blog posts Rural air pollution may be as hazardous as urban, study finds Jan 26, 2022 2:00 pm0 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 pm0 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 pm1926 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 am3091 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. Bubbling up: Previously hidden environmental impact of bursting bubbles exposed in new study Nov 18, 2021 10:00 am2231 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 am14842 views Six faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2021 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. New analytical technique helps researchers spot subtle differences in subcellular chemistry Sep 30, 2021 11:15 am2714 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 pm2551 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. Ultrathin self-healing polymers create new, sustainable water-resistant coatings Sep 16, 2021 9:30 am1793 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 am846 views Researchers built a mathematical model to calculate how much it will cost airlines to cope with rising temperatures in a changing climate. Less salt, more protein: Researchers address dairy processing's environmental, sustainability issues Sep 1, 2021 12:00 pm1231 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 pm1065 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. 2020 deadlier than previous five years, even with COVID-19 numbers removed, study finds Jul 19, 2021 1:30 pm1915 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 am1683 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 pm1514 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 am3747 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. Solid-state batteries line up for better performance May 20, 2021 10:00 am3397 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 am3637 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 pm1711 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 pm1573 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 pm998 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 am2722 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 am2731 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 am694 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 am1313 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. Machine learning helps spot gait problems in individuals with multiple sclerosis Mar 26, 2021 11:00 am2368 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 pm1162 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 am1314 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. Short-term climate modeling forecasts drought for Southeast US Feb 25, 2021 7:45 am1399 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. Mysterious organic scum boosts chemical reaction efficiency, may reduce chemical waste Feb 4, 2021 1:00 pm1513 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. Nick Holonyak Jr., pioneer of LED lighting, awarded Queen Elizabeth Prize Feb 2, 2021 8:00 am5610 views Nick Holonyak Jr., a renowned innovator of illumination, has been awarded the 2021 Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering “for the creation and development of LED lighting, which forms the basis of all solid-state lighting technology.” 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. Latch, load and release: Elastic motion makes click beetles click, study finds Jan 18, 2021 2:00 pm1584 views Click beetles can propel themselves more than 20 body lengths into the air, and they do so without using their legs. While the jump’s motion has been studied in depth, the physical mechanisms that enable the beetles’ signature clicking maneuver have not. A new study examines the forces behind this super-fast energy release and provides guidelines for studying extreme motion, energy storage and energy release in other small animals like trap-jaw ants and mantis shrimps. New data-driven global climate model provides projections for urban environments Jan 4, 2021 9:00 am2340 views Cities only occupy about 3% of the Earth’s total land surface, but they bear the burden of the human-perceived effects of global climate change, researchers said. Global climate models are set up for big-picture analysis, leaving urban areas poorly represented. In a new study, researchers take a closer look at how climate change affects cities by using data-driven statistical models combined with traditional process-driven physical climate models. Disposable surgical masks best for being heard clearly when speaking, study finds Dec 23, 2020 8:00 am5855 views Researcher Ryan Corey recently heard from a friend who teaches at a school where some of the students have hearing loss. The friend wanted to know if he had any ideas to help her communicate with these students while wearing a mask to slow the spread of COVID-19. Corey, who also has hearing loss, did not know what to tell her. So, he headed to the Illinois Augmented Listening Laboratory to look for solutions. Researchers confront optics and data-transfer challenges with 3D-printed lens Dec 3, 2020 8:30 am1889 views Researchers have developed new 3D-printed microlenses with adjustable refractive indices – a property that gives them highly specialized light-focusing abilities. This advancement is poised to improve imaging, computing and communications by significantly increasing the data-routing capability of computer chips and other optical systems, the researchers said. Six Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows Nov 25, 2020 4:30 pm5069 views CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2020 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Evolution, ecology and behavior professor Alison Bell; plant biology professor Carl Bernacchi; bioengineering professor Rohit Bhargava; materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun; chemistry professor Prashant Jain; and materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos are among the 489 scientists to be awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow this year. Three Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 18, 2020 8:45 am3239 views Three faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2020 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes leading researchers in the sciences and social sciences from around the world. It is based on an analysis of journal article publication and citation data, an objective measure of a researcher’s influence, from 2009-2019. The highly cited Illinois researchers this year are: materials science and engineering professor Axel Hoffmann, crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen Long, and plant biology professor Donald Ort. Driver behavior influences traffic patterns as much as roadway design, study reports Nov 17, 2020 8:00 am782 views Urban planners may soon have a new way to measure traffic congestion. By capturing the different routes by which vehicles can travel between locations, researchers have developed a new computer algorithm that helps quantify regions of congestion in urban areas and suggests ways around them Study of non-COVID-19 deaths shows 2020 increase in several demographics Nov 17, 2020 8:00 am2624 views March through May saw a significant increase in deaths over previous years – and not just from COVID-19, says a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When deaths attributed to COVID-19 were removed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totals, the death rate in several demographics outpaced the same period in 2019, the study found. The timeframe represents the first three months of response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. New mobile COVID-19 lab prototype completed Nov 6, 2020 9:00 am3760 views Researchers have completed a prototype for a mobile laboratory designed to demonstrate a way to rapidly deploy the I-COVID saliva-based test for COVID-19 developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The lab, called mobileSHIELD, also could deliver other testing capability during a public health crisis, and it will serve as a rich source of human factors engineering data. Copolymer helps remove pervasive PFAS toxins from environment Oct 29, 2020 9:00 am1484 views Researchers have demonstrated that they can attract, capture and destroy PFAS – a group of federally regulated substances found in everything from nonstick coatings to shampoo and nicknamed “the forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the natural environment. U of I virtual test assesses bioengineering students' laboratory skills Oct 23, 2020 2:45 pm1214 views When COVID-19 forced the U. of I. to go to online-only instruction last spring, a team led by bioengineering professor Karin Jensen created a test to remotely assess students' ability to culture cells in the laboratory. Cicada-inspired waterproof surfaces closer to reality, researchers report Oct 22, 2020 9:30 am2587 views A multidisciplinary group that studies the physical and chemical properties of insect wings has demonstrated the ability to reproduce the nanostructures that help cicada wings repel water and prevent bacteria from establishing on the surface. The new technique – which uses commercial nail polish – is economical and straightforward, and the researchers said it will help fabricate future high-tech waterproof materials. Octopus-inspired sucker transfers thin, delicate tissue grafts and biosensors Oct 16, 2020 2:00 pm4324 views Thin tissue grafts and flexible electronics have a host of applications for wound healing, regenerative medicine and biosensing. A new device inspired by an octopus’s sucker rapidly transfers delicate tissue or electronic sheets to the patient, overcoming a key barrier to clinical application, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and collaborators. Multi-institutional team extracts more energy from sunlight with advanced solar panels Oct 6, 2020 8:00 am2194 views Researchers working to maximize solar panel efficiency said layering advanced materials atop traditional silicon is a promising path to eke more energy out of sunlight. A new study shows that by using a precisely controlled fabrication process, researchers can produce multilayered solar panels with the potential to be 1.5 times more efficient than traditional silicon panels. Gene expression altered by direction of forces acting on cell Sep 29, 2020 8:00 am964 views Tissues and cells in the human body are subjected to a constant push and pull – strained by other cells, blood pressure and fluid flow, to name a few. The type and direction of the force on a cell alters gene expression by stretching different regions of DNA, researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators in China found in a new study. How is campus adjusting HVAC systems during the coronavirus pandemic? Sep 28, 2020 12:15 pm963 views As temperatures drop and more people gather indoors, concerns about coronavirus particles floating in the air are on the rise. Officials at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign have made adjustments to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to provide adequate ventilation, says Mohamed Attalla, the executive director of Facilities and Services. He spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the proactive measures taken to assure that campus HVAC systems are operating correctly and supplying fresh outdoor air to buildings. Most homemade masks are doing a great job, even when we sneeze, study finds Sep 17, 2020 9:30 am5976 views Studies indicate that homemade masks help combat the spread of viruses like COVID-19 when combined with frequent hand-washing and physical distancing. Many of these studies focus on the transfer of tiny aerosol particles; however, researchers say that speaking, coughing and sneezing generates larger droplets that carry virus particles. Because of this, mechanical engineer Taher Saif said the established knowledge may not be enough to determine how the effectiveness of some fabrics used in homemade masks. Study: Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test could bypass the lab Aug 31, 2020 2:00 pm7526 views In a new study, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign researchers have demonstrated a prototype of a rapid COVID-19 molecular test and a simple-to-use, portable instrument for reading the results with a smartphone in 30 minutes, which could enable point-of-care diagnosis without needing to send samples to a lab. U of I to lead two of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes Aug 26, 2020 8:00 am8818 views The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture are announcing an investment of more than $140 million to establish seven artificial intelligence institutes in the U.S. Two of the seven will be led by teams at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The USDA-NIFA will fund the AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability at the U. of I. Illinois computer science professor Vikram Adve will lead the AIFARMS Institute. The NSF will fund the AI Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing, also known as the Molecule Maker Lab Institute. Huimin Zhao, a U. of I. professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry, will lead this institute.