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Engineering

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  • A team of materials science researchers, including professor Paul Braun, studied how heat flows across an interface at an atomic level.

    Controlling heat flow with atomic-level precision

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Through a combination of atomic-scale materials design and ultrafast measurements, researchers at the University of Illinois have revealed new insights about how heat flows across an interface between two materials.

  • Illinois engineers Kwiyong Kim, left, Xiao Su, Johannes Elbert and Paola Baldaguez Medina are part of a team that developed a new polymer electrode device that can capture and destroy PFAS contaminants present in water.

    Copolymer helps remove pervasive PFAS toxins from environment

    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.

  • Core curriculum committee formed for Carle Illinois College of Medicine

    Dr. Robert Good and professor Rashid Bashir have been named co-chairs of the 18-member group that will lead the effort to build the engineering-based Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s core curriculum. 

  • Kumar_Richardson

    Corn better used as food than biofuel, study finds

    Corn is grown not only for food, it is also an important renewable energy source. Renewable biofuels can come with hidden economic and environmental issues, and the question of whether corn is better utilized as food or as a biofuel has persisted since ethanol came into use. For the first time, researchers at the University of Illinois have quantified and compared these issues in terms of economics of the entire production system to determine if the benefits of biofuel corn outweigh the costs.

  • Crackling noise in cereal and magnets aids study of earthquakes

    When Karin Dahmen hears the crackling noise in a bowl of crisped-rice cereal, her thoughts turn to earthquakes.

  • University of Illinois researchers developed a cradle and app for the iPhone to make a handheld biosensor that uses the phone's own camera and processing power to detect any kind of biological molecules or cells.

    Cradle turns smartphone into handheld biosensor

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Researchers and physicians in the field could soon run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, medical diagnostics, food safety and more with their smartphones.

  • Illinois researchers used CRISPR technology to activate silent gene clusters in Streptomyces bacteria, a potential treasure trove of new classes of drugs. Pictured, clockwise from back middle: graduate student Behnam Enghiad, postdoctoral researcher Shangwen Luo, graduate student Tajie Luo and professor Huimin Zhao.

    CRISPR mines bacterial genome for hidden pharmaceutical treasure

    In the fight against disease, many weapons in the medicinal arsenal have been plundered from bacteria themselves. Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, researchers have now uncovered even more potential treasure hidden in silent genes.

  • In this computer simulation, DNA in a serum sample interacts with a crumpled graphene surface.

    Crumpled graphene makes ultra-sensitive cancer DNA detector

    Graphene-based biosensors could usher in an era of liquid biopsy, detecting DNA cancer markers circulating in a patient’s blood or serum. But current designs need a lot of DNA. In a new study, crumpling graphene makes it more than ten thousand times more sensitive to DNA by creating electrical “hot spots,” researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found.

  • Professor Qian Chen, seated, and graduate students Binbin Luo, left, and Zihao Ou collaborated with researchers at Northwestern University to observe and simulate the formation of crystalline materials at a much higher resolution than before.

    Crystallization clarified, researchers report

    Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have made it possible to observe and simulate the self-assembly of crystalline materials at a much higher resolution than before.

  • Details on the 4/18 Midwest earthquake

    A Minute With™... Amr S. Elnashai, the director of the Mid-America Earthquake Center

  • University of Illinois engineering researcher Ann-Perry Witmer has developed a new computer algorithm that helps engineers who work internationally incorporate the influences of local values into their infrastructure designs.

    Diagnostic tool helps engineers to design better global infrastructure solutions

    Designing safe bridges and water systems for low-income communities is not always easy for engineers coming from highly industrialized places. A new discipline called contextual engineering helps engineers think beyond personal values, expectations and definitions of project success when tackling global infrastructure problems.

  • Masks are an important tool for fighting COVID-19 but wearing one can make it difficult for others to hear us speak. Using a unique laboratory setup, Illinois researcher Ryan Corey tested how different types of masks affect the acoustics of speech.

    Disposable surgical masks best for being heard clearly when speaking, study finds

    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.

  • Sheldon H. Jacobson

    Ditch the gadgets while driving in Memorial Day weekend traffic

    A Minute With™... computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson

  • A synthetic DNA enzyme inserts into a cell membrane, causing lipids to shuffle between the inner and outer membrane layers.

    DNA enzyme shuffles cell membranes a thousand times faster than its natural counterpart

    A new synthetic enzyme, crafted from DNA rather than protein, flips lipid molecules within the cell membrane, triggering a signal pathway that could be harnessed to induce cell death in cancer cells. It is the first such synthetic enzyme to outperform its natural counterparts.

