In The News

This monthly summary includes excerpts from Illinois in the News, a daily service provided by the University of Illinois News Bureau and other media search tools. This collection of recent stories focuses on engineering topics and faculty contacted for their expertise by print and broadcast reporters around the world.

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June 2014 media appearances


LiveScience (June 30) -- Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. “Biological actuation driven by cells is a fundamental need for any kind of biological machine you want to build,” said study leader Rashid Bashir, Abel Bliss Professor and head of bioengineering at Illinois.  “We’re trying to integrate these principles of engineering with biology in a way that can be used to design and develop biological machines and systems for environmental and medical applications. Biology is tremendously powerful, and if we can somehow learn to harness its advantages for useful applications, it could bring about a lot of great things.” Also: Phys.Org (Isle of Man, June 30), ScienceBlog (June 30), NDTV (July 1), Nature World News (July 1), Business Insider Austrailia (July 1), Business Standard (India, July 1), Scientific Computing (July 1), Science 360 (NSF, July 2), Forbes (July 2), TechCrunch (July 2), NBC News (July 1), Science 2.0 (July 1), Daily Mail (UK, July 1), Engadget (July 2), Zee News (Australia, July 2), NDTV (India, July 1), Nature World News (July 1), The Engineer (July 2), (July 1), (July 2), Laboratory Equipment (July 1), Dehli Daily News (India, July 2), Engineering & Technology (July 2), Times of India (July 2), French Tribune (July 2), Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, July 3), io9 (July 2), The Guardian (July 2), CNET (San Francisco, Calif., July 6), Medical Device Online (July 7), Science Recorder (July 7), (July 2), 3-D (July 2), Medagadget (July 3), Design & Trend (July 3), Tech Times (July 3), Medical Daily (July 2), Headlines & Global News (July 2), The Inquisitr (July 2), Austrian Tribune (July 3), Uncover California (July 4), Daily Caller (July 2), Zenopa (July 3).

O'Hare runway

Chicago Tribune (June 30) -- During the pouring of underpavement layers that began this month, O'Hare International Airport became the first U.S. airport to use recycled asphalt shingles in runway construction, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The city of Chicago, working with consultants and researchers at Illinois, began experimenting with recycled roofing shingles in 2012.

Quantum mechanics

Wired (from Simons Science News; San Francisco, Calif., June 30) -- It may just be a matter of effort to recast the predictions of quantum mechanics in the pilot-wave language, said Anthony Leggett, an Illinois professor of physics, and a Nobel laureate. “Whether one thinks this is worth a lot of time and effort is a matter of personal taste,” he added. “Personally, I don’t.”


Vox (June 30) -- The controversial cryptocurrency Bitcoin still faces widespread skepticism. Bitcoin criticisms give venture capitalist and Illinois alumnus Marc Andreessen a sense of deja vu. Twenty years ago, he was an early adopter of another technology that was widely dismissed as an impractical fad: the internet.

Jet noise

R&D Magazine (Rockaway, N.J., June 30) -- Aerospace engineers from Illinois 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. Daniel Bodony and his colleagues are trying to solve this problem using Stampede to simulate the turbulent motion generated by air moving from the jet engines and then virtually testing the shape and location of actuators and acoustic liners that can reduce jet noise. Also: Red Orbit (June 28), ScienceBlog (June 29), Science 360 (July 1).

AE alumnus to take custody of ISEE-3

Los Angeles Times (June 25) - Article profiles the 82-year-old spaceflight engineer Bob Farquhar (BS 1959, Aerospace Engineering). Several decades after retiring from NASA, he and a “group of self-described space cowboys have won permission to be the first privately organized group to take control of a retired government satellite and change its orbit.” They will attempt to reactivate the International Sun-Earth Explorer 3 (ISEE-3), a satellite that Farquhar helped launch into space 36 years ago. After a successful crowd-funding campaign to implore NASA to cede control of the satellite, members of the reboot team have used “the massive radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, to establish contact with ISEE-3.” Unfortunately, they are not exactly sure where the satellite currently is in space. Also: ASEE FirstBell (June 26).

