blog posts Seven Illinois faculty members elected to AAAS Jan 31, 2023 9:00 am1066 views Seven professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2022 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Fellows are chosen by their peers for outstanding contribution to the field. Geothermal 'battery' repurposes abandoned oil and gas well in Illinois, researchers report Jan 25, 2023 1:15 pm1257 views Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have successfully demonstrated efficient geothermal heat storage while simultaneously repurposing an abandoned oil and gas well. A new study, led by civil and environmental engineering professor Tugce Baser, is the first field investigation of a geothermal energy storage system within the Illinois Basin – a geologic structure located deep within the subsurface. Probe can measure both cell stiffness and traction, researchers report Jan 25, 2023 1:00 pm725 views Scientists have developed a tiny mechanical probe that can measure the inherent stiffness of cells and tissues as well as the internal forces the cells generate and exert on one another. Their new “magnetic microrobot” is the first such probe to be able to quantify both properties, the researchers report, and will aid in understanding cellular processes associated with development and disease. Click beetle-inspired robots jump using elastic energy Jan 23, 2023 2:00 pm559 views Researchers have made a significant leap forward in developing insect-sized jumping robots capable of performing tasks in the small spaces often found in mechanical, agricultural and search-and-rescue settings. A new study led by mechanical science and engineering professor Sameh Tawfick demonstrates a series of click beetle-sized robots small enough to fit into tight spaces, powerful enough to maneuver over obstacles and fast enough to match an insect’s rapid escape time. Microelectronics give researchers a remote control for biological robots Jan 18, 2023 1:00 pm3447 views First, they walked. Then, they saw the light. Now, miniature biological robots have gained a new trick: remote control. The hybrid “eBiobots” are the first to combine soft materials, living muscle and microelectronics, said researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and collaborating institutions. Researchers propose new structures to harvest untapped source of fresh water Dec 6, 2022 4:00 am8528 views 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. How can academia help implement lessons from the 2022 climate summit? Nov 28, 2022 1:30 pm514 views The 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference concluded Nov. 18 at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, after two weeks of deliberations. Ashish Sharma, an atmospheric sciences professor and climate and urban sustainability lead at the University of Illinois System’s Discovery Partners Institute, spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the key takeaways from this year’s meeting and how academia can help implement those lessons. Organizing nanoparticles into pinwheel shapes offers new twist on engineered materials Nov 28, 2022 10:00 am1250 views 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. Nine Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 15, 2022 8:00 am6666 views 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. How can the 2022 Global Carbon Budget report help inform UN Climate Summit? Nov 11, 2022 11:00 am493 views The Global Carbon Project published the Global Carbon Budget 2022 today, giving world leaders access to data on atmospheric carbon concentrations, emissions and trends for the 2022 United Nations Climate Summit – or COP27 – in Egypt. Illinois atmospheric scientist Atul Jain was among the many scientists worldwide who contributed data to the report. Jain talked about this year’s findings with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian. Previously unseen processes reveal path to better rechargeable battery performance Nov 9, 2022 12:00 pm1224 views 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. Artificial intelligence and molecule machine join forces to generalize automated chemistry Oct 28, 2022 11:30 am2078 views Artificial intelligence, building-block chemistry and a molecule-making machine teamed up to find the best general reaction conditions for synthesizing chemicals important to biomedical and materials research – a finding that could speed innovation and drug discovery as well as make complex chemistry automated and accessible. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators in Poland and Canada reported their findings in the journal Science. What is place-based adaptation to climate change? Oct 10, 2022 1:30 pm2180 views 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. Experimental composer headlines events examining art-science connections Sep 27, 2022 11:15 am636 views David Rosenboom, a pioneer in experimental music, will lecture, perform and conduct workshops with students during a two-week series of events beginning Oct. 3. “Experimental Arts & Sciences at UIUC” is hosted by the School of Music. Deformation fingerprints will help researchers identify, design better metallic materials Sep 19, 2022 8:00 am1575 views 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. Krannert Center performance combines art, science to examine what makes us human Sep 15, 2022 2:30 pm576 views “The Joy of Regathering” combines science, music and movement to explore humanity’s place in the universe in a Sept. 17 performance at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Layered limestone deposits give unique insight to Roman aqueducts Aug 8, 2022 12:15 pm2472 views 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. Nanoscale observations simplify how scientists