blog posts Illinois astronomers help capture first image of Milky Way's black hole May 12, 2022 8:15 am2983 views A team of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers led by physics and astronomy professor Charles Gammie is part of a large international collaboration that unveiled the first image of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This result provides evidence that the object is indeed a black hole and yields valuable clues about the workings of such giants, which researchers think reside at the center of most galaxies. Ice-capped volcanoes slower to erupt, study finds May 9, 2022 8:15 am677 views The Westdahl Peak volcano in Alaska last erupted in 1992, and continued expansion hints at another eruption soon. Experts previously forecasted the next blast to occur by 2010, but the volcano – located under about 1 kilometer of glacial ice – has yet to erupt again. Using the Westdahl Peak volcano as inspiration, a new volcanic modeling study examined how glaciers affect the stability and short-term eruption cycles of high-latitude volcanic systems – some of which exist along major air transportation routes. Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test discerns alpha variant from earlier strains Apr 19, 2022 11:30 am1317 views A point-of-care COVID-19 test developed by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign can now detect and differentiate the alpha variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from earlier strains in saliva samples. Three Illinois professors awarded Guggenheim Fellowships Apr 8, 2022 9:00 am1677 views Illinois chemistry professors So Hirata and Prashant Jain and dance professor Cynthia Oliver received 2022 Guggenheim Fellowships. Why is the use of hypersonic missiles in the Russia-Ukraine conflict significant? Mar 22, 2022 8:15 am7014 views The U.S. recently confirmed that the Russian Ministry of Defence fired a hypersonic ballistic missile to destroy an underground arms depot in western Ukraine. This event marks Russia’s first use of the Kinzhal ballistic missile in this war and the first known use of a hypersonic missile in combat. Mechanical science and engineering professor Kelly Stephani spoke with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian about the significance of this technology. New approach to flexible robotics and metamaterials design mimics nature, encourages sustainability Feb 28, 2022 2:00 pm1858 views A new study challenges the conventional approach to designing soft robotics and a class of materials called metamaterials by utilizing the power of computer algorithms. Researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Technical University of Denmark can now build multimaterial structures without dependence on human intuition or trial-and-error to produce highly efficient actuators and energy absorbers that mimic designs found in nature. Team uses MRI to image epigenetics in the brain Feb 28, 2022 2:00 pm2136 views A multidisciplinary team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has devised a new approach to 3D imaging that captures DNA methylation, a key epigenetic change associated with learning in the brain. The scientists say their proof-of-concept study in pigs will easily translate to humans, as the new method relies on standard MRI technology and biological markers already in use in human medicine. Water filtration membranes morph like cells Feb 23, 2022 1:00 pm1028 views Morphogenesis is nature’s way of building diverse structures and functions out of a fixed set of components. While nature is rich with examples of morphogenesis – cell differentiation, embryonic development and cytoskeleton formation, for example – research into the phenomenon in synthetic materials is scant. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers are taking a step forward using electron tomography, fluid dynamics theories and machine learning to watch soft polymers as the polymers learn from nature. Illinois musicians, chemists use sound to better understand science Feb 17, 2022 9:30 am1991 views The use of sonification to understand the physical mechanisms of protein folding led to a new discovery about the ways a protein can fold. Computer science professor named 2022 Sloan Research Fellow Feb 15, 2022 9:30 am1515 views Computer science professor Bo Li is among 118 recipients of the 2022 Sloan Research Fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. According to the foundation, the awards “honor extraordinary U.S. and Canadian researchers whose creativity, innovation and research accomplishments make them stand out as the next generation of leaders.” Awardees receive a two-year $75,000 fellowship to further their research. Three Illinois faculty members elected to National Academy of Engineering Feb 10, 2022 3:30 pm1538 views Three University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. They are William Hammack, the William H. and Janet G. Lycan Professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering; Youssef Hashash, the William J. and Elaine F. Hall Endowed Professor and John Burkitt Webb Endowed Faculty Scholar in civil and environmental engineering; and Klara Nahrstedt, the Grainger Distinguished Chair of Engineering in computer science and the director of the Coordinated Science Laboratory at the U. of I. How can Illinois address the problem of PFAS pollution? Feb 10, 2022 8:00 am561 views The state of Illinois is investigating the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in community water supplies across the state, with an eye toward developing policies to reduce their use. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers and potential developmental problems in children. News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates spoke about the issue with John Scott, a senior chemist with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. 'Molecular Velcro' enables tissues to sense, react to mechanical force Feb 9, 2022 1:45 pm759 views The Velcro-like cellular proteins that hold cells and tissues together also perform critical functions when they experience increased tension. A new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study observed that when tugged upon in a controlled manner, these proteins – called cadherins – communicate with growth factors to influence in vitro tumor growth in human carcinoma cells. New set of chemical building blocks makes complex 3D molecules in a snap Feb 8, 2022 10:00 am916 views A new set of molecular building blocks aims to make complex chemistry as simple and accessible as a toy construction kit. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed a new class of chemical building blocks that simply snap together to form 3D molecules with complex twists and turns, and an automated machine to assemble the blocks like a 3D printer for molecules. This automation could allow chemists and nonchemists alike to develop new pharmaceuticals, materials, diagnostic probes, catalysts, perfumes, sweeteners and more. Rural air pollution may be as hazardous as urban, study finds Jan 26, 2022 2:00 pm2698 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 pm2834 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 am2919 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 am8566 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 am498 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 am3836 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 am885 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 am2293 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 am2284 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 am838 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 am15255 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 pm1487 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 am953 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 am330 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 am2759 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 am906 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 am1844 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 am1647 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 am929 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 am858 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 pm1283 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 am1431 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 pm1103 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 pm2148 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 am1183 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 pm1973 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 am1740 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 pm1576 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 pm1800 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 am1010 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 am3594 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 pm1858 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 pm1596 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 am2918 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 am2791 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 pm698 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.