Related article: Space News (subscription publication, July 3) -- After failing to activate the International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE)-3’s thrusters on July 1, members of the ISEE-3 Reboot Project were able to successfully do so on July 2, setting the stage for a “planned trajectory correction” later this month. Also: The Washington Post (July 7), SPACE (July 3), The Economist (July 3), ASEE FirstBell (July 7).

Self-healing materials

Science 360 (National Science Foundation, June 26) -- In a video provided by the American Chemical Society, MatSE professor Nancy Sottos and her graduate students show how their self-healing materials work.

Circuit Scribe - Made in Champaign

Chicago Tribune (June 26) -- Brett Walker’s research on conductive silver ink with Jennifer Lewis, his University of Illinois PhD advisor at the time, sparked enough interest from commercial electronics companies to start a business in Champaign. But the company didn’t really take off until they developed their Circuit Scribe pen, designed for makers, students, artists and others to draw functioning circuits — and for which the company raised $674,425 in a Kickstarter campaign late last year.

Alumnus Andreessen talks about IPOs (June 26) -- In a recent interview, Netscape founder and Illinois' alumnus Marc Andreessen offers his thoughts on why companies are waiting longer to IPO. He argues that the shift is bad for ordinary investors, who no longer have the opportunity to invest in fast-growing technology firms. He also offers his thoughts on the work of Thomas Piketty, a French economist who has studied the growing gap between rich and poor. Also: Crain's Chicago Business (June 27).

Student entrepreneurs

The St. Louis American (June 26) -- In 10 years, a current U. of I. sophomore plans to have his company’s name in one other country besides the U.S. “Eventually, I see my company (2Dots Electronics) being like another Apple Inc.,” says Brandon Rice, of East St. Louis, Illinois. “We are a consumer electronics company. I want to be on the forefront of innovation and technology,” says Rice, an electrical engineering major at Illinois who started the electronics company with five other U. of I. students.

Airflow research

Eureka! Science News (Minneapolis, June 25) -- A first-of-its-kind study by researchers at the University of Minnesota (UMN) using snow during a Minnesota blizzard is giving researchers new insight into the airflow around large wind turbines. Former post-doctoral researcher Leonardo Chamorro who is now an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at Illnois, participated in the study.

Aerodynamic drag

Phys (Douglas, Isle of Man, June 24) -- Detailed studies of aerodynamics have shown that while a ball with a dimpled surface has half the drag of a smooth one at lower speeds, at higher speeds that advantage reverses. So the ideal would be a surface whose smoothness can be altered, literally, on the fly – and that’s what an MIT team has developed. John Rogers, an Illinois professor of materials science who was not involved in this work, says, “It represents a delightful example of how controlled processes of mechanical buckling can be used to create three-dimensional structures with interesting aerodynamic properties.” Also: Daily Mail (London, June 30).

LS-DYNA scaling work garners HPC Innovation Excellence Award

Business Wire (June 24) -- Success in scaling the commercial explicit finite element code LS-DYNA to 15,000 cores on Blue Waters earned an HPC Innovation Excellence Award for NCSA's Private Sector Program, Rolls-Royce, Procter and Gamble, Cray, and Livermore Software Technology Corporation. The research, co-led by MechSE adjunct professor Seid Koric, has potential to transform several industries including aerospace and automotive engine design, and consumer product development and design. Also: Yahoo Finance (June 24).

Energy Frontier Research Centers

Phys (Douglas, Isle of Man, June 24) -- The U.S. Department of Energy has announced 32 new and continuing multiyear, multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers; the U. of I. is involved in five of them.

Physics of baseball (June 24) -- The impact of weather on a baseball game may not always be as immediately recognizable as a heavy storm causing a rain-out, but it can be profound even on a bright, sunny day. “For a long fly ball, a ball hit with a sort of home-run trajectory, that’s a ball that’s hit at about 100 mph off the bat, maybe at a 30-degree elevation angle,” says Alan Nathan, an emeritus professor of physics at Illinois.

DNA sequencing

National Science Foundation (Arlington, Va., June 23) -- Aleksei Aksimentiev, a U. of I. professor of physics, used the National Science Foundation-supported Stampede supercomputer to explore a cutting-edge method of DNA sequencing. The method uses an electric field to drive a strand of DNA through a small hole, or “nanopore,” either in silicon or a biological membrane. Also: Red (Dallas, June 25).

