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Engineering

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  • Researchers gain control over internal structure of self-assembled composite materials

    Composites made from self-assembling inorganic materials are valued for their unique strength and thermal, optical and magnetic properties. However, because self-assembly can be difficult to control, the structures formed can be highly disordered, leading to defects during large-scale production. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Michigan have developed a templating technique that instills greater order and gives rise to new 3D structures in a special class of materials, called eutectics, to form new, high-performance materials.

  • For CRISPR, tweaking DNA fragments before inserting yields highest efficiency rates yet

    University of Illinois researchers achieved the highest reported rates of inserting genes into human cells with the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system, a necessary step for harnessing CRISPR for clinical gene-therapy applications.

    By chemically tweaking the ends of the DNA to be inserted, the new technique is up to five times more efficient than current approaches. The researchers saw improvements at various genetic locations tested in a human kidney cell line, even seeing 65% insertion at one site where the previous high had been 15%.

  • Scientists develop gentle, microscopic hands to study tiny, soft materials

    Handling very soft, delicate items without damaging them is hard enough with human hands, let alone doing it at the microscopic scale with laboratory instruments. Three new studies show how scientists have honed a technique for handling tiny, soft particles using precisely controlled fluid flows that act as gentle microscopic hands. The technique allows researchers to test the physical limits of these soft particles and the things made from them – ranging from biological tissues to fabric softeners.

  • New polymer material may help batteries become self-healing, recyclable

    Lithium-ion batteries are notorious for developing internal electrical shorts that can ignite a battery’s liquid electrolytes, leading to explosions and fires. Engineers at the University of Illinois have developed a solid polymer-based electrolyte that can self-heal after damage – and the material can also be recycled without the use of harsh chemicals or high temperatures.

  • Single-molecule detection of cancer markers brings liquid biopsy closer to clinic

    A fast, inexpensive yet sensitive technique to detect cancer markers is bringing researchers closer to a “liquid biopsy” – a test using a small sample of blood or serum to detect cancer, rather than the invasive tissue sampling routinely used for diagnosis.

    Researchers at the University of Illinois developed a method to capture and count cancer-associated microRNAs, or tiny bits of messenger molecules that are exuded from cells and can be detected in blood or serum, with single-molecule resolution.

  • New heat model may help electronic devices last longer

    A University of Illinois-based team of engineers has found that the model currently used to predict heat loss in a common semiconductor material does not apply in all situations. By testing the thermal properties of gallium nitride semiconductors fabricated using four popular methods, the team discovered that some techniques produce materials that perform better than others. This new understanding can help chip manufacturers find ways to better diffuse the heat that leads to device damage and decreased device lifespans.

  • Eight Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Eight professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2019 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  • Graphene: The more you bend it, the softer it gets

    New research by engineers at the University of Illinois combines atomic-scale experimentation with computer modeling to determine how much energy it takes to bend multilayer graphene – a question that has eluded scientists since graphene was first isolated. The findings are reported in the journal Nature Materials.

  • Artificial intelligence to run the chemical factories of the future

    A new proof-of-concept study details how an automated system driven by artificial intelligence can design, build, test and learn complex biochemical pathways to efficiently produce lycopene, a red pigment found in tomatoes and commonly used as a food coloring, opening the door to a wide range of biosynthetic applications, researchers report.  

  • BTN premieres documentary on pioneering educator

    “William L. Everitt: An Optimist’s Journey” premieres Nov. 11 at 9:30 p.m. CST/10:30 p.m. EST on the Big Ten Network. The new 30-minute documentary tells the story of the inventor, author, visionary and former dean of what is now The Grainger College of Engineering.

     

  • Human reflexes keep two-legged robot upright

    Imagine being trapped inside a collapsed building after a disaster, wondering if anybody will be brave enough to rescue you. Suddenly, a door bursts open, and standing in the shadows is a robot. But this is not just any robot; this one has quick, humanlike reflexes and is guided by a person from a remote location who feels the same physical forces the robot is experiencing.

  • Crystallization clarified, researchers report

    Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University have made it possible to observe and simulate the self-assembly of crystalline materials at a much higher resolution than before.

  • Researchers build microscopic biohybrid robots propelled by muscles, nerves

    Researchers have developed soft robotic devices driven by neuromuscular tissue that triggers when stimulated by light – bringing mechanical engineering one step closer to developing autonomous biobots.

  • Researchers develop technique to de-ice surfaces in seconds

    Airplane wings, wind turbines and indoor heating systems all struggle under the weight and chill of ice. Defrosting and de-icing techniques are energy-intensive, however, and often require large masses of ice to melt completely in order to work. Researchers from the University of Illinois and Kyushu University in Japan have developed a new technique that requires only a thin layer of ice at the interface of a surface to melt, allowing it to slide off under the force of gravity.

  • Tiny thermometer measures how mitochondria heat up the cell by unleashing proton energy

    Armed with a tiny new thermometer probe that can quickly measure temperature inside of a cell, University of Illinois researchers have illuminated a mysterious aspect of metabolism: heat generation.