describe earthquake movement Aug 2, 2022 11:45 am1223 views 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. COVID-19 virus spike protein flexibility improved by human cell's own modifications Jul 5, 2022 8:00 am1033 views When the coronavirus causing COVID-19 infects human cells, the cell’s protein-processing machinery makes modifications to the spike protein that render it more flexible and mobile, which could increase its ability to infect other cells and to evade antibodies, a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found. The researchers created an atomic-level computational model of the spike protein and ran multiple simulations to examine the protein’s dynamics and how the cell’s modifications affected those dynamics. This is the first study to present such a detailed picture of the protein that plays a key role in COVID-19 infection and immunity, the researchers said. SHIELD program a model for effective pandemic management, data show Jun 9, 2022 7:30 am3583 views 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. Great timing, supercomputer upgrade lead to successful forecast of volcanic eruption Jun 3, 2022 1:00 pm5898 views In the fall of 2017, geology professor Patricia Gregg and her team had just set up a new volcanic forecasting modeling program on the Blue Waters and iForge supercomputers. Simultaneously, another team was monitoring activity at the Sierra Negra volcano in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. One of the scientists on the Ecuador project, Dennis Geist of Colgate University, contacted Gregg, and what happened next was the fortuitous forecast of the June 2018 Sierra Negra eruption five months before it occurred. Lake Michigan water-level rise affects inland waterways, study finds May 31, 2022 8:00 am1858 views 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. Illinois astronomers help capture first image of Milky Way's black hole May 12, 2022 8:15 am3958 views 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. Ice-capped volcanoes slower to erupt, study finds May 9, 2022 8:15 am772 views The Westdahl Peak volcano in Alaska last erupted in 1992, and continued expansion hints at another eruption soon. Experts previously forecasted the next blast to occur by 2010, but the volcano – located under about 1 kilometer of glacial ice – has yet to erupt again. Using the Westdahl Peak volcano as inspiration, a new volcanic modeling study examined how glaciers affect the stability and short-term eruption cycles of high-latitude volcanic systems – some of which exist along major air transportation routes. Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test discerns alpha variant from earlier strains Apr 19, 2022 11:30 am1422 views 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. Three Illinois professors awarded Guggenheim Fellowships Apr 8, 2022 9:00 am1768 views Illinois chemistry professors So Hirata and Prashant Jain and dance professor Cynthia Oliver received 2022 Guggenheim Fellowships. Why is the use of hypersonic missiles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict significant? Mar 22, 2022 8:15 am9925 views 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. New approach to flexible robotics and metamaterials design mimics nature, encourages sustainability Feb 28, 2022 2:00 pm2030 views 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. Team uses MRI to image epigenetics in the brain Feb 28, 2022 2:00 pm2409 views A multidisciplinary team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has devised a new approach to 3D imaging that captures DNA methylation, a key epigenetic change associated with learning in the brain. The scientists say their proof-of-concept study in pigs will easily translate to humans, as the new method relies on standard MRI technology and biological markers already in use in human medicine. Water filtration membranes morph like cells Feb 23, 2022 1:00 pm1179 views 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. Illinois musicians, chemists use sound to better understand science Feb 17, 2022 9:30 am2189 views The use of sonification to understand the physical mechanisms of protein folding led to a new discovery about the ways a protein can fold. Computer science professor named 2022 Sloan Research Fellow Feb 15, 2022 9:30 am1587 views Computer science professor Bo Li is among 118 recipients of the 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. According to the foundation, the awards “honor extraordinary U.S. and Canadian researchers whose creativity, innovation and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of leaders.” Awardees receive a two-year $75,000 fellowship to further their research. Three Illinois faculty members elected to National Academy of Engineering Feb 10, 2022 3:30 pm1646 views Three University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. They are William Hammack, the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering; Youssef Hashash, the William J. and Elaine F. Hall Endowed Professor and John Burkitt Webb Endowed Faculty Scholar in civil and environmental engineering; and Klara Nahrstedt, the Grainger Distinguished Chair of Engineering in computer science and the director of the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the U. of I. How can Illinois address the problem of PFAS pollution? Feb 10, 2022 8:00 am702 views The state of Illinois is investigating the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in community water supplies across the state, with an eye toward developing policies to reduce their use. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers and potential developmental problems in children. News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates spoke about the issue with John Scott, a senior chemist with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. 