book "Reluctant Technophiles: India’s Complicated Relationship with Technology,” University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer engineering professor Rakesh Kumar provides an account of India’s often contradictory relationship with technology. News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with Kumar about these contradictions, and how India’s situation is both unique and universal.

  • Portrait of the researchers observing a laboratory experiment

    Bubbling up: Previously hidden environmental impact of bursting bubbles exposed in new study

    Bubbles are common in nature and can form when ocean waves break and when raindrops impact surfaces. When bubbles burst, they send tiny jets of water and other materials into the air. A new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign examines how the interplay between bubble surfaces and water that contains organic materials contributes to the transport of aerosolized organic materials – some of which are linked to the spread of disease or contamination – into the atmosphere.

  • Photo of Atul Jain

    Six Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Six faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2021 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list.

  • A portrait of researcher Xiao Su

    Sustainable electrochemical process could revolutionize lithium-ion battery recycling

    Spent lithium-ion batteries contain valuable metals that are difficult to separate from each other for recycling purposes. Used batteries present a sustainable source of these metals, especially cobalt and nickel, but the current methods used for their separation have environmental and efficiency drawbacks. A new technology uses electrochemistry to efficiently separate and recover the metals, making spent batteries a highly sustainable secondary source of cobalt and nickel – the reserves of which are currently dwindling.

  • Portrait of the researchers that participated in the study

    New analytical technique helps researchers spot subtle differences in subcellular chemistry

    Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign can now rapidly isolate and chemically characterize individual organelles within cells. The new technique tests the limits of analytical chemistry and rapidly reveals the chemical composition of organelles that control biological growth, development and disease. 

  • An artist's rendering of viruses passing through a nanopore sensor

    DNA sensor quickly determines whether viruses are infectious

    A new sensor can detect not only whether a virus is present, but whether it’s infectious – an important distinction for containing viral spread. Researchers demonstrated the sensor, which integrates specially designed DNA fragments and nanopore sensing, with two key viruses that cause infections worldwide: the human adenovirus and the virus that causes COVID-19.  

  • A portrait of Illinois researchers involved in the study

    Tiny porous crystals change the shape of water to speed up chemical reactions

    Chemical engineers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign now understand how water molecules assemble and change shape in some settings, revealing a new strategy to speed up chemical reactions critical to industry and environmental sustainability. The new approach is poised to play a role in helping chemical manufacturers move away from harmful solvent catalysts in favor of water.

  • Researchers

    Ultrathin self-healing polymers create new, sustainable water-resistant coatings

    Researchers have found a way to make ultrathin surface coatings robust enough to survive scratches and dings. The new material, developed by merging thin-film and self-healing technologies, has an almost endless list of potential applications, including self-cleaning, anti-icing, anti-fogging, anti-bacterial, anti-fouling and enhanced heat exchange coatings, researchers said.  

  • Photo of the researcher.

    New tool maps future climate costs for airlines, passengers

    Researchers built a mathematical model to calculate how much it will cost airlines to cope with rising temperatures in a changing climate.

  • A large land snail with eyestalks and a slimy foot

    Unified theory explains how materials transform from solids to liquids

    Years of meticulous experimentation have paid off for researchers aiming to unify the physics that defines materials that transition from solids to liquids. The researchers said a new theoretical model could help develop new synthetic materials and inform and predict civil engineering and environmental challenges such as mudslides, dam breaks and avalanches.

  • Photo of lead researcher, Xiao Su, in his laboratory.

    Less salt, more protein: Researchers address dairy processing's environmental, sustainability issues

    Researchers say the high salt content of whey – the watery part of milk left behind after cheesemaking – helps make it one of the most polluting byproducts in the food processing industry. In a new study, chemists demonstrate the first electrochemical redox desalination process used in the food industry, removing and recycling up to 99% of excess salt from whey while simultaneously refining more than 98% of whey’s valuable protein content.

  • Silhouette of farm silos at sunset

    Nutrient-rich human waste poised to sustain agriculture, improve economies

    The future connection between human waste, sanitation technology and sustainable agriculture is becoming more evident. According to research directed by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign civil and environmental engineering professor Jeremy Guest, countries could be moving closer to using human waste as fertilizer, closing the loop to more circular, sustainable economies.

  • An artist’s impression of an accretion disk rotating around an unseen supermassive black hole.

