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Engineering

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  • Researchers confront optics and data-transfer challenges with 3D-printed lens

    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

    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.

  • Three Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    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

    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

    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.

  • New mobile COVID-19 lab prototype completed

    Researchers have completed a prototype for a mobile laboratory designed to demonstrate a way to rapidly deploy the I-COVID saliva-based test for COVID-19 developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The lab, called mobileSHIELD, also could deliver other testing capability during a public health crisis, and it will serve as a rich source of human factors engineering data.

  • Copolymer helps remove pervasive PFAS toxins from environment

    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.

  • U of I virtual test assesses bioengineering students' laboratory skills

    When COVID-19 forced the U. of I. to go to online-only instruction last spring, a team led by bioengineering professor Karin Jensen created a test to remotely assess students' ability to culture cells in the laboratory.

  • Cicada-inspired waterproof surfaces closer to reality, researchers report

    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.

  • Octopus-inspired sucker transfers thin, delicate tissue grafts and biosensors

    Thin tissue grafts and flexible electronics have a host of applications for wound healing, regenerative medicine and biosensing. A new device inspired by an octopus’s sucker rapidly transfers delicate tissue or electronic sheets to the patient, overcoming a key barrier to clinical application, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and collaborators.

  • Multi-institutional team extracts more energy from sunlight with advanced solar panels

    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

    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?

    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

    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.

  • Study: Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test could bypass the lab

    In a new study, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign researchers have demonstrated a prototype of a rapid COVID-19 molecular test and a simple-to-use, portable instrument for reading the results with a smartphone in 30 minutes, which could enable point-of-care diagnosis without needing to send samples to a lab.

  • U of I to lead two of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes

    The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture are announcing an investment of more than $140 million to establish seven artificial intelligence institutes in the U.S. Two of the seven will be led by teams at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    The USDA-NIFA will fund the AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability at the U. of I. Illinois computer science professor Vikram Adve will lead the AIFARMS Institute.

    The NSF will fund the AI Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing, also known as the Molecule Maker Lab Institute. Huimin Zhao, a U. of I. professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry, will lead this institute.

  • New approach to explaining soft material flow may yield way to new materials, disaster prediction

    How does toothpaste stay in its tube and not ooze out when we remove the cap? What causes seemingly solid ground to suddenly break free into a landslide? Defining exactly how soft materials flow and seize has eluded researchers for years, but a new study explains this complex motion using relatively simple experiments. The ability to define – and eventually predict – soft material flow will benefit people dealing with everything from spreadable cheese to avalanches.

  • Machine learning peeks into nano-aquariums

    In the nanoworld, tiny particles such as proteins appear to dance as they transform and assemble to perform various tasks while suspended in a liquid. Recently developed methods have made it possible to watch and record these otherwise-elusive tiny motions, and researchers now take a step forward by developing a machine learning workflow to streamline the process. 

  • Students use TikTok to learn about biomechanics during engineering virtual summer camps

    Teens attending the virtual summer camps hosted by the College of Engineering used the video-sharing medium TikTok to learn the principles of biomechanics and the techniques of motion-capture analysis.

  • Illinois 'engineer guy' Hammack awarded Hoover Medal

    Bill Hammack, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has been awarded the Hoover Medal.

  • Electronic components join forces to take up 10 times less space on computer chips

    Electronic filters are part of the inner workings of our phones and other wireless devices. They eliminate or enhance specific input signals to achieve the desired output signals. They are essential, but take up space on the chips that researchers are on a constant quest to make smaller. A new study demonstrates the successful integration of the individual elements that make up electronic filters onto a single component, significantly reducing the amount of space taken up by the device.

  • Training neural circuits early in development improves response, study finds

    When it comes to training neural circuits for tissue engineering or biomedical applications, a new study suggests a key parameter: Train them young.

     

  • Electric cooker an easy, efficient way to sanitize N95 masks, study finds

    Owners of electric multicookers may be able to add another use to its list of functions, a new study suggests: sanitization of N95 respirator masks.

    The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign study found that 50 minutes of dry heat in an electric cooker, such as a rice cooker or Instant Pot, decontaminated N95 respirators inside and out while maintaining their filtration and fit. This could enable wearers to safely reuse limited supplies of the respirators, originally intended to be one-time-use items. 

  • CHIME in Illinois puts students to work on COVID-related data science projects

    An international public health initiative connects students and public health agencies with data-information needs.

  • Human activity on rivers outpaces, compounds effects of climate change

    The livelihoods of millions of people living along the world’s biggest river systems are under threat by a range of stressors caused by the daily economic, societal and political activity of humans – in addition to the long-term effects of climate change, researchers report.

  • Researchers mimic nature for fast, colorful 3D printing

    Brilliantly colored chameleons, butterflies, opals – and now some 3D-printed materials – reflect color by using nanoscale structures called photonic crystals. A new study that demonstrates how a modified 3D-printing process provides a versatile approach to producing multiple colors from a single ink is published in the journal Science Advances.