'Molecular Velcro' enables tissues to sense, react to mechanical force Feb 9, 2022 1:45 pm803 views 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. New set of chemical building blocks makes complex 3D molecules in a snap Feb 8, 2022 10:00 am1036 views A new set of molecular building blocks aims to make complex chemistry as simple and accessible as a toy construction kit. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed a new class of chemical building blocks that simply snap together to form 3D molecules with complex twists and turns, and an automated machine to assemble the blocks like a 3D printer for molecules. This automation could allow chemists and nonchemists alike to develop new pharmaceuticals, materials, diagnostic probes, catalysts, perfumes, sweeteners and more. Rural air pollution may be as hazardous as urban, study finds Jan 26, 2022 2:00 pm3186 views 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. 14 Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows Jan 25, 2022 5:45 pm3006 views Fourteen University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected 2021 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Researchers simulate behavior of living 'minimal cell' in three dimensions Jan 20, 2022 10:00 am3140 views Scientists report that they have built a living “minimal cell” with a genome stripped down to its barest essentials – and a computer model of the cell that mirrors its behavior. By refining and testing their model, the scientists say they are developing a system that can predict how changes to the genomes, living conditions or physical characteristics of live cells will alter how they function. Models predict optimal airplane seating for reduced viral transmission Dec 21, 2021 9:45 am13884 views 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. Study combines climatic, tectonic models to explain Andean conundrum Dec 14, 2021 10:45 am517 views The Andes Mountains are much taller than plate tectonic theories predict they should be, a fact that has puzzled geologists for decades. Mountain-building models tend to focus on the deep-seated compressional forces that occur when tectonic plates collide and send rocks skyward. A new study demonstrates how modern top-down models that account for climate-related factors combined with traditional bottom-up tectonic models can help uncover the perplexing history of the Andes Mountains. How common are December tornadoes in the US and why are they so dangerous? Dec 14, 2021 8:00 am4245 views The Dec. 10 tornado outbreak that devastated parts of the mid-Mississippi Valley has left many wondering if winter tornadoes are a new weather threat to consider in the United States. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor and department head (Robert) Jeff Trapp spoke with Illinois News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about this and other details about the timing and geography of tornadoes that we might expect in the future. Study: Fire hastens permafrost collapse in Arctic Alaska Dec 9, 2021 10:00 am965 views While climate change is the primary driver of permafrost degradation in Arctic Alaska, a new analysis of 70 years of data reveals that tundra fires are accelerating that decline, contributing disproportionately to a phenomenon known as “thermokarst,” the abrupt collapse of ice-rich permafrost as a result of thawing. How does society impact the benefits and challenges of technology? Dec 8, 2021 11:15 am3453 views 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. Bubbling up: Previously hidden environmental impact of bursting bubbles exposed in new study Nov 18, 2021 10:00 am2340 views 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. How can cities help accelerate climate action to meet COP26 goals? Nov 18, 2021 8:00 am936 views Last weekend, international negotiators approved the United Nations Glasgow Climate Pact at the 26th Conference of the Parties. Ashish Sharma, the Illinois research climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey, spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the takeaways from the COP26 and how the goals set at the global-level conference can be translated to the local level by U.S. cities. Six Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 16, 2021 7:45 am15619 views Six faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2021 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. Sustainable electrochemical process could revolutionize lithium-ion battery recycling Nov 15, 2021 1:00 pm1705 views 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. A large asteroid will pass by Earth this week – should we worry? Nov 10, 2021 9:30 am991 views Recent weeks have witnessed a series of medium-to-large-sized asteroids cross paths with Earth’s orbit. The largest of the pack – asteroid 2004 UE – is on track to make its closest approach to the planet Nov. 13. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign astronomy professor and chair Leslie Looney spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about what researchers refer to as near Earth objects and how much of a threat they are to the planet. Are global CO2 emissions rebounding to pre-COVID-19 levels? Nov 9, 2021 11:45 am351 views The Global Carbon Project recently published its 2021 Global Carbon Budget report, providing data on atmospheric carbon concentrations, emissions and trends. University of Illinois Urban-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain was part of an international team of scientists that contributed data to the report. Jain discussed the carbon budget and this year’s findings with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian.