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Engineering

Channel migration plays leading role in river network evolution, study finds

Satellite views of Earth’s major river systems reveal their familiar treelike drainage patterns. The pattern – called dendritic – and its prevalence suggests that it may be the optimal state in which rivers exist. Challenged by the knowledge that numerical models of drainage evolution have yet to substantiate this assumption, researchers are now thinking of rivers as existing in a persistent reorganizational state instead of being in a set, stable configuration. Understanding this has implications for land use and infrastructure management decisions.

Mysterious organic scum boosts chemical reaction efficiency, may reduce chemical waste

Chemical manufacturers frequently use toxic solvents such as alcohols and benzene to make products like pharmaceuticals and plastics. Researchers are examining a previously overlooked and misunderstood phenomenon in the chemical reactions used to make these products. This discovery brings a new fundamental understanding of catalytic chemistry and a steppingstone to practical applications that could someday make chemical manufacturing less wasteful and more environmentally sound.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Spinal cord gives bio-bots walking rhythm

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

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.

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