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Physical Sciences

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  • Black carbon's huge contribution to global warming

    A Minute With™... Tami Bond, a professor of civil and environmental engineering

  • Book Corner: Emeritus professor chronicles his quest for a black swan

    The history of nuclear energy research from the height of the Cold War into space colonization of the future is detailed through one man's career in the new book "Life at the Center of the Energy Crisis: A Technologist's Search for a Black Swan," published by World Scientific.

  • Boppart named one of the world's top young innovators by Technology Review

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Stephen A. Boppart, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been chosen as one of the world's 100 Top Young Innovators by Technology Review, the world's oldest technology magazine.

  • BTN to premiere 'A Brilliant Idea: Nick Holonyak and the LED' July 28

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Nick Holonyak Jr. is called the godfather of the light-emitting diode. His scientific career, spanning more than 50 years, has changed the world and is the subject of a program to premiere on the Big Ten Network July 28 at 7 a.m. (CDT).

  • Campus ceremony will celebrate new stamp for physicist John Bardeen

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A stamp commemorating the achievements of former University of Illinois faculty member and two-time Nobel Prize-winner John Bardeen will be unveiled at a ceremony on campus March 6 (Thursday).

  • Can data analytics help you fill out a March Madness bracket?

    Fill in your March Madness bracket from the center out, says bracketologist Sheldon H. Jacobson.

  • Can 'fracking' and other human activities cause earthquakes?

    A Minute With...™ Robert Bauer, an engineering geologist with the Illinois State Geological Survey

  • Can the FBI hack the iPhone?

    A Minute With...™ computer scientist Roy H. Campbell

  • Can we talk about the Illinois climate?

    Jim Angel, the Illinois state climatologist, has announced that he will retire in December 2018 after 34 years at the Illinois State Water Survey. News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with him about his career, climate change and the National Climate Assessment released on Black Friday.

  • Can you analyze me now? Cell phones bring spectroscopy to the classroom

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - University of Illinois chemistry professor Alexander Scheeline wants to see high school students using their cell phones in class. Not for texting or surfing the Web, but as an analytical chemistry instrument.

  • Carbon-coated iron catalyst structure could lead to more-active fuel cells

    Researchers at the University of Illinois and collaborators have identified the active form of an iron-containing catalyst for the trickiest part of the process: reducing oxygen gas. The finding could help researchers refine better catalysts, making fuel cells a more energy- and cost-efficient option for powering vehicles and other applications.

  • Carbon nanotube avalanche process nearly doubles current

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - By pushing carbon nanotubes close to their breaking point, researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstrated a remarkable increase in the current-carrying capacity of the nanotubes, well beyond what was previously thought possible.

  • Carbon sequestration policy must balance private property, public good

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The lack of a settled legal framework that balances private property rights while maximizing the public good ultimately hinders the large-scale commercial deployment of geologic carbon sequestration, according to published research by a University of Illinois expert in renewable energy law.

  • Carbon-storage project combines innovation and outreach

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Geologists are hoping to learn a great deal about geologic carbon sequestration from injecting 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into sandstone 7,000 feet beneath Decatur, Ill. And they're hoping the public learns a lot from the endeavor, too.

  • Carefully crafted light pulses control neuron activity

    Specially tailored, ultrafast pulses of light can trigger neurons to fire and could one day help patients with light-sensitive circadian or mood problems, according to a new study in mice at the University of Illinois.

  • CARMA groundbreaking set for March 27

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Astronomers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be major participants in the construction and operation of a new millimeter-wave telescope array to be located in the high desert of California. Groundbreaking for the facility - called the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy - is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday (March 27) at Cedar Flat in the Inyo Mountains near Bishop.

  • Catalyst combining reactivity and selectivity could speed drug development

    Chemists have long believed that inserting nitrogen – a beneficial ingredient for making many pharmaceuticals and other biologically active molecules – into a carbon-hydrogen bond requires a trade-off between catalyst reactivity and selectivity. But a new manganese-based catalyst developed by University of Illinois chemists has given researchers both in one efficient, lower-cost package.

