blog posts Rural air pollution may be as hazardous as urban, study finds Jan 26, 2022 2:00 pm228 views New research shows that chemical reactivity, seasonality and distribution of airborne particulate matter are critical metrics when considering air pollution’s impact on human health. Current environmental regulations focus on the mass of pollutant particles, and researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign are pushing to refocus regulatory efforts on more regional and health-relevant factors. 14 Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows Jan 25, 2022 5:45 pm1197 views Fourteen University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected 2021 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Researchers simulate behavior of living 'minimal cell' in three dimensions Jan 20, 2022 10:00 am2016 views Scientists report that they have built a living “minimal cell” with a genome stripped down to its barest essentials – and a computer model of the cell that mirrors its behavior. By refining and testing their model, the scientists say they are developing a system that can predict how changes to the genomes, living conditions or physical characteristics of live cells will alter how they function. Models predict optimal airplane seating for reduced viral transmission Dec 21, 2021 9:45 am3168 views As airline ticket sales have soared during the holiday season and the omicron variant causes surges of COVID-19 cases, a new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study may help passengers and airlines reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission by optimally seating passengers to minimize potential virus spread. Researchers used the most current data on aerosol spread on airplanes to calculate optimal seating assignments for common Boeing aircraft at different capacities. Study combines climatic, tectonic models to explain Andean conundrum Dec 14, 2021 10:45 am447 views The Andes Mountains are much taller than plate tectonic theories predict they should be, a fact that has puzzled geologists for decades. Mountain-building models tend to focus on the deep-seated compressional forces that occur when tectonic plates collide and send rocks skyward. A new study demonstrates how modern top-down models that account for climate-related factors combined with traditional bottom-up tectonic models can help uncover the perplexing history of the Andes Mountains. How common are December tornadoes in the US and why are they so dangerous? Dec 14, 2021 8:00 am3640 views The Dec. 10 tornado outbreak that devastated parts of the mid-Mississippi Valley has left many wondering if winter tornadoes are a new weather threat to consider in the United States. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign atmospheric sciences professor and department head (Robert) Jeff Trapp spoke with Illinois News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about this and other details about the timing and geography of tornadoes that we might expect in the future. Study: Fire hastens permafrost collapse in Arctic Alaska Dec 9, 2021 10:00 am797 views While climate change is the primary driver of permafrost degradation in Arctic Alaska, a new analysis of 70 years of data reveals that tundra fires are accelerating that decline, contributing disproportionately to a phenomenon known as “thermokarst,” the abrupt collapse of ice-rich permafrost as a result of thawing. How does society impact the benefits and challenges of technology? Dec 8, 2021 11:15 am930 views Technology is a big part of life. In India, for example, street vendors and rickshawallahs use cellphones, the internet and Aadhar cards – 12-digit identification numbers given to every citizen of India based on their biometric and demographic data. However, charismatic gurus and superstition still thrive in India. In the new book "Reluctant Technophiles: India’s Complicated Relationship with Technology,” University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign electrical and computer engineering professor Rakesh Kumar provides an account of India’s often contradictory relationship with technology. News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with Kumar about these contradictions, and how India’s situation is both unique and universal. Bubbling up: Previously hidden environmental impact of bursting bubbles exposed in new study Nov 18, 2021 10:00 am2233 views Bubbles are common in nature and can form when ocean waves break and when raindrops impact surfaces. When bubbles burst, they send tiny jets of water and other materials into the air. A new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign examines how the interplay between bubble surfaces and water that contains organic materials contributes to the transport of aerosolized organic materials – some of which are linked to the spread of disease or contamination – into the atmosphere. How can cities help accelerate climate action to meet COP26 goals? Nov 18, 2021 8:00 am766 views Last weekend, international negotiators approved the United Nations Glasgow Climate Pact at the 26th Conference of the Parties. Ashish Sharma, the Illinois research climatologist at the Illinois State Water Survey, spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the takeaways from the COP26 and how the goals set at the global-level conference can be translated to the local level by U.S. cities. Six Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 16, 2021 7:45 am14851 views Six faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2021 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. Sustainable electrochemical process could revolutionize lithium-ion battery recycling Nov 15, 2021 1:00 pm1308 views Spent lithium-ion batteries contain valuable metals that are difficult to separate from each other for recycling purposes. Used batteries present a sustainable source of these metals, especially cobalt and nickel, but the current methods used for their separation have environmental and efficiency drawbacks. A new technology uses electrochemistry to efficiently separate and recover the metals, making spent batteries a highly sustainable secondary source of cobalt and nickel – the reserves of which are currently dwindling. A large asteroid will pass by Earth this week – should we worry? Nov 10, 2021 9:30 am897 views Recent weeks have witnessed a series of medium-to-large-sized asteroids cross paths with Earth’s orbit. The largest of the pack – asteroid 2004 UE – is on track to make its closest approach to the planet Nov. 13. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign astronomy professor and chair Leslie Looney spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about what researchers refer to as near Earth objects and how much of a threat they are to the planet. Are global CO2 emissions rebounding to pre-COVID-19 levels? Nov 9, 2021 11:45 am295 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 am2715 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 am868 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. Study provides basis to evaluate food subsectors' emissions of three greenhouse gases Sep 13, 2021 10:00 am1436 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 am847 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 am814 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 pm1231 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 am1369 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 pm1066 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 pm2032 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 am966 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 pm1916 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 am1683 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 pm1515 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 pm1677 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 am954 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 am3401 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 pm1714 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 pm1573 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 am2724 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 am2733 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 pm678 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 am694 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 am1316 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 am1439 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 am2371 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 pm1162 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 pm1007 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 am1400 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 pm1140 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 pm1513 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 am1086 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 pm1584 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 am904 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 am2341 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 am5858 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 am975 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.