blog navigation

Physical Sciences

blog posts

  • New camera gives surgeons a butterfly’s-eye view of cancer

    Cancer lurking in tissue could be more easily found when looking through a butterfly’s eye.

  • Team brings subatomic resolution to computational microscope

    Scientists have built a “computational microscope” that can simulate the atomic and subatomic forces that drive molecular interactions. This tool will streamline efforts to understand the chemistry of life, model large molecular systems and develop new pharmaceutical and industrial agents, the researchers say.

  • Light helps the transistor laser switch faster

    Light and electrons interact in a complex dance within fiber optic devices. A new study by University of Illinois engineers found that in the transistor laser, a device for next-generation high-speed computing, the light and electrons spur one another on to faster switching speeds than any devices available.

  • Five Illinois faculty members named Sloan Research Fellows

    Five University of Illinois faculty members received the 2016 Sloan Research Fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

  • 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.

  • New microscope technique reveals internal structure of live embryos

    University of Illinois researchers have developed a way to produce 3-D images of live embryos in cattle that could help determine embryo viability before in vitro fertilization in humans.

  • Researchers use sound waves to advance optical communication

    Illinois researchers have demonstrated that sound waves can be used to produce ultraminiature optical diodes that are tiny enough to fit onto a computer chip. These devices, called optical isolators, may help solve major data capacity and system size challenges for photonic integrated circuits, the light-based equivalent of electronic circuits, which are used for computing and communications.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • Illinois researcher generates random ‘reactions’ to consider how Facebook uses our information

    University of Illinois researcher Ben Grosser has created a web browser extension he calls Go Rando that randomly chooses one of Facebook’s six reactions whenever you click “like.” His intention is to obfuscate your recorded feelings to Facebook.

  • Measure of age in soil nitrogen could help precision agriculture

    University of Illinois engineers developed a model to calculate the age of nitrogen in corn and soybean fields, which could lead to improved fertilizer application techniques to promote crop growth while reducing leaching.

  • Klaus Schulten, pioneer in biophysics and computational biology, has died

    University of Illinois physics professor Klaus Schulten, an innovator in the use of computational methods to study the chemical and biological processes driving living cells, died Monday, Oct. 31, at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana. He was 69.

  • 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.

  • Researchers identify cheaper, greener biofuels processing catalyst

    Fuels that are produced from nonpetroleum-based biological sources may become greener and more affordable, thanks to research performed at the University of Illinois’ Prairie Research Institute that examines the use of a processing catalyst made from palladium metal and bacteria.

  • Method opens a window on how stress and strain affect battery performance

    Batteries that charge faster and have greater capacity could boost portable electronic devices and electric cars. A new method to simultaneously test stress and strain in battery electrodes gives researchers a window into the mechanical, electrical and chemical forces within lithium-ion batteries. The method revealed an unexpected point of stress in the charging cycle, which could guide development of better batteries.

  • Scientists: Expanding Brazilian sugarcane could dent global CO2 emissions

    Vastly expanding sugarcane production in Brazil for conversion to ethanol could reduce current global carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 5.6 percent, researchers report in the journal Nature Climate Change.

  • 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.

  • Regenerating plastic grows back after damage

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Looking at a smooth sheet of plastic in one University of Illinois laboratory, no one would guess that an impact had recently blasted a hole through it.

  • Study: Surge in obesity correlates with increased automobile usage

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Junk food, video games and a lack of exercise all have received their fair share of blame for the spiraling epidemic of obesity in the U.S. But according to a University of Illinois researcher, public health enemy No. 1 for our supersized nation may very well be the one staple of modern life most Americans can't seem to live without one (or more) of: the automobile.

  • Can the FBI hack the iPhone?

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

  • Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - A new generation of miniature biological robots is flexing its muscle.

  • Self-healing tech charges up performance for silicon-containing battery anodes

    Researchers at the University of Illinois have found a way to apply self-healing technology to lithium-ion batteries to make them more reliable and last longer.

  • Researchers tap problematic e-waste surplus to recover high-quality polymers

    Mixed-plastic electronics waste could be a valuable source of reusable polymers, a new study led by Illinois Sustainability Technology Center scientists suggests. The team has developed the first energy-efficient and environmentally friendly process that separates mixed polymers so that they can be recycled into new, high-quality plastic products.

  • 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.

  • Time-lapse cell imaging reveals dynamic activity

    Living cells are miniature worlds bustling with activity. A new advanced imaging method can track cells over long periods of time using only light – no dye or chemicals required – to reveal dynamics and provide insight into how cells function, develop and interact.

  • 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.

  • Researchers develop transistors that can switch between two stable energy states

    Engineers are unveiling an upgrade to the transistor laser that could be used to boost computer processor speeds – the formation of two stable energy states and the ability to switch between them quickly. 

  • 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.