  • Researchers turn off backscattering, aim to improve optical data transmission

    Engineers at the University of Illinois have found a way to redirect misfit light waves to reduce energy loss during optical data transmission. In a study, researchers exploited an interaction between light and sound waves to suppress the scattering of light from material defects – which could lead to improved fiber optic communication. Their findings are published in the journal Optica.

  • Printing flattens polymers, improving electrical and optical properties

    Researchers have found a way to use polymer printing to stretch and flatten twisted molecules so that they conduct electricity better. A team led by chemical and biomolecular engineers from the University of Illinois report their findings in the journal Science Advances.

  • Researchers embrace imperfection to improve biomolecule transport

    While watching the production of porous membranes used for DNA sorting and sequencing, University of Illinois researchers wondered how tiny steplike defects formed during fabrication could be used to improve molecule transport. They found that the defects – formed by overlapping layers of membrane – make a big difference in how molecules move along a membrane surface. Instead of trying to fix these flaws, the team set out to use them to help direct molecules into the membrane pores.

  • Artificial intelligence could help air travelers save a bundle

    Researchers are using artificial intelligence to help airlines price ancillary services such as checked bags and seat reservations in a way that is beneficial to customers’ budget and privacy, as well as to the airline industry’s bottom line.

  • Search for new semiconductors heats up with gallium oxide

    University of Illinois electrical engineers have cleared another hurdle in high-power semiconductor fabrication by adding the field’s hottest material – beta-gallium oxide – to their arsenal. Beta-gallium oxide is readily available and promises to convert power faster and more efficiently than today’s leading semiconductor materials – gallium nitride and silicon, the researchers said.

  • Human waste an asset to economy, environment, study finds

    Human waste might be an unpleasant public health burden, but scientists at the University of Illinois see sanitation as a valuable facet of global ecosystems and an overlooked source of nutrients, organic material and water.

  • Researchers unveil how soft materials react to deformation at molecular level

    Before designing the next generation of soft materials, researchers must first understand how they behave during rapidly changing deformation. In a new study, researchers challenged previous assumptions regarding polymer behavior with newly developed laboratory techniques that measure polymer flow at the molecular level.

  • Polymers jump through hoops on pathway to sustainable materials

    Recyclable plastics that contain ring-shaped polymers may be a key to developing sustainable synthetic materials. Despite some promising advances, researchers said, a full understanding of how to processes ring polymers into practical materials remains elusive. In a new study, researchers identified a mechanism called “threading” that takes place when a polymer is stretched – a behavior not witnessed before. This new insight may lead to new processing methods for sustainable polymer materials.

  • Multistep self-assembly opens door to new reconfigurable materials

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Self-assembling synthetic materials come together when tiny, uniform building blocks interact and form a structure. However, nature lets materials like proteins of varying size and shape assemble, allowing for complex architectures that can handle multiple tasks.

     

  • Study: Reducing energy required to convert CO2 waste into valuable resources

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Surplus industrial carbon dioxide creates an opportunity to convert waste into a valuable commodity. Excess CO2 can be a feedstock for chemicals typically derived from fossil fuels, but the process is energy-intensive and expensive. University of Illinois chemical engineers have assessed the technical and economic feasibility of a new electrolysis technology that uses a cheap biofuel byproduct to reduce the energy consumption of the waste-to-value process by 53 percent.

  • Smart antioxidant-containing polymer responds to body chemistry, environment

    Oxidants found within living organisms are byproducts of metabolism and are essential to wound-healing and immunity. However, when their concentrations become too high, inflammation and tissue damage can occur. University of Illinois engineers have developed and tested a new drug-delivery system that senses high oxidant levels and responds by administering just the right amount of antioxidant to restore this delicate balance.

  • Is there a cure for potholes?

    Temperatures may be on the rise, but many motorists and pedestrians remain focused on the ground as they attempt to navigate safely around the many potholes that develop this time of year. Industrial and enterprise systems engineering professor Henrique M. Reis spoke with Illinois News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about how potholes form and if there are any potential solutions.

  • New model predicts how ground shipping will affect future human health, environment

    The trucks and trains that transport goods across the United States emit gases and particles that threaten human health and the environment. A University of Illinois-led project developed a new model that predicts through 2050 the impact of different environmental policies on human mortality rates and short- and long-term climate change caused by particulate and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Feeling groovy: Neurons integrate better with muscle grown on grooved platforms

    Growing muscle tissue on grooved platforms helps neurons more effectively integrate with the muscle, a requirement for engineering muscle in the lab that responds and functions like muscle in the body, University of Illinois researchers found in a new study.

  • Researchers gain control over soft-molecule synthesis

    By gaining control over shape, size and composition during synthetic molecule assembly, researchers can begin to probe how these factors influence the function of soft materials. Finding these answers could help advance virology, drug delivery development and the creation of new materials. 

  • Researchers diversify drug development options with new metal catalyst

    A University of Illinois team of researchers led by chemistry professor M. Christina White has developed a new manganese-based catalyst that can change the structure of druglike molecules to make new drugs, advancing the pace and efficiency of drug development. 

  • Unmuting large silent genes lets bacteria produce new molecules, potential drug candidates

    By enticing away the repressors dampening unexpressed, silent genes in Streptomyces bacteria, researchers at the University of Illinois have unlocked several large gene clusters for new natural products, according to a study published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology.