  • Do COVID-19 apps protect your privacy?

    Many mobile apps that track the spread of COVID-19 ask for personal data but don’t indicate the information will be secure.

  • Making a homemade COVID mask? Study explains best fabric choices

    Health authorities believe COVID-19 spreads by the transmission of respiratory droplets, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends homemade cloth face coverings for use in public spaces. Starting today, Illinois joins many other states in requiring people to wear masks while out. However, initial uncertainty regarding the masks’ effectiveness in reducing exhaled droplets leaves some people unsure or skeptical of their usefulness during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Mechanical science and engineering professor Taher Saif spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about a study that he and his graduate students, Onur Aydin and Bashar Emon, performed on the effectiveness of common household fabrics for use in homemade masks.

  • Nanostimulators boost stem cells for muscle repair

    In regenerative medicine, an ideal treatment for patients whose muscles are damaged from lack of oxygen would be to invigorate them with an injection of their own stem cells.

    In a new study published in the journal ACS Nano, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated that “nanostimulators” – nanoparticles seeded with a molecule the body naturally produces to prompt stem cells to heal wounds – can amp up stem cells’ regenerative powers in a targeted limb in mice.

  • Spinal cord gives bio-bots walking rhythm

    Miniature biological robots are making greater strides than ever, thanks to the spinal cord directing their steps.

  • Inexpensive, portable detector identifies pathogens in minutes

    Most viral test kits rely on labor- and time-intensive laboratory preparation and analysis techniques; for example, tests for the novel coronavirus can take days to detect the virus from nasal swabs. Now, researchers have demonstrated an inexpensive yet sensitive smartphone-based testing device for viral and bacterial pathogens that takes about 30 minutes to complete. The roughly $50 smartphone accessory could reduce the pressure on testing laboratories during a pandemic such as COVID-19.

  • New study shows how oxygen transfer is altered in diseased lung tissue

    A multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed tiny sensors that measure oxygen transport in bovine lung tissue. The study – which establishes a new framework for observing the elusive connection between lung membranes, oxygen flow and related disease – is published in the journal Nature Communications.

  • Crumpled graphene makes ultra-sensitive cancer DNA detector

    Graphene-based biosensors could usher in an era of liquid biopsy, detecting DNA cancer markers circulating in a patient’s blood or serum. But current designs need a lot of DNA. In a new study, crumpling graphene makes it more than ten thousand times more sensitive to DNA by creating electrical “hot spots,” researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found.

  • Study maps landmarks of peripheral artery disease to guide treatment development

    Novel biomedical advances that show promise in the lab often fall short in clinical trials. For researchers studying peripheral artery disease, this is made more difficult by a lack of standardized metrics for what recovery looks like. A new study from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers identifies major landmarks of PAD recovery, creating signposts for researchers seeking to understand the disease and develop treatments.

  • Breaking the temperature barrier in small-scale materials testing

    Researchers have demonstrated a new method for testing microscopic aeronautical materials at ultra-high temperatures. By combining electron microscopy and laser heating, scientists can evaluate these materials much more quickly and inexpensively than with traditional testing.

  • New CRISPR base-editing technology slows ALS progression in mice

    A new CRISPR gene-editing method can inactivate one of the genes responsible for an inherited form of ALS, scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign report in a new study. The novel treatment slowed disease progression, improved muscle function and extended lifespan in mice with an aggressive form of ALS.

  • Sottos elected to National Academy of Engineering

    Nancy Sottos, an engineering professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She is one of 87 new members and 18 international members announced by the Academy on Feb. 6.

  • Hybrid microscope could bring digital biopsy to the clinic

    By adding infrared capability to the ubiquitous, standard optical microscope, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hope to bring cancer diagnosis into the digital era.

  • Researchers expand microchip capability with new 3D inductor technology

    Smaller is better when it comes to microchips, researchers said, and by using 3D components on a standardized 2D microchip manufacturing platform, developers can use up to 100 times less chip space. A team of engineers has boosted the performance of its previously developed 3D inductor technology by adding as much as three orders of magnitudes more induction to meet the performance demands of modern electronic devices.

  • New understanding of condensation could lead to better power plant condenser, de-icing materials

    For decades, it’s been understood that water repellency is needed for surfaces to shed condensation buildup – like the droplets of water that form in power plant condensers to reduce pressure. New research shows that the necessity of water repellency is unclear and that the slipperiness between the droplets and solid surface appears to be more critical to the clearing of condensation. This development has implications for the costs associated with power generation and technologies like de-icing surfaces for power lines and aircraft.

  • Advanced polymers help streamline water purification, environmental remediation

    It takes a lot of energy to collect, clean and dispose of contaminated water. Some contaminants, like arsenic, occur in low concentrations, calling for even more energy-intensive selective removal processes.

  • 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.