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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October 2015 media appearances

Electronic skin

Wired (Oct. 30) -- Electronic skin is promising for medicine, where its flexibility is an advantage. “You get a much better signal from skin-like materials than you do from boxy and rigid wearables,” says John Rogers, a materials scientist at Illinois. Rogers’ lab is working on temporary tattoo-like electronics to collect health data. Also: Science News (Oct. 30), Business Insider (Oct. 30), Daily Mail (Oct. 30).

Epidermal device measures blood flow

IEEE Spectrum (Oct. 30) -- A team of researchers with members from institutions in China and Illinois has announced the development of a thin film device that can be affixed to the skin to measure blood flow. The blood flow device works by slightly heating the skin and then temperature sensors record the movement of the heat as arteries and veins near the skin surface carry the heat away. That information is then run through models that account for the fluid dynamics of blood flow, according to John Rogers, one of the inventors. Also: MIT Technology Review (Oct. 30), Fierce Medical Devices (Nov. 2), Popular Science (Oct. 30), Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Nov. 2), Tech Times (Nov. 2), MedDevice Online (Nov. 3), (Nov. 3), The Boston Globe (Nov. 9).

Waste heat to hydrogen gas

Phys.Org (Isle of Man, Oct. 30) -- Researchers from the civil engineering departments at Illinois and Penn State have discovered an effective method to convert waste heat into hydrogen gas without the use of fossil fuels. Roland Cusick, CEE assistant professor at Illinois, was part of the team that discovered a new method for making hydrogen gas that does not require the use of fossil fuels. In this method, the researchers are able to effectively produce hydrogen gas using energy stored in ammonium bicarbonate (a heat regenerable salt) and solar heat or waste heat (like that available at power plants).

Wearable electronics & skin

Forbes (Oct. 29) -- Beauty business L’Oréal is working on flexible, wearable electronics circuits that will not only improve product development, but also transform how women make choices when applying makeup. The company’s technology incubator is proceeding with Illinois on the flexible electronics research, which will firstly aim to understand the real-life changes of skin over time.

Alumna's startup in China

Quartz (New York, Oct. 28) -- Wang Shuyue, a 24-year-old originally from Yunnan province, turned down job offers from several of China’s largest internet companies to study in Taiwan and the United States. But after finishing one year of her master’s program at Illinois, she decided to return to China and join a startup with her friends. She’s now making about 5,000 yuan a month ($784) from investors that are backing her dating app.

Email security

Motherboard (Oct. 28) -- A study from Illinois, Michigan and Google has found that despite inventions to make email secure, large chunks of email traffic are being deliberately stripped of their encryption, or just sent without any in the first place, leaving them totally open to passive eavesdroppers. ECE professor Michael Bailey was involved in the research. Also: TechCrunch (Nov. 12), Fortune (Nov. 12).

Nanoscale magnets (Rockaway, N.J., Oct. 27) -- A collaborative team, including researchers at Illinois, has realized a nanoscale, artificial magnet by arranging an array of magnetic nano-islands along a geometry that is not found in natural magnets. Also: Los Alamos Daily Post (Oct. 26), Phys.Org (Oct. 27).

Flexible antenna

IEEE Spectrum (Oct. 27) -- A new antenna design has proven its ability to withstand the bending and stretching that garments endure, while steadily communicating via Wi-Fi. Developed by Muhammad Mustafa Hussain at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, is the first antenna capable of maintaining a steady communication frequency despite being twisted and stretched .Hussain’s lab tested the antenna on a piece of stretchable fabric worn on a person’s forearm and biceps with the help of John Rogers, a materials science professor at Illinois who has done much pioneering work in flexible electronics. Also: Nature Middle East (Oct. 15), Nanowerk (Oct. 9).

Topological phases

Space Daily (Oct. 27) -- An ultrapure material taken to pressures greater than that in the depths of the ocean and chilled to temperatures colder than outer space has revealed an unexpected phase transition that crosses two different phase categories. The new phases were named topological phases, while the traditional phases described by Landau's theory are called broken symmetry phases, says Eduardo Fradkin, a professor of physics and director of the Institute for Condensed Matter Theory at Illinois. Fradkin participated in the research and is a co-author of the paper. Also: R&D Magazine (