    Black hole size revealed by its eating pattern

    The feeding patterns of black holes offer insight into their size, researchers report. A new study revealed that the flickering in the brightness observed in actively feeding supermassive black holes is related to their mass.

  • Sheldon Jacobson and Janet Jokela stand outdoors.

    2020 deadlier than previous five years, even with COVID-19 numbers removed, study finds

    An upswing in death rates from non-COVID-19 causes in 2020 hit hard for men ages 15-64, according to a new study by computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson and internal medicine professor Janet Jokela.

  • Photo of researchers Yun Liu and Jeffrey Moore

    Chemical reactions break free from energy barriers using flyby trajectories

    A new study shows that it is possible to use mechanical force to deliberately alter chemical reactions and increase chemical selectivity – a grand challenge of the field.  

  • Illustration of a carbon reduction reaction at the surface of a silver nanoparticle in the presence of visible light.

    Light-harvesting nanoparticle catalysts show promise in quest for renewable carbon-based fuels

    Researchers demonstrated that small amounts of useful molecules such as hydrocarbons form when CO2 and water react in the presence of light and a silver nanoparticle catalyst, possibly paving the way for industrial-scale production of renewable carbon-based fuels. 

  • Bioengineering professor Jennifer Amos displays the children's book "Jenny Saves a Convertible," published through a project with Illinois Engineering Ambassadors.

    Children's book by U of I students teaches third graders about automotive engineering

    A new book written and illustrated by two recent alumnae of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign introduces third graders to the nuts and bolts of automotive mechanics and engineering.

  • Soybean field and sunshine

    Study: Fluorescent light clarifies relationship between heat stress and crop yield

    Scientists report that it is possible to detect and predict heat damage in crops by measuring the fluorescent light signature of plant leaves experiencing heat stress. If collected via satellite, this fluorescent signal could support widespread monitoring of growth and crop yield under the heat stress of climate change, the researchers say.

  • Portrait of researches in laboratory.

    Solid-state batteries line up for better performance

    Solid-state batteries pack a lot of energy into a small space, but their electrodes are not good at keeping in touch with their electrolytes. Liquid electrolytes reach every nook and cranny of an electrode to spark energy, but liquids take up space without storing energy and fail over time. Researchers are now putting solid electrolytes in touch with electrodes made of strategically arranged materials – at the atomic level – and the results are helping drive better solid-state battery technologies.

  • photo of engineering professor Katy Huff

    U of I engineering professor appointed to US Department of Energy leadership role

    Kathryn D. Huff, a professor of nuclear, plasma and radiological engineering in the Grainger College of Engineering, was sworn in today to a position in the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy.

  • Group portrait of researchers Wawrzyniec Dobrucki, Zhongmin Zhu, Viktor Gruev, Zuodong Liang, Steven Blair and Shuming Nie.

    Mantis shrimp-inspired camera provides second opinion during cancer surgery

    Some of the world’s greatest innovations, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine, owe their strength and elegance to natural design. Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have returned their gaze to the natural world to develop a camera inspired by the mantis shrimp that can visualize cancer cells during surgery.

  • Portrait of researchers.

    Previously unrecognized tsunami hazard identified in coastal cities

    A new study found overlooked tsunami hazards related to undersea, near-shore strike-slip faults, especially for coastal cities adjacent to faults that traverse inland bays. Several areas around the world may fall into this category, including the San Francisco Bay area, Izmit Bay in Turkey and the Gulf of Al-Aqaba in Egypt.

  • A portrait of researcher Christopher Tessum

    People of color hardest hit by air pollution from nearly all sources

    Various studies show that people of color are disproportionately exposed to air pollution in the United States. However, it was unclear whether this unequal exposure is due mainly to a few types of emission sources or whether the causes are more systemic. A new study that models peoples’ exposure to air pollution – resolved by race-ethnicity and income level – shows that exposure disparities among people of color and white people are driven by nearly all, rather than only a few, emission source types.

  • Photos of new NAS members

    Three Illinois faculty members elected to National Academy of Sciences

    Three University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professors have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive. Physics professor Nadya Mason and chemistry professors Ralph Nuzzo and Wilfred van der Donk are among 120 newly elected U.S. members – 59 of whom are women, the most elected in a single year – and 30 international members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.