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The Lead

RFID tags on honey bees reveal hive dynamics

July 23, 2014 7:56 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists attached radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to hundreds of individual honey bees and tracked them for several weeks. The effort yielded two discoveries: Some foraging bees are much busier than others; and if those busy bees disappear, others will take their place.

Nanocamera takes pictures at distances smaller than light’s wavelength

July 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated that an array of...

Researchers demonstrate novel, tunable nanoantennas

July 14, 2014 1:39 pm | News | Comments

A research team in Illinois has built a new type...

Study pushes limits of ultra-fast nanodevices

July 10, 2014 9:17 am | by Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A recent study by researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides new insights...

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Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

July 2, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The design is inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in nature. They have a backbone of 3-D printed hydrogel, strong enough to give the bio-bot structure but flexible enough to bend like a joint.

The aeroacoustics of jets

June 30, 2014 9:22 am | News | Comments

Aerospace engineers from the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign are using the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede supercomputer to explore how jets in general, like those on modern aircraft and inside the human body, generate noise. This is important because no simple explanation of how jets generate noise is currently available, and without this understanding making jets quieter is difficult.

People with tinnitus process emotions differently from peers

June 26, 2014 12:47 pm | by Chelsey Coombs, Life Sciences Intern, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Patients with persistent ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, process emotions differently in the brain from those with normal hearing, researchers report in Brain Research. Tinnitus afflicts 50 million people in the U.S., and causes those with the condition to hear noises that aren’t really there. These phantom sounds are not speech, but rather whooshing noises, train whistles, cricket noises or whines.

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Drones give farmers eyes in the sky to check on crop progress

June 5, 2014 8:03 am | by Sharita Forrest, News Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

This growing season, crop researchers at the Univ. of Illinois are experimenting with the use of drones—unmanned aerial vehicles—on the university’s South Farms. Dennis Bowman, a crop sciences educator with U. of I. Extension, is using two drones to take aerial pictures of crops growing in research plots on the farms.

Controlling thermal conductivities can improve energy storage

June 4, 2014 7:30 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Materials that control heat flow are available with both high and low conductivities, but materials with variable and reversible thermal conductivities are rare. For the first time, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide, an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range.

Stem cells take initial step toward development in the lab

June 2, 2014 8:02 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The gap between stem cell research and regenerative medicine just became a lot narrower, thanks to a new technique that coaxes stem cells, with potential to become any tissue type, to take the first step to specialization. It is the first time this critical step has been demonstrated in a laboratory.

Cognitive test can differentiate between Alzheimer’s and normal aging

May 21, 2014 8:06 am | by Chelsey Coombs, Life Sciences Intern, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new cognitive test that can better determine whether memory impairments are due to very mild Alzheimer’s disease or the normal aging process. Previous research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease often have impairments in hippocampal function. So the team designed a task that tested participants’ relational memory abilities.

Genetic study helps resolve speculation about first people in the Americas

May 19, 2014 7:45 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A new study could help resolve a longstanding debate about the origins of the first people to inhabit the Americas, researchers report in Science. The study relies on genetic information extracted from the tooth of an adolescent girl who fell into a sinkhole in the Yucatan 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.

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Regenerating plastic grows back after damage

May 9, 2014 8:08 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Looking at a smooth sheet of plastic in one Univ. of Illinois laboratory, no one would guess that an impact had recently blasted a hole through it. Illinois researchers have developed materials that not only heal, but regenerate. Until now, self-repairing materials could only bond tiny microscopic cracks. The new regenerating materials fill in large cracks and holes by regrowing material.

As carbon dioxide levels rise, some crop nutrients will fall

May 8, 2014 8:08 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers have some bad news for future farmers and eaters: As carbon dioxide levels rise this century, some grains and legumes will become significantly less nutritious than they are today. The findings are reported in Nature. Eight institutions, from Australia, Israel, Japan and the U.S., contributed to the analysis.

Multi-target TB drug could treat other disease, evade resistance

April 18, 2014 7:47 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A drug under clinical trials to treat tuberculosis could be the basis for a class of broad-spectrum drugs that act against various bacteria, fungal infections and parasites, yet evade resistance, according to a study by Univ. of Illinois chemists and collaborators. The team determined the different ways the drug SQ109 attacks the tuberculosis bacterium and how the drug can be tweaked to target other pathogens from yeast to malaria.

Potent, puzzling and (now less) toxic: Team discovers how antifungal drug works

April 15, 2014 5:18 pm | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Scientists have solved a decades-old medical mystery, and in the process have found a potentially less toxic way to fight invasive fungal infections, which kill about 1.5 million people a year. The researchers say they now understand the mechanism of action of amphotericin, an antifungal drug that has been in use for more than 50 years even though it is nearly as toxic to human cells as it is to the microbes it attacks.

