blog posts SHIELD program a model for effective pandemic management, data show Jun 9, 2022 7:30 am2448 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. Lake Michigan water-level rise affects inland waterways, study finds May 31, 2022 8:00 am1367 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 am3683 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. Engineering professor Nancy Sottos elected to National Academy of Sciences May 4, 2022 11:30 am1026 views 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. Two Illinois faculty members elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences Apr 29, 2022 8:30 am1087 views 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. Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test discerns alpha variant from earlier strains Apr 19, 2022 11:30 am1340 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. Why is the use of hypersonic missiles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict significant? Mar 22, 2022 8:15 am7583 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 pm1881 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. Studies examine effects of California's push for computer science education Feb 24, 2022 8:15 am1691 views 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. Water filtration membranes morph like cells Feb 23, 2022 1:00 pm1066 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. 'Molecular Velcro' enables tissues to sense, react to mechanical force Feb 9, 2022 1:45 pm767 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. Rural air pollution may be as hazardous as urban, study finds Jan 26, 2022 2:00 pm2745 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 pm2858 views Fourteen University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected 2021 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. CRISPR-Cas13 targets proteins causing ALS, Huntington's disease in the mouse nervous system Jan 19, 2022 1:15 pm3116 views 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. Models predict optimal airplane seating for reduced viral transmission Dec 21, 2021 9:45 am9830 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. How does society impact the benefits and challenges of technology? Dec 8, 2021 11:15 am2491 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 am2293 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. Six Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 16, 2021 7:45 am15305 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 pm1519 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. New analytical technique helps researchers spot subtle differences in subcellular chemistry Sep 30, 2021 11:15 am2766 views 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. DNA sensor quickly determines whether viruses are infectious Sep 22, 2021 1:00 pm2715 views 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. Tiny porous crystals change the shape of water to speed up chemical reactions Sep 20, 2021 10:00 am915 views 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. Ultrathin self-healing polymers create new, sustainable water-resistant coatings Sep 16, 2021 9:30 am1863 views 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. New tool maps future climate costs for airlines, passengers Sep 8, 2021 8:00 am950 views Researchers built a mathematical model to calculate how much it will cost airlines to cope with rising temperatures in a changing climate. Unified theory explains how materials transform from solids to liquids Sep 2, 2021 9:30 am860 views 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. Less salt, more protein: Researchers address dairy processing's environmental, sustainability issues Sep 1, 2021 12:00 pm1289 views 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. Nutrient-rich human waste poised to sustain agriculture, improve economies Aug 19, 2021 12:00 pm1112 views 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. Black hole size revealed by its eating pattern Aug 12, 2021 1:00 pm2161 views 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. 2020 deadlier than previous five years, even with COVID-19 numbers removed, study finds Jul 19, 2021 1:30 pm1980 views 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. Chemical reactions break free from energy barriers using flyby trajectories Jul 15, 2021 10:45 am1745 views 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. Light-harvesting nanoparticle catalysts show promise in quest for renewable carbon-based fuels Jun 24, 2021 1:00 pm1580 views 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. Children's book by U of I students teaches third graders about automotive engineering Jun 7, 2021 10:45 am3870 views 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. Study: Fluorescent light clarifies relationship between heat stress and crop yield May 24, 2021 9:15 am1015 views 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. Solid-state batteries line up for better performance May 20, 2021 10:00 am3624 views 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. U of I engineering professor appointed to US Department of Energy leadership role May 10, 2021 10:00 am3778 views 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. Mantis shrimp-inspired camera provides second opinion during cancer surgery May 5, 2021 1:00 pm1890 views 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. Previously unrecognized tsunami hazard identified in coastal cities May 3, 2021 2:00 pm1604 views 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. People of color hardest hit by air pollution from nearly all sources Apr 28, 2021 1:00 pm1100 views 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. Three Illinois faculty members elected to National Academy of Sciences