  • 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.  

  • Masooda Bashir

    Do COVID-19 apps protect your privacy?

    Many mobile apps that track the spread of COVID-19 ask for personal data but don’t indicate the information will be secure.

  • Does the Hawaiian quake make volcanic eruptions more likely?

    A Minute With™... Amr Elnashai, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in the United Kingdom

  • Professor Richard Sowers, left, and recent graduate Daniel Carmody have developed a new computer algorithm that will help urban planners understand and measure traffic congestion and suggest alternative routes.

    Driver behavior influences traffic patterns as much as roadway design, study reports

    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

  • Illinois researchers developed nanoparticles that can target cancer stem cells (yellow), the rare cells within a tumor (blue) that can cause cancer to recur or spread.

    Drug-delivering nanoparticles seek and destroy elusive cancer stem cells

    Researchers are sending tiny drug-laden nanoparticles on a mission to seek and destroy cancer stem cells.

  • A laser stylus writes on a small array of multifunction pixels made by dual-function LEDs than can both emit and respond to light.

    Dual-function nanorod LEDs could make multifunctional displays

    Cellphones and other devices could soon be controlled with touchless gestures and charge themselves using ambient light, thanks to new LED arrays that can both emit and detect light.

  • Mechanical science and engineering professor Andrew Alleyne is one of eight recipients from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to be elected as AAAS Fellows this year.

    Eight Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eight professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2019 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Plant biology professor Lisa Ainsworth is one of eight Illinois faculty members on the Clarivate Analytics / Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers list, 2016.

    Eight Illinois researchers rank among world’s most influential

    Eight University of Illinois researchers have been named to the Thomson Reuters / Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list for 2016. The list identifies scientists “whose research has had significant global impact within their respective fields of study."

  • Illinois mechanical sciences and engineering professor Ning Wang, left, graduate students Erfan Mohagheghian and Gaurav Chaudhary, and postdoctoral researchers Junwei Chen and Jian Sun are measuring mechanical forces within cells to help unlock some of the mysteries of embryonic development and cancer.

    Elastic microspheres expand understanding of embryonic development and cancer cells

    A new technique that uses tiny elastic balls filled with fluorescent nanoparticles aims to expand the understanding of the mechanical forces that exist between cells, researchers report. A University of Illinois-led team has demonstrated the quantification of 3-D forces within cells living in petri dishes as well as live specimens. This research may unlock some of the mysteries related to embryonic development and cancer stem cells, i.e., tumor-repopulating cells.

  • An N95 mask in a multicooker with a towel.

    Electric cooker an easy, efficient way to sanitize N95 masks, study finds

    Owners of electric multicookers may be able to add another use to its list of functions, a new study suggests: sanitization of N95 respirator masks.

    The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign study found that 50 minutes of dry heat in an electric cooker, such as a rice cooker or Instant Pot, decontaminated N95 respirators inside and out while maintaining their filtration and fit. This could enable wearers to safely reuse limited supplies of the respirators, originally intended to be one-time-use items. 

  • Electron microscope image of an array of new chip components that integrate the inductors, blue, and capacitors, yellow, needed to make the electronic signal filters in phones and other wireless devices.

    Electronic components join forces to take up 10 times less space on computer chips

    Electronic filters are part of the inner workings of our phones and other wireless devices. They eliminate or enhance specific input signals to achieve the desired output signals. They are essential, but take up space on the chips that researchers are on a constant quest to make smaller. A new study demonstrates the successful integration of the individual elements that make up electronic filters onto a single component, significantly reducing the amount of space taken up by the device.

  • Electrical and computer engineering professor Joseph Lyding and graduate student Jae Won Do led a research team to develop a new method of soldering gaps between carbon nanotubes, a new type of transistor.

    Electronic device performance enhanced with new transistor encasing method

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A more effective method for closing gaps in atomically small wires has been developed by University of Illinois researchers, further opening the doors to a new transistor technology.

  • Philip Phillips, a professor of physics and of chemistry at Illinois, and colleagues have found that something other than electrons carries the current in copper-containing superconductors known as cuprates.

    Electrons are not enough: Cuprate superconductors defy convention

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - To engineers, it's a tale as old as time: Electrical current is carried through materials by flowing electrons. But physicists at the University of Illinois and the University of Pennsylvania found that for copper-containing superconductors, known as cuprates, electrons are not enough to carry the current.