Emerging research suggests a new paradigm for “unconventional superconductors”

April 10, 2014 8:25 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has reported the first experimental observation of the quantum critical point (QCP) in the extensively studied “unconventional superconductor” TiSe2, finding that it does not reside as predicted within the superconducting dome of the phase diagram, but rather at a full GPa higher in pressure.

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Team finds a better way to grow motor neurons from stem cells

April 1, 2014 3:39 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have reported they can generate human motor neurons from stem cells much more quickly and efficiently than previous methods allowed. The new method involves adding critical signaling molecules to precursor cells a few days earlier than previous methods specified. This increases the proportion of healthy motor neurons derived from stem cells (from 30 to 70%) and cuts in half the time required to do so.

Biomass industry must prepare for water constraints

February 28, 2014 7:43 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The viability of the bioenergy crops industry could be strengthened by regulatory efforts to address nonpoint source pollution from agricultural sources. That, in turn, means that the industry should be strategic in developing metrics that measure the ability to enact positive changes in agricultural landscapes, particularly through second-generation perennial crops, according to a paper by a Univ. of Illinois expert in bioenergy law.

One gene influences recovery from traumatic brain injury

February 27, 2014 9:44 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report that one tiny variation in the sequence of a gene may cause some people to be more impaired by traumatic brain injury than others with comparable wounds. The study, described in PLOS ONE, measured general intelligence in a group of 156 Vietnam War veterans who suffered penetrating head injuries during the war.

“Bad cholesterol” indicates an amino acid deficiency

February 26, 2014 7:29 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad cholesterol” that doctors consider a sign of potential heart disease, is merely a marker of a diet lacking all of the essential amino acids, says Univ. of Illinois comparative biosciences prof. Fred Kummerow, 99, a longtime opponent of the medical establishment’s war on cholesterol.

Soy supplements with isoflavones “reprogram” breast cancer cells

February 25, 2014 8:05 am | by Sharita Forrest, News Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Women with estrogen-responsive breast cancer who consume soy protein supplements containing isoflavones to alleviate the side effects of menopause may be accelerating progression of their cancer, changing it from a treatable subtype to a more aggressive, less treatable form of the disease, new research suggests.

Team converts sugarcane to a cold-tolerant, oil-producing crop

February 24, 2014 11:23 am | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A multi-institutional team reports that it can increase sugarcane’s geographic range, boost its photosynthetic rate by 30% and turn it into an oil-producing crop for biodiesel production. These are only the first steps in a bigger initiative that will turn the highly productive sugarcane and sorghum crop plants into even more productive, oil-generating plants.

Report: Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel

February 12, 2014 1:15 pm | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas and gasoline also can be obtained from shopping bags.

Off-the-shelf materials lead to self-healing polymers

February 4, 2014 2:06 pm | News | Comments

Look out, super glue and paint thinner. Thanks to new dynamic materials developed at the Univ. of Illinois, removable paint and self-healing plastics soon could be household products. Other self-healing material systems have focused on solid, strong materials, but this new study uses softer elastic materials made of polyurea, one of the most widely used classes of polymers in consumer goods such as paints, coatings, elastics and plastics.

3-D imaging provides window into living cells, no dye required

January 22, 2014 8:00 am | Videos | Comments

Living cells are ready for their close-ups, thanks to a new imaging technique that needs no dyes or other chemicals, yet renders high-resolution, 3-D, quantitative imagery of cells and their internal structures—all with conventional microscopes and white light.

Tiny swimming bio-bots boldly go where no bot has swum before

January 20, 2014 8:00 am | News | Comments

The alien world of aquatic microorganisms just got new residents: synthetic self-propelled swimming bio-bots. A team of engineers has developed a class of tiny bio-hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own.

Research: “Sourcing hub” could help create more efficient supply chain

January 15, 2014 3:55 pm | by Phil Ciciora, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

According to Anupam Agrawal, a professor of business administration at the Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, firms can manage their sourcing better by developing relationships not only with their suppliers but also with their suppliers’ suppliers. The lack of communication or collaboration between the big players at either end of the supply chain spectrum can prevent gains in efficiencies.

Breakthrough helps explain plasmonic secondary light emission

January 13, 2014 1:47 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Plasmonic nanostructures are of great current interest as chemical sensors or imaging agents because they can detect the emission of light at a different wavelength than the excitation light. Researchers have struggled with how to interpret this resonant secondary light emission. Recent work that models the emission as Raman scattering from electron-hole pairs, however, has shown a way to predict emission outcome.

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