  • Catalyst-free chemistry makes self-healing materials more practical

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A new catalyst-free, self-healing material system developed by researchers at the University of Illinois offers a far less expensive and far more practical way to repair composite materials used in structural applications ranging from airplane fuselages to wind-farm propeller blades.

  • Catalyst support structures facilitate high-temperature fuel reforming

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The catalytic reforming of liquid fuels offers an attractive solution to supplying hydrogen to fuel cells while avoiding the safety and storage issues related to gaseous hydrogen. Existing catalytic support structures, however, tend to break down at the high temperatures needed to prevent fouling of the catalytic surface by soot.

  • Cell mechanics may hold key to how cancer spreads and recurs

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Cancer cells that break away from tumors to go looking for a new home may prefer to settle into a soft bed, according to new findings from researchers at the University of Illinois.

  • Ceramic microreactors developed for on-site hydrogen production

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have designed and built ceramic microreactors for the on-site reforming of hydrocarbon fuels, such as propane, into hydrogen for use in fuel cells and other portable power sources.

  • Changes in nonextreme precipitation may have not-so-subtle consequences

    Major floods and droughts receive a lot of attention in the context of climate change, but University of Illinois researchers analyzed over five decades of precipitation data from North America to find that changes in nonextreme precipitation are more significant than previously realized and larger than those in extreme precipitation. These changes can have a strong effect on ecosystems, agriculture, infrastructure design and resource management, and point to a need to examine precipitation in a more nuanced, multifaceted way.

  • Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they did not know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics.

  • Chemical etching method helps transistors stand tall

    University of Illinois researchers have developed a way to etch very tall, narrow finFETs, a type of transistor that forms a tall semiconductor “fin” for the current to travel over.

  • Chemicals that keep drinking water flowing may also cause fouling

    Many city drinking water systems add softening agents to keep plumbing free of pipe-clogging mineral buildup. According to new research, these additives may amplify the risk of pathogen release into drinking water by weakening the grip that bacteria – like those responsible for Legionnaires’ disease – have on pipe interiors.  

  • Chemist Herbert S. Gutowsky, pioneer of MRI, dies at 80

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Herbert S. Gutowsky, a professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Illinois and a pioneer in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, died Jan. 13 at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. He was 80 years old.

  • Chemists document workings of key staph enzyme - and how to block it

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Researchers have determined the structure and mechanism of an enzyme that performs the crucial first step in the formation of cholesterol and a key virulence factor in staph bacteria.

  • Chemists synthesize molecule that helps body battle cancers, malaria

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The first synthesis of QS-21A, a medicinally important molecule that helps the body battle disease, has been achieved by chemists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

  • Cicada wings may inspire new surface technologies

    Researchers are looking to insects – specifically cicadas – for insight into the design of artificial surfaces with de-icing, self-cleaning and anti-fogging abilities. 

  • Click beetles inspire design of self-righting robots

    Robots perform many tasks that humans can’t or don’t want to perform, getting around on intricately designed wheels and limbs. If they tip over, however, they are rendered almost useless. A team of University of Illinois mechanical engineers and entomologists are looking to click beetles, who can right themselves without the use of their legs, to solve this robotics challenge.

  • Climate change's costly wild weather consequences

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Throughout 2012, the United States was battered by severe weather events such as hurricanes and droughts that affected both pocketbooks and livelihoods. Research suggests that in the coming years, U.S. five-day forecasts will show greater numbers of extreme weather events, a trend linked to human-driven climate change.

  • Climate change topic of annual Charles David Keeling lecture at U. of I.

    CHAMPAIGN,Ill. - Edward Maibach, a professor at George Mason University, will give a lecture in a series that honors Charles David Keeling, an analytical chemist at the University of Illinois and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Climate change will affect carbon sequestration in oceans, model shows

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - An Earth System model developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign indicates that the best location to store carbon dioxide in the deep ocean will change with climate change.