Perching UAV

Gizmag (Melbourne, Australia, June 23) -- An MIT research team is working on a fixed-wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle that can perch on power lines and use their emitted magnetic fields to recharge its battery, before continuing on its way. Perching fixed-wing UAVs (although not ones that use power lines to recharge) are also being developed by AE assistant professor Soon-Jo Chung at Illinois.

Personal cybersecurity

Technology Review (Cambridge, Mass., June 23) -- Someday your fitness tracking band or smart watch could detect whether it was on your wrist or someone else’s, providing a simple way to control access to your home, car, or office and perhaps dissuading would-be thieves. Such technology could also allow confirmation that data streaming from the device is coming from the right person, says U. of I. computer science professor Carl Gunter, who was not involved with the project.

Medical school

The Republic (from The Associated Press; Columbus, Ind., June 19) -- U. of I. Chancellor Phyllis Wise says that a new medical school being proposed in Urbana-Champaign should be small and what she called complementary.

Betamax vs. VHS

Upstart Business (New York City, June 19) -- U. of I. engineering professor Bill Hammack recalls the battle between Sony’s Betamax and JVC’s VHS.

Alumnus Shahid Khan

Forbes (June 19) -- When Illinois alumnus Shahid Khan flew from Pakistan to the United States for college at age 16, he dreamed of becoming an architect. But he threw out that career blueprint early in his first semester at the U. of I. for a simple reason: He found out how much the profession paid.


Gizmodo (Sydney, June 18) -- U. of I. engineering professor Bill Hammack explains the tremendous promise and eventual demise of the videophone as a standalone appliance in the mid-20th century.

Future of surface transportation

Congressional Subcommittee on Research and Technology Hearing (June 18) -- Civil engineering professor Chris Barkan testified in Washington, D.C., this morning during a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology. He spoke about the future of surface transportation.


CBS News (June 18) -- Amazon has unveiled its first foray into the smartphone market – a device called the Fire Phone that features 3-D display capabilities. U. of I. electrical and computer engineering professor Sanjay Patel talks about what Amazon is doing that’s new.

Nuclear engineering

The Diplomat (Tokyo, June 16) -- The U.S. Department of Energy has increased its funding to develop more robust protective casings for nuclear fuel since the meltdown in Japan in 2011. U. of I. nuclear engineering professor Brent Heuser is working to “develop coatings that could be applied to existing cladding to prevent the chemical reaction that produces hydrogen, heat and weakens the cladding.” Also: Penn Energy (from The Associated Press; Tulsa, Okla., June 18), Tribune Live (Pittsburgh, PA, from The Associated Press, June 14), ASEE FirstBell (June 19).

New digital manufacturing lab wins $10 million defense vehicle grant

Crain's Chicago Business (June 12) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are announcing that the lab — formally known as the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute — has received $10 million in defense funds to speed the development of military vehicles. Specifically, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency grant will go toward better use of digital technology to produce better and more reliable planes, trucks and other vehicles more quickly. Also: Belleville News-Democrat (Illinois, June 16).

Baseball physics

Los Angeles Times (June 12) -- Baseball fans have been talking this week about the spectacular throw by Oakland A’s left fielder Yoenis Cespedes on Tuesday night to catch the Angels’ Howie Kendrick at home. Alan Nathan, an emeritus professor of physics at Illinois, determined just how precise Cespedes was by subjecting the play to close scientific analysis.

Alum writes new swift language for Apple (June 4) Rather than being an entirely new "beta" idea, work on Swift started in the summer of 2010, according to the new language's originator, University of Illinois alum Chris Lattner, who has worked at Apple since 2005. Lattner is probably best known for LLVM, the Low Level Virtual Machine compiler infrastructure project with a wyvern dragon mascot.

Self-powered pacemaker

Plastic Electronics (Surrey, England, June 11) -- A U.S. research team led by Illinois and the University of Arizona has demonstrated a printed piezoelectric circuit that can be fitted inside a living body.

