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Physical Sciences

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  • What's in the Paris climate agreement?

    A Minute With...™ Atul Jain, expert on atmospheric carbon and climate change

  • Researchers resolve structure of a key component of bacterial decision-making

    For bacteria that swim, determining whether to stay the course or head in a new direction is vital to survival. A new study offers atomic-level details of the molecular machinery that allows swimming bacteria to sense their environment and change direction when needed

  • Nanostructured metal coatings let the light through for electrical devices

    Light and electricity dance a complicated tango in devices like LEDs, solar cells and sensors. A new anti-reflection coating developed by engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, lets light through without hampering the flow of electricity, a step that could increase efficiency in such devices.

  • Portable device can quickly determine the extent of an eye injury

    An engineer and an ophthalmologist are working together to develop a portable sensor that can quickly and inexpensively determine whether an eye injury is mild or severe. The device, called OcuCheck, works by measuring levels of vitamin C in the fluids that coat or leak from the eye. The sensor could speed efforts to determine the extent of eye injuries at accident sites, in rural areas lacking ophthalmology specialists or on the battlefield, the researchers said.

  • 100 years of relativity: How has Einstein's theory shaped modern physics, astronomy?

    A Minute With...™ U. of I. physicist Stuart Shapiro

  • Illinois physics professor named national Professor of the Year

    Mats Selen, professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been named Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

  • Machine learning could solve riddles of galaxy formation

    A new machine-learning simulation system developed at the University of Illinois promises cosmologists an expanded suite of galaxy models – a necessary first step to developing more accurate and relevant insights into the formation of the universe.

  • Nanopores could take the salt out of seawater

    University of Illinois engineers have found an energy-efficient material for removing salt from seawater that could provide a rebuttal to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lament, “Water, water, every where, nor any drop to drink.”

  • New life for EBICS project will create bio-machines to improve health

    By studying the behavior of living cells and combining them with synthetic tissue, researchers are creating “biological machines” to deliver drugs more effectively, function as internal diagnostic tools or serve as contaminant sensors in the field.

  • Supervolcanoes likely triggered externally, study finds

    Supervolcanoes, massive eruptions with potential global consequences, appear not to follow the conventional volcano mechanics of internal pressure building until the volcano blows. Instead, a new study finds, such massive magma chambers might erupt when the roof above them cracks or collapses.

  • Bacterial hole puncher could be new broad-spectrum antibiotic

    Bacteria have many methods of adapting to resist antibiotics, but a new class of spiral polypeptides developed at the University of Illinois targets one thing no bacterium can live without: an outer membrane.

  • Study: Alaskan boreal forest fires release more carbon than the trees can absorb

    A new analysis of fire activity in Alaska's Yukon Flats finds that so many forest fires are occurring there that the area has become a net exporter of carbon to the atmosphere. This is worrisome, the researchers say, because arctic and subarctic boreal forests like those of the Yukon Flats contain roughly one-third of the Earth's terrestrial carbon stores.

  • Jazz-playing robot will provide insight into how computers communicate with humans

    A University of Illinois researcher is designing a robot – actually a computer system – that will communicate with humans through jazz improvisation and provide insight into artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The odds of finding microbial life on Mars just got a lot better

    A Minute With...™ Leslie Looney, professor of astronomy

  • Is backscatter X-ray a safe tool for airport security?

    A Minute With...™ Sheldon Jacobson, expert on airport security

  • Study shows new forests cannot take in as much carbon as predicted

    As carbon emissions continue to rise, scientists project forests will grow faster and larger, due to an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, which fuels photosynthesis. But a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom finds that these projections are overestimated.

  • New exhibit will provide look at giant ancient mollusk

    A giant mollusk measuring several feet across lived in shallow marine waters in southern Illinois long before the time of the dinosaurs. An exhibit will open Thursday at the Science Center of Southern Illinois in Carbondale, with an original, life-size model of Endolobus spectabilis – its first reconstruction – as well as a fossil shell of the mollusk.

  • Surgical probe seeks out where cancer ends and healthy tissue begins

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – A new surgical tool that uses light to make sure surgeons removing cancerous tumors “got it all” was found to correlate well with traditional pathologists’ diagnoses in a clinical study, showing that the tool could soon enable reliable, real-time guidance for surgeons.

  • Paper tubes make stiff origami structures

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – From shipping and construction to outer space, origami could put a folded twist on structural engineering.

  • New synthetic tumor environments make cancer research more realistic

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Tumors are notoriously difficult to study in their natural habitat – body tissues – but a new synthetic tissue environment may give cancer researchers the next-best look at tumor growth and behavior.

  • Rogue supernovas likely flung into space by black hole slingshots

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Rogue supernovas that explode all alone in deep space present an astronomical mystery. Where did they come from? How did they get there? The likely answer: a binary black hole slingshot, according to a new study by Ryan Foley, a professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Illinois.

  • Urban flooding is rising in frequency and cost. What can you do?

    A Minute With...™ Sally McConkey of the Illinois State Water Survey

  • What can we learn from the first close-up look at Pluto via NASA's New Horizon probe?