  • Illinois professor Paul Braun and Hailong Ning, the director of research and development at Xerion Advanced Battery Corporation, led a research team that developed a method for directly electroplating lithium-ion battery cathodes.

    Electroplating delivers high-energy, high-power batteries

    The process that makes gold-plated jewelry or chrome car accents is now making powerful lithium-ion batteries.

  • Inspired by the principles of natural polymer synthesis, Illinois chemical and biomolecular engineering professor Charles Sing, left, and graduate students Jason Madinya and Tyler Lytle co-authored a study that found they could create new synthetic materials by tuning the electrostatic charge of polymer chains.

    Electrostatic force takes charge in bioinspired polymers

    Researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have taken the first steps toward gaining control over the self-assembly of synthetic materials in the same way that biology forms natural polymers. This advance could prove useful in designing new bioinspired, smart materials for applications ranging from drug delivery to sensing to remediation of environmental contaminants.

  • Chemistry professor Prashant Jain is one of eleven Illinois faculty members on the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list, 2018.

    Eleven Illinois researchers rank among world’s most influential

    Eleven faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2018 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list.

  • Graduate student Reshmina William, left, and civil and environmental engineering professor Ashlynn Stillwell pause on the green roof over the Business Instructional Facility at the University of Illinois. Their research is helping to simultaneously evaluate the performance of green roofs and communicate their findings with urban planners, policymakers and the general public.

    Engineers find way to evaluate green roofs

    Green infrastructure is an attractive concept, but there is concern surrounding its effectiveness. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are using a mathematical technique traditionally used in earthquake engineering to determine how well green infrastructure works and to communicate with urban planners, policymakers and developers.

  • A photomicrograph of three 50-micron diameter rolled transformers developed by Illinois professor Xiuling Li’s team.

    Engineers on a roll toward smaller, more efficient radio frequency transformers

    The future of electronic devices lies partly within the “internet of things” – the network of devices, vehicles and appliances embedded within electronics to enable connectivity and data exchange. University of Illinois engineers are helping realize this future by minimizing the size of one notoriously large element of integrated circuits used for wireless communication – the transformer.

  • Illinois researchers developed a new design paradigm for inductors. Processed while flat, the inductors then roll up on their own, taking up much less space on a chip.

    Engineers roll up their sleeves - and then do same with inductors

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - On the road to smaller, high-performance electronics, University of Illinois researchers have smoothed one speed bump by shrinking a key, yet notoriously large element of integrated circuits.

  • Aerial image of the Oso landslide on April 13, 2014.

    Engineers shine light on deadly landslide

    A new report by University of Illinois civil and environmental engineering professor Tim Stark and colleagues details the factors that led to the deadliest landslide on record in the continental United States, along with steps that can be taken to mitigate landslide consequences and risk in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Group photo of Beckman Institute director Jeffrey Moore, left, postdoctoral researcher Hai Qian and materials science and engineering head Nancy Sottos

    Fast-acting, color-changing molecular probe senses when a material is about to fail

    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.

  • As shown in this artist’s rendering, grooved surfaces help muscle grow into aligned fibers, which provides a track for neurons to follow.

    Feeling groovy: Neurons integrate better with muscle grown on grooved platforms

    Growing muscle tissue on grooved platforms helps neurons more effectively integrate with the muscle, a requirement for engineering muscle in the lab that responds and functions like muscle in the body, University of Illinois researchers found in a new study.

  • First-round winners of business-plan competition announced

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Technology Entrepreneur Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced the first-round winners in the first annual V. Dale Cozad Business Plan Competition. (Editors: See list.)

  • Five finalists selected for technology entrepreneurial competition

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Technology Entrepreneur Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has announced the finalists in the first annual V. Dale Cozad Business Plan Competition. (Editors: See list.)

  • Professors Ning Wang and Andrew Belmont led a team that found the pathway by which physical forces drive gene expression in cells.

    Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

    A new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China has demonstrated that external mechanical force can directly regulate gene expression.

  • Professor Huimin Zhao led a team that achieved the highest reported efficiency of inserting genes into human cells with CRISPR-Cas9.

    For CRISPR, tweaking DNA fragments before inserting yields highest efficiency rates yet

    University of Illinois researchers achieved the highest reported rates of inserting genes into human cells with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system, a necessary step for harnessing CRISPR for clinical gene-therapy applications.

