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Physical Sciences

Monster hurricanes: Why have recent storms been so huge?

Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as the first Category 4 storm in recorded history to reach shore in the northeast Gulf Coast. News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian spoke with Illinois atmospheric sciences professor Deanna Hence about the storm’s size, strength and path, and the impact of global climate change on future hurricanes. 

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.

Ebert Symposium to feature IMAX film, astronaut videographer, storytelling with data

The first Roger Ebert Symposium will explore the cinematic presentation of science with help from an IMAX film shot from space, a former astronaut and a diverse group of academics and experts.

Designer enzyme conquers sulfite reduction, a bottleneck in environmental cleanup

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Researchers have cleared one hurdle toward environmental cleanup of certain contaminants with a newly designed synthetic enzyme that reduces the compound sulfite to sulfide – a notoriously complex multistep chemical reaction that has eluded chemists for years.

Study: Kidney stones have distinct geological histories

A geologist, a microscopist and a doctor walk into a lab and, with their colleagues from across the nation, make a discovery that overturns centuries of thought about the nature and composition of kidney stones. The team’s key insight, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, is that kidney stones are built up in calcium-rich layers that resemble other mineralizations in nature, such as those forming coral reefs or arising in hot springs, Roman aqueducts or subsurface oil fields.

Study: Large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara would increase heat, rain, vegetation

Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat, humidity and other factors that may be beneficial – or detrimental – to the regions in which they are situated. A new climate-modeling study finds that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation. Overall, the researchers report, the effects would likely benefit the region.

Connectivity explains ecosystem responses to rainfall, drought

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reveal techniques – inspired by the study of information theory – to track how changes in precipitation alter interactions between the atmosphere, vegetation and soil at two National Science Foundation Critical Zone Observatory sites in the western United States.

A professor not afraid to cross academic boundaries

Illinois professor Ruby Mendenhall is focused on issues of poverty, inequality and violence, but crosses many academic boundaries in search of answers.

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.

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