    A Minute With...™ Charles Gamme, a professor of astronomy and physics

  • Access to big data is crucial for credibility of computational research findings, says U. of I. library and information science professor

    Think of a scientist at work, and you might picture someone at a lab bench, doing a physical experiment involving beakers or petri dishes and recording his or her findings, which will eventually form the basis for a scientific paper.

  • 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.

  • Study: Groundwater from aquifers important factor in food security

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Thirsty cities, fields and livestock drink deeply from aquifers, natural sources of groundwater. But a study of three of the most-tapped aquifers in the United States shows that overdrawing from these resources could lead to difficult choices affecting not only domestic food security but also international markets.

  • New technology looks into the eye and brings cells into focus

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eye doctors soon could use computing power to help them see individual cells in the back of a patient’s eye, thanks to imaging technology developed by engineers at the University of Illinois. Such detailed pictures of the cells, blood vessels and nerves at the back of the eye could enable earlier diagnosis and better treatment for degenerative eye and neurological diseases.

  • Biomedical breakthrough: Carbon nanoparticles you can make at home

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers have found an easy way to produce carbon nanoparticles that are small enough to evade the body’s immune system, reflect light in the near-infrared range for easy detection, and carry payloads of pharmaceutical drugs to targeted tissues.

  • Study: Crop rotation-resistant rootworms have a lot going on in their guts

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — After decades of effort, scientists are finally figuring out how insects develop resistance to environmentally friendly farming practices – such as crop rotation – that are designed to kill them. The researchers say their insights will help develop more sustainable agricultural practices.

  • 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.

  • New anti-microbial compounds evade resistance with less toxicity

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — New compounds that specifically attack fungal infections without attacking human cells could transform treatment for such infections and point the way to targeted medicines that evade antibiotic resistance.

  • Science historian tells a timely story about Einstein and his most dangerous critic

    Two of the 20th century’s greatest minds, one of them physicist Albert Einstein, came to intellectual blows one day in Paris in 1922. One immediate result of the controversy: There would be no mention of relativity in Einstein’s Nobel Prize. One long-term result: a split between science and the humanities. Science historian Jimena Canales tells the tale of that day and the debate that followed in a new book.

  • Mission possible: This device will self-destruct when heated

    Where do electronics go when they die? Most devices are laid to eternal rest in landfills. But what if they just dissolved away, or broke down to their molecular components so that the material could be recycled?

  • Tiny silicone spheres come out of the mist

    Technology in common household humidifiers could enable the next wave of high-tech medical imaging and targeted medicine, thanks to a new method for making tiny silicone microspheres developed by chemists at the University of Illinois.

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

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

  • Six Illinois professors elected to National Academy of Sciences

    Six University of Illinois professors have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can garner. Renée Baillargeon, Gary Dell, Steve Granick, Taekjip Ha, Catherine Murphy and John A. Rogers are among 84 new members and 21 foreign associates announced by the Academy on April 28.

  • 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.

  • Two Illinois professors receive 2015 Guggenheim fellowships

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has awarded 2015 Guggenheim fellowships to two University of Illinois faculty members: Wendy K. Tam Cho, professor of political science and of statistics, and Philip W. Phillips, professor of physics.

  • Ultrasonic hammer sets off tiny explosions

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Giving new meaning to the term "sonic boom," University of Illinois chemists have used sound to trigger microscopic explosions.

  • New technique paints tissue samples with light

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - One infrared scan can give pathologists a window into the structures and molecules inside tissues and cells, enabling fast and broad diagnostic assessments, thanks to an imaging technique developed by University of Illinois researchers and clinical partners.

  • Molecule-making machine simplifies complex chemistry

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A new molecule-making machine could do for chemistry what 3-D printing did for engineering: Make it fast, flexible and accessible to anyone.

  • Using a little science in your March Madness picks

    A Minute With...bracketology expert Sheldon Jacobson

  • Three Illinois faculty awarded Sloan Research Fellowships

    Three University of Illinois faculty members are recipients of 2015 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

  • Earth's surprise inside: Geologists unlock mysteries of the planet's inner core

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Seismic waves are helping scientists to plumb the world's deepest mystery: the planet's inner core.

  • Software teaches computers to translate words to math

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - If Johnny has five apples and seven oranges, and he wants to share them with three of his friends, can a computer understand the text to figure out how many pieces of fruit each person gets?

  • A central Illinois carbon sequestration project hits a milestone

    One of the largest carbon sequestration projects in the U.S., the Illinois Basin - Decatur Project (IBDP) has reached its goal of capturing 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and injecting it deep underground in the Mount Simon Sandstone formation beneath Decatur, Illinois. The project is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of carbon capture and storage. IBDP director Robert Finley talked about the million-ton milestone with News Bureau physical sciences editor Liz Ahlberg. Finley is director of the Advanced Energy Technology Institute at the Illinois State Geological Survey, part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

  • Illinois LED pioneers receive Draper Prize

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A University of Illinois professor and two of his former students are among the five pioneers of LED technology honored with the 2015 Draper Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in engineering.

  • 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.