  • New methods tackle a perplexing engineering concept

    Researchers at the University of Illinois are working to turn a complex materials design problem into an intuitive concept, understandable to engineers from novice to advanced experience levels. The group developed guidelines to help understand materials engineered to become thicker when stretched. This highly useful property, which is not commonly found in nature, has applications for protective sports equipment, body armor and biomedical devices.

  • Science at Illinois feeds the world, furthers health, protects the planet

    Illinois scientists are helping power plants run more efficiently, designing better, longer-lasting batteries, finding new ways to target cancerous tumors, and developing robots that can aid in construction, in agricultural fields and even inside the human body.

  • 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.

  • Tiny aquariums put nanoparticle self-assembly on display

    Seeing is believing when it comes to nanoparticle self-assembly. A team of University of Illinois engineers is observing the interactions of colloidal gold nanoparticles inside tiny aquariumlike sample containers to gain more control over the self-assembly process of engineered materials.

  • DNA molecules directly interact with each other based on sequence, study finds

    Proteins play a large role in DNA regulation, but a new study finds that DNA molecules directly interact with one another in a way that’s dependent on the sequence of the DNA and epigenetic factors. This could have implications for how DNA is organized in the cell and even how genes are regulated in different cell types, the researchers say.

  • Tiny exports signal big shifts in cancer tissue, researchers find

    Microscopic shifts in metabolism and increases in tiny transport vesicles out of tumor cells preface larger changes to the tumor environment and could prepare the way for cancerous cells to spread and metastasize, University of Illinois researchers report.

  • Geologic imaging technique measures strength of Earth’s outer shell

    An advanced imaging technique used to map Earth’s outer shell also can provide a measure of strength, finding weak spots and magma upwellings that could point to volcanic or earthquake activity, according to a new study by geologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Adelaide in Australia.

  • Geologic formation could hold clues to melting glacier floodwaters

    Geologists investigating an unusual landform in the Wabash River Valley in southern Illinois expected to find seismic origins, but instead found the aftermath of rushing floodwaters from melting Midwestern glaciers after the last ice age. The finding could give clues to how floodwaters may behave as glacier melt increases today in places like Greenland and Iceland.

  • Researchers look to patterns to envision new engineering field

    The phenomenon that forms interference patterns on television displays when a camera focuses on a pattern like a person wearing stripes has inspired a new way to conceptualize electronic devices. Researchers at the University of Illinois are showing how the atomic-scale version of this phenomenon may hold the secrets to help advance electronics design to the limits of size and speed. 

  • High-resolution climate models present alarming new projections for U.S.

    Approaching the second half of the century, the United States is likely to experience increases in the number of days with extreme heat, the frequency and duration of heat waves, and the length of the growing season. In response, it is anticipated that societal, agricultural and ecological needs will increase the demand on already-strained natural resources like water and energy. University of Illinois researchers have developed new, high-resolution climate models that may help policymakers mitigate these effects at a local level.

  • Structure of protein that forms fibrils in Parkinson's patients could lead to new diagnostic and treatment options

    Chemists have identified the complex chemical structure of the protein that stacks together to form fibrils in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients. Armed with this knowledge, researchers can identify specific targets for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Why you should factor driving into your weight loss plan

    A Minute With...™ Sheldon Jacobson, expert on data science

  • Tiny drug-delivering capsules could sustain transplanted insulin-producing cells for diabetics

    A drug-carrying microsphere within a cell-bearing microcapsule could be the key to transplanting insulin-secreting pig pancreas cells into human patients whose own cells have been destroyed by type I diabetes.

  • 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.

  • Temperature inside collapsing bubble four times that of sun

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Using a technique employed by astronomers to determine stellar surface temperatures, chemists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have measured the temperature inside a single, acoustically driven collapsing bubble.

  • Geography professor awarded Guggenheim Fellowship

    University of Illinois professor of geography Jesse Ribot has been awarded a 2018 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.

  • Are you vulnerable to newly discovered online security risks?

    Nearly everyone is. And the culprits, Meltdown and Spectre, could wreak havoc on personal security if ignored, says computer science professor Chris Fletcher

  • Researchers develop new method of trapping multiple particles using fluidics

    Precise control of an individual particle or molecule is a difficult task. Controlling multiple particles simultaneously is an even more challenging endeavor. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new method that relies on fluid flow to manipulate and assemble multiple particles. This new technique can trap a range of submicron- to micron-sized particles, including single DNA molecules, vesicles, drops or cells.

  • Researchers develop model to show how bacteria grow in plumbing systems

    Bacteria in tap water can multiply when a faucet isn’t used for a few days, such as when a house is vacant over a week’s vacation, a new study from University of Illinois engineers found. The study suggests a new method to show how microbial communities, including those responsible for illnesses like Legionnaires’ disease, may assemble inside the plumbing systems of homes and public buildings

  • 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.