    By chemically tweaking the ends of the DNA to be inserted, the new technique is up to five times more efficient than current approaches. The researchers saw improvements at various genetic locations tested in a human kidney cell line, even seeing 65% insertion at one site where the previous high had been 15%.

  • Professor Ning Wang led a team that found the precise combination of mechanical forces, chemistry and timing to help stem cells differentiate into three germ layers, the first step toward developing specialized tissues and organs.

    For the first time in the lab, researchers see stem cells take initial step toward development

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The gap between stem cell research and regenerative medicine just became a lot narrower, thanks to a new technique that coaxes stem cells, with potential to become any tissue type, to take the first step to specialization. It is the first time this critical step has been demonstrated in a laboratory.

  • Spliced portrait showing all four winners.

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

    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.

  • Professor Ning Wang sits in his lab.

    Gene expression altered by direction of forces acting on cell

    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.

  • Illinois researchers found that one class of gene-editing proteins searches for its target by sliding along DNA like a zipline. Pictured, from left: professor Huimin Zhao, professor Charles Schroeder, graduate students Luke Cuculis and Zhanar Abil.

    Genome-editing proteins ride a DNA zip line

    For gene-editing proteins to be useful in clinical applications, they need to be able to find the specific site they’re supposed to edit among billions of DNA sequences. Using advanced imaging techniques, University of Illinois researchers have found that one class of genome-editing proteins rapidly travels along a strand of DNA like a rider on a zip line – a unique behavior among documented DNA-binding proteins.

  • Pictured, from left: Professor Huimin Zhao, professor Charles Schroeder, graduate students Luke Cuculis and Zhanar Abil.

    Genome-editing proteins seek and find with a slide and a hop

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Searching a whole genome for one particular sequence is like trying to fish a specific piece from the box of a billion-piece puzzle. Using advanced imaging techniques, University of Illinois researchers have observed how one set of genome-editing proteins finds its specific targets, which could help them design better gene therapies to treat disease.

  • Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology faculty members Saurabh Sinha, a professor of computer science, left; and Gene Robinson, a professor of entomology and IGB director; and their colleagues warn that genomics data will likely surpass other big data in scale.

    Genomics to surpass the biggest data producers, experts warn

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Each cell in the body contains a whole genome, yet the data packed into a few DNA molecules could fill a hard drive. As more people have their DNA sequenced, that data will require massive computational and storage capabilities beyond anything previously anticipated, says a new assessment from computational biologists and computer scientists at the University of Illinois and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

  • Illinois professor Kyekyoon "Kevin" Kim, graduate student Elizabeth Joachim and research scientist Hyungsoo Choi developed tiny gelatin nanoparticles that can carry medication to the brain, which could lead to longer treatment windows for stroke patients.

    Getting into your head: Gelatin nanoparticles could deliver drugs to the brain

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Stroke victims could have more time to seek treatment that could reduce harmful effects on the brain, thanks to tiny blobs of gelatin that could deliver the medication to the brain noninvasively.

  • Professor Min-Feng Yu's group developed "trolling AFM," a method for high-quality imaging of soft cells and tissues at atomic resolution.

    Gone fishing: Researchers' imaging technique trolls in quiet cellular seas

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Experienced anglers know that choppy waters make for difficult fishing, so they try not to rock the boat. Thanks to a new microscopy technique, cell biology researchers can heed that same advice.

  • Graduate student Edmund Han, left, professor Elif Ertekin, graduate student Jaehyung Yu, professor Pinshane Y. Huang, front, and professor Arend M. van der Zande have determined how much energy it takes to bend multilayer graphene – a question that has long eluded scientists.

    Graphene: The more you bend it, the softer it gets

    New research by engineers at the University of Illinois combines atomic-scale experimentation with computer modeling to determine how much energy it takes to bend multilayer graphene – a question that has eluded scientists since graphene was first isolated. The findings are reported in the journal Nature Materials.

  • Precision agriculture techniques could have substantial financial benefits for producers of hand-picked specialty crops, according to a new paper by Richard Sowers, a professor of engineering and of mathematics at the University of Illinois. Recent Illinois alumnus Devasia Manuel, currently a machine learning researcher with Google and Sowers’ co-author on the study, developed a mathematical model that determined the optimal time for transporting a grower’s strawberries from the field to cold storage.

    Hand-picked specialty crops ‘ripe’ for precision agriculture techniques

    Using precision agriculture, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed an algorithm to help producers of hand-picked crops such as strawberries determine the optimal time to transport their highly perishable crop from the field to cold storage.