Alumnus named interim dean at U of Missouri engineering

Columbia Missourian (Columbia, Mo., June 11) -- The University of Missouri College of Engineering will have an interim dean, effective Sept. 1, interim provost Kenneth Dean said Wednesday. U. of I. alumnus Robert Schwartz (PhD, Ceramic Engineering), the University of Missouri System chief of staff, will be the interim dean.


Broadway World (New York City, June 10) -- The U. of I. is among the top 15 universities granted U.S. utility patents.

Hopkins reveals astronauts' secrets

Washington Post (June 10) -- NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins punched a clock on the International Space Station (ISS) long enough for the Red Sox to win the World Series and the Seahawks to win the Superbowl. He returned to Earth on March 10 — and, recently, he answered questions during an “Ask Me Anything” session on the Web site

Business incubators

Alton Daily News (from WBGZ-AM, 1570), Alton, Ill.; June 6) -- A new study promoted by the Research Park at the U. of I. examined the state’s 18 business incubators. One finding is that they would do well to network more with each other.

Computer Science ranking

Network World (Framingham, Mass., June 4) -- Illinois is included on a list of the 20 top computer science schools in the country based on the median mid-career earnings of graduates. The research company, PayScale, ranked 129 college majors based on the median pay for alumni from 1,016 schools. Engineering specialties held 11 of the 12 most lucrative majors; computer science major ranks No. 8 for salary earning potential.

UI Labs

Chicago Tribune (June 3) -- The U. of I. doesn’t often work with the University of Iowa, just as Rolls-Royce doesn’t often volunteer to hold hands with General Electric. But that’s exactly the kind of scenario the Digital Lab for Manufacturing – a three-way partnership among academic institutions, manufacturing companies and the government – envisions, executives said Monday during a panel discussion.

Related story: Chicago Tribune (June 4) -- Construction will start this summer on remaking a former window plant in Chicago into a futuristic facility that backers consider key to pushing manufacturing forward in the region and the country. The aim of the digital lab, officials have said, is to team manufacturing experts, software companies and universities to spread cutting-edge technology through supply chains, to design and test new products, and to reduce costs in manufacturing processes across industries. A key perk will be access to Blue Waters, the supercomputer at the U. of I. that is one of the most powerful in the world, and the university’s highly sophisticated teams of researchers. Also: Crain's Chicago Business (June 3). Also: Chicago Business Journal (June 4).

Bee hive reflects societal coordination

Phys (Douglas, Isle of Man, June 3) -- With support from the National Science Foundation, U. of I. Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson and mechanical engineering professor Harry Dankowicz have teamed with the University of Connecticut to study how coordination emerges in leaderless complex societies, such as a bee hive. Also: Science 360 (National Science Foundation, June 3).

Flame Challenge Finalist

Newswise (June 2) -- Alan Alda announced the winners of Stony Brook University’s Flame Challenge contest, in which scientists had to explain “what is color?” in a way that would interest and enlighten 11-year-olds. A team from the Beckman Insitute--comprised of Brad Deutsch and David Mayerich, Beckman Postdoctoral Fellows, and Bioimaging Science and Technology Group faculty members Rohit Bhargava and Scott Carney--decided to enter—and were named one of the top three finalists in the visual category, out of hundreds of applicants.

Solar power

Architecture and Design (Sydney, June 3) -- Researchers at Illinois, led by MatSE professor John Rogers, have used a new printing process to assemble tiny solar cells into multilayered stacks with extraordinary levels of photovoltaic conversion efficiency.

Improving energy storage

CleanTechnica (June 3) -- For the first time, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide (LixCoO2), an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range. A better understanding of the thermal properties of battery electrodes may help in the design of batteries that can be charged more rapidly, deliver more power, and operate with a greater margin of safety. Also: Phys.Org (June 3), ScienceBlog (June 3), R&D Magazine (June 4), (Warriewood, New South Wales, June 4).

A better understanding of the thermal properties of battery electrodes may help in the design of batteries that can be charged more rapidly, deliver more power, and operate with a greater margin of safety, since the heat generated during fast cycling and temperature variations in general are very detrimental to lithium-ion batteries. - See more at:
For the first time, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have experimentally shown that the thermal conductivity of lithium cobalt oxide (LixCoO2), an important material for electrochemical energy storage, can be reversibly electrochemically modulated over a considerable range. - See more at:
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