blog posts Are global CO2 emissions rebounding to pre-COVID-19 levels? Nov 9, 2021 11:45 am351 views The Global Carbon Project recently published its 2021 Global Carbon Budget report, providing data on atmospheric carbon concentrations, emissions and trends. University of Illinois Urban-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain was part of an international team of scientists that contributed data to the report. Jain discussed the carbon budget and this year’s findings with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian. New analytical technique helps researchers spot subtle differences in subcellular chemistry Sep 30, 2021 11:15 am2821 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. Tiny porous crystals change the shape of water to speed up chemical reactions Sep 20, 2021 10:00 am978 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 am1956 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. Study provides basis to evaluate food subsectors' emissions of three greenhouse gases Sep 13, 2021 10:00 am1919 views A new, location-specific agricultural greenhouse gas emission study is the first to account for net carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from all subsectors related to food production and consumption. The work, led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor Atul Jain, could help identify the primary plant- and animal-based food sectors contributing to three major greenhouse gas emissions and allow policymakers to take action to reduce emissions from the top-emitting food commodities at different locations across the globe. New tool maps future climate costs for airlines, passengers Sep 8, 2021 8:00 am1035 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 am912 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 pm1359 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. New imaging, machine-learning methods speed effort to reduce crops' need for water Aug 24, 2021 8:00 am1506 views Scientists have developed and deployed a series of new imaging and machine-learning tools to discover attributes that contribute to water-use efficiency in crop plants during photosynthesis and to reveal the genetic basis of variation in those traits. Nutrient-rich human waste poised to sustain agriculture, improve economies Aug 19, 2021 12:00 pm1176 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 pm2256 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. How can the world prevent emerging infectious diseases, protect food security? Jul 20, 2021 8:45 am1369 views According to a new report co-written by Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Valeria Trivellone, climate change, poverty, urbanization, land-use change and the exploitation of wildlife all contribute to the emergence of new infectious diseases, which, in turn, threaten global food security. Trivellone spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about how global authorities can tackle these intertwined challenges. 2020 deadlier than previous five years, even with COVID-19 numbers removed, study finds Jul 19, 2021 1:30 pm2016 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 am1800 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 pm1616 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. Geology helps map kidney stone formation from tiny to troublesome May 25, 2021 1:00 pm1998 views Advanced microscope technology and cutting-edge geological science are giving new perspectives to an old medical mystery: How do kidney stones form, why are some people more susceptible to them and can they be prevented? Study: Fluorescent light clarifies relationship between heat stress and crop yield May 24, 2021 9:15 am1068 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 am3778 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. Mantis shrimp-inspired camera provides second opinion during cancer surgery May 5, 2021 1:00 pm2229 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 pm1640 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. Three Illinois faculty members elected to National Academy of Sciences Apr 27, 2021 9:30 am3029 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 am2886 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. COVID-19 mobility restrictions effective for short duration, study finds Apr 22, 2021 12:00 pm712 views Attempts at restricting people’s mobility to control the spread of COVID-19 may be effective only for a short period, researchers said. A new study examines people’s mobility for seven months during the pandemic in the United States using publicly available, anonymized mobile phone data. Channel migration plays leading role in river network evolution, study finds Apr 14, 2021 10:00 am748 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 am1523 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 am1551 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 am2757 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 pm1276 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. Cheap, nontoxic carbon nanodots poised to be quantum dots of the future Mar 8, 2021 2:00 pm1104 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 am1459 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 pm1237 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 pm1551 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. Culture shapes willingness to share personal data to reduce COVID-19 spread Jan 27, 2021 8:00 am1158 views Culture, civic-mindedness and privacy concerns influence how willing people are to share personal location information to help stem the transmission of COVID-19 in their communities, a new study finds. Such sharing includes giving public health authorities access to their geographic information via data gathered from phone calls, mobile apps, credit card purchases, wristband trackers or other technologies. Latch, load and release: Elastic motion makes click beetles click, study finds Jan 18, 2021 2:00 pm1722 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 process more efficiently recycles excess CO2 into fuel, study finds Jan 11, 2021 8:00 am1022 views For years, researchers have worked to repurpose excess atmospheric carbon dioxide into new chemicals, fuels and other products traditionally made from hydrocarbons harvested from fossil fuels. The recent push to mitigate the climactic effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has chemists on their toes to find the most efficient means possible. A new study introduces an electrochemical reaction, enhanced by polymers, to improve CO2-to-ethylene conversion efficiency over previous attempts. New data-driven global climate model provides projections for urban environments Jan 4, 2021 9:00 am2447 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 am5993 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. 2020 a bad year in many respects, but what about global carbon emissions? Dec 15, 2020 9:45 am993 views The Global Carbon Project recently published the Global Carbon Budget 2020, giving world leaders access to data on atmospheric carbon concentrations, emissions and trends. Illinois atmospheric scientist Atul Jain was part of an international team of scientists that contributed data to the report. Jain talked about the carbon budget and this year’s findings with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian. Researchers confront optics and data-transfer challenges with 3D-printed lens Dec 3, 2020 8:30 am1997 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 pm5151 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. Today's catastrophic concerns shaped by past interactions between science, culture Nov 19, 2020 12:15 pm614 views A global pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes have made 2020 a year of catastrophes. David Sepkoski’s new book “Catastrophic Thinking” looks at how current-day concerns about threats to both the planet and the human race came to be. Sepkoski is a history professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, specializing in the history of science. Three Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 18, 2020 8:45 am3332 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 am833 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 am2664 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. Copolymer helps remove pervasive PFAS toxins from environment Oct 29, 2020 9:00 am1580 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. Cicada-inspired waterproof surfaces closer to reality, researchers report Oct 22, 2020 9:30 am2758 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. Multi-institutional team extracts more energy from sunlight with advanced solar panels Oct 6, 2020 8:00 am2266 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 am1003 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 pm986 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 am6036 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.