  • Climate models need deeper roots, scientists say

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - By soaking up moisture with their roots and later releasing it from their leaves, plants play an active role in regulating the climate. In fact, in vegetated ecosystems, plants are the primary channels that connect the soil to the atmosphere, with plant roots controlling the below-ground dynamics.

  • Climate scientist to deliver lecture in series honoring his father

    CHAMPAIGN,Ill. - Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, will deliver the annual lecture that honors his father, the late Charles David Keeling, who was an analytical chemist at the University of Illinois and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Climate Survey results announced; committee's work begins

    The UI is forming a cross-campus committee to address concerns illuminated in the results of the Climate Survey administered last year.

  • Colloidal adsorbent removes natural organic matter from water supply

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Microbial degradation products and other forms of natural organic matter can make water look, smell and taste bad. Natural organic matter also can foul the membranes used in water treatment plants, significantly reducing their efficiency.

  • Combined molecular study techniques reveal more about DNA proteins

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois researchers have combined two molecular imaging technologies to create an instrument with incredible sensitivity that provides new, detailed insight into dynamic molecular processes.

  • COMPASS method points researchers to protein structures

    Searching for the precise, complexly folded three-dimensional structure of a protein can be like hacking through a jungle without a map: a long, intensive process with uncertain direction. University of Illinois researchers developed a new approach, dubbed COMPASS, that points directly to a protein’s likely structure using a combination of advanced molecular spectroscopy techniques, predictive protein-folding algorithms and image recognition software.

  • Complex order parameter in ruthenate superconductors confirmed

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Since it was discovered to be superconducting over a decade ago, the pairing symmetry of strontium ruthenium oxide has been widely explored and debated. Now, a team of researchers led by Dale Van Harlingen at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say the debate is over.

  • Computing the best high-resolution 3-D tissue images

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Real-time, 3-D microscopic tissue imaging could be a revolution for medical fields such as cancer diagnosis, minimally invasive surgery and ophthalmology. University of Illinois researchers have developed a technique to computationally correct for aberrations in optical tomography, bringing the future of medical imaging into focus.

  • Congressional redistricting less contentious when resolved using computer algorithm

    Concerns that the process of U.S. congressional redistricting may be politically biased have fueled many debates, but a team of University of Illinois computer scientists and engineers has developed a new computer algorithm that may make the task easier for state legislatures and fairer for their constituents.

  • Connectivity explains ecosystem responses to rainfall, drought

    In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reveal techniques – inspired by the study of information theory – to track how changes in precipitation alter interactions between the atmosphere, vegetation and soil at two National Science Foundation Critical Zone Observatory sites in the western United States.

  • Consortium to design next-generation nuclear research reactors

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - With a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has teamed with other Big Ten Universities to enhance existing university research reactor facilities and to design the next generation of nuclear reactors for research and education.

  • Constant din of barking causes stress, behavior changes in dogs in shelters

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - If your neighbor's barking dog drives you crazy, pity the employees of the nation's animal shelters, where the noise produced by howling, barking and yapping dogs often exceeds that produced by a jackhammer.

  • Continental interiors may not be as tectonically stable as geologists think

    Geologic activity within stable portions of Earth’s uppermost layer may have occurred more recently than previously believed.

  • 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.

  • Controlling material structure at nanoscale makes better thermal insulator

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Heat may be essential for life, but in some cases - such as protecting the space shuttle or improving the efficiency of a jet engine - materials with low thermal conductivities are needed to prevent passage of too much heat. As reported in the Feb. 13 issue of the journal Science, researchers have created a better thermal insulator by controlling material structure at the nanoscale.

  • 'Cookbook recipes' would cure disease with nontoxic DNA delivery systems

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Scientists studying the structure and interaction of negatively charged lipids and DNA molecules have created a "cookbook" for a class of nontoxic DNA delivery systems that will assist doctors and clinicians in the safe and effective delivery of genetic medicine.

  • Copper nanowires grown by new process create long-lasting displays

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A new low-temperature, catalyst-free technique for growing copper nanowires has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois. The copper nanowires could serve as interconnects in electronic device fabrication and as electron emitters in a television-like, very thin flat-panel display known as a field-emission display.