Apr 27, 2021 9:30 am2947 views 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. Four Illinois faculty members elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences Apr 23, 2021 8:30 am2802 views University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Education Dean James Anderson, physics professor Nadya Mason, chemistry professor Nancy Makri and materials science and engineering professor Kenneth Schweizer have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the oldest honor societies in the nation. Channel migration plays leading role in river network evolution, study finds Apr 14, 2021 10:00 am723 views Satellite views of Earth’s major river systems reveal their familiar treelike drainage patterns. The pattern – called dendritic – and its prevalence suggests that it may be the optimal state in which rivers exist. Challenged by the knowledge that numerical models of drainage evolution have yet to substantiate this assumption, researchers are now thinking of rivers as existing in a persistent reorganizational state instead of being in a set, stable configuration. Understanding this has implications for land use and infrastructure management decisions. New 3D microbatteries stand up to industry standard thin-film counterparts Apr 5, 2021 8:00 am1446 views The thin-film lithium-ion batteries used in microdevices such as portable and medical electronics may supply a good amount of power relative to their mass, but do not provide enough power for many devices due to their limited size. Researchers have introduced a fabrication process that builds microbatteries with thick, 3D electrodes using lithography and electrodeposition – and seals each unit in a gel electrolyte-filled package. The new prototype shows the highest peak power density of any reported microbatteries, the researchers said. Hubble Space Telescope spots double quasars in merging galaxies Apr 1, 2021 10:00 am1490 views NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is seeing double, uncovering two very close pairs of quasars that existed 10 billion years ago. The objects are close together because astronomers believe they resided in a pair of merging galaxies. Machine learning helps spot gait problems in individuals with multiple sclerosis Mar 26, 2021 11:00 am2539 views Monitoring the progression of multiple sclerosis-related gait issues can be challenging in adults over 50 years old, requiring a clinician to differentiate between problems related to MS and other age-related issues. To address this problem, researchers are integrating gait data and machine learning to advance the tools used to monitor and predict disease progression. Fast-acting, color-changing molecular probe senses when a material is about to fail Mar 25, 2021 12:00 pm1209 views Materials that contain special polymer molecules may someday be able to warn us when they are about to fail, researchers said. Engineers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have improved their previously developed force-sensitive molecules, called mechanophores, to produce reversible, rapid and vibrant color change when a force is applied. Microscope that detects individual viruses could power rapid diagnostics Mar 19, 2021 11:30 am1352 views A fast, low-cost technique to see and count viruses or proteins from a sample in real time, without any chemicals or dyes, could underpin a new class of devices for rapid diagnostics and viral load monitoring, including HIV and the virus that causes COVID-19. Cheap, nontoxic carbon nanodots poised to be quantum dots of the future Mar 8, 2021 2:00 pm1043 views Tiny fluorescent semiconductor dots, called quantum dots, are useful in a variety of health and electronic technologies but are made of toxic, expensive metals. Nontoxic and economic carbon-based dots are easy to produce, but they emit less light. A new study that uses ultrafast nanometric imaging found good and bad emitters among populations of carbon dots. This observation suggests that by selecting only super-emitters, carbon nanodots can be purified to replace toxic metal quantum dots in many applications, the researchers said. Short-term climate modeling forecasts drought for Southeast US Feb 25, 2021 7:45 am1432 views Many climate models focus on scenarios decades into the future, making their outcomes seem unreliable and problematic for decision-making in the immediate future. In a proactive move, researchers are using short-term forecasts to stress the urgency of drought risk in the United States and inform policymakers’ actions now. 3D microscopy clarifies understanding of body's immune response to obesity Feb 17, 2021 1:00 pm1187 views Researchers who focus on fat know that some adipose tissue is more prone to inflammation-related comorbidities than others, but the reasons why are not well understood. Thanks to a new analytical technique, scientists are getting a clearer view of the microenvironments found within adipose tissue associated with obesity. This advance may illuminate why some adipose tissues are more prone to inflammation – leading to diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disorders – and help direct future drug therapies to treat obesity. Mysterious organic scum boosts chemical reaction efficiency, may reduce chemical waste Feb 4, 2021 1:00 pm1527 views Chemical manufacturers frequently use toxic solvents such as alcohols and benzene to make products like pharmaceuticals and plastics. Researchers are examining a previously overlooked and misunderstood phenomenon in the chemical reactions used to make these products. This discovery brings a new fundamental understanding of catalytic chemistry and a steppingstone to practical applications that could someday make chemical manufacturing less wasteful and more environmentally sound.