  • Superfluidity: what is it and why does it matter?

    2018 marks the 80th anniversary of the landmark physics discovery of superfluidity. News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian asked University of Illinois physics professor and 2003 Nobel Prize winner Anthony Leggett about the significance of the historic finding.

  • New drug seeks receptors in sarcoma cells, attacks tumors in animal trials

    A new compound that targets a receptor within sarcoma cancer cells shrank tumors and hampered their ability to spread in mice and pigs, a study from researchers at the University of Illinois reports.

  • Eleven Illinois researchers rank among world’s most influential

    Eleven faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2018 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list.

  • Diagnostic tool helps engineers to design better global infrastructure solutions

    Designing safe bridges and water systems for low-income communities is not always easy for engineers coming from highly industrialized places. A new discipline called contextual engineering helps engineers think beyond personal values, expectations and definitions of project success when tackling global infrastructure problems.

  • Bashir named College of Engineering dean

    Rashid Bashir, the executive associate dean and chief diversity officer of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, will become the next dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign effective Nov. 1.

  • New, highly stable catalyst may help turn water into fuel

    Breaking the bonds between oxygen and hydrogen in water could be a key to the creation of hydrogen in a sustainable manner, but finding an economically viable technique for this has proved difficult. Researchers report a new hydrogen-generating catalyst that clears many of the obstacles – abundance, stability in acid conditions and efficiency.

  • Researchers develop microbubble scrubber to destroy dangerous biofilms

    Stiff microbial films often coat medical devices, household items and infrastructure such as the inside of water supply pipes, and can lead to dangerous infections. Researchers have developed a system that harnesses the power of bubbles to propel tiny particles through the surfaces of these tough films and deliver an antiseptic deathblow to the microbes living inside.

  • Color-changing sensor detects signs of eye damage in tears

    A new point-of-care rapid-sensing device can detect a key marker of eye injury in minutes – a time frame crucial to treating eye trauma.  

    University of Illinois researchers developed a gel laden with gold nanoparticles that changes color when it reacts with a teardrop containing ascorbic acid, released from a wound to the eye. In a new study published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, the researchers used the sensor, called OjoGel, to measure ascorbic acid levels in artificial tears and in clinical samples of fluid from patients’ eyes. 

  • New CRISPR technique skips over portions of genes that can cause disease

    In a new study in cells, University of Illinois researchers have adapted CRISPR gene-editing technology to cause the cell’s internal machinery to skip over a small portion of a gene when transcribing it into a template for protein building. This gives researchers a way not only to eliminate a mutated gene sequence, but to influence how the gene is expressed and regulated.

    Such targeted editing could one day be useful for treating genetic diseases caused by mutations in the genome, such as Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease or some cancers.

  • Study: Human wastewater valuable to global agriculture, economics

    It may seem off-putting to some, but human waste is full of nutrients that can be recycled into valuable products that could promote agricultural sustainability and better economic independence for some developing countries.

  • 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.  

  • High-power electronics keep their cool with new heat-conducting crystals

    The inner workings of high-power electronic devices must remain cool to operate reliably. High internal temperatures can make programs run slower, freeze or shut down. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The University of Texas, Dallas have collaborated to optimize the crystal-growing process of boron arsenide – a material that has excellent thermal properties and can effectively dissipate the heat generated in electronic devices.

  • Study reveals how polymers relax after stressful processing

    The polymers that make up synthetic materials need time to de-stress after processing, researchers said. A new study has found that entangled, long-chain polymers in solutions relax at two different rates, marking an advancement in fundamental polymer physics. The findings will provide a better understanding of the physical properties of polymeric materials and critical new insight to how individual polymer molecules respond to high-stress processing conditions.

  • Study yields a new scale of earthquake understanding

    Nanoscale knowledge of the relationships between water, friction and mineral chemistry could lead to a better understanding of earthquake dynamics, researchers said in a new study. Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used microscopic friction measurements to confirm that, under the right conditions, some rocks can dissolve and may cause faults to slip. 

  • DNA enzyme shuffles cell membranes a thousand times faster than its natural counterpart

    A new synthetic enzyme, crafted from DNA rather than protein, flips lipid molecules within the cell membrane, triggering a signal pathway that could be harnessed to induce cell death in cancer cells. It is the first such synthetic enzyme to outperform its natural counterparts.

  • What now with gerrymandering? Are algorithms part of the answer?

    The Supreme Court “punted” this week on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, but left the door open to future action. An Illinois professor hopes her research can be part of the solution.

  • New tissue-imaging technology could enable real-time diagnostics, map cancer progression

    A new microscope system can image living tissue in real time and in molecular detail, without any chemicals or dyes, report researchers at the University of Illinois.

  • New aircraft-scheduling models may ease air travel frustrations

    Flight schedules that allow for a little carefully designed wiggle room could prevent the frustration of cascading airport delays and cancellations. By focusing on the early phases of flight schedule planning and delays at various scales, researchers have developed models to help create schedules that are less susceptible to delays and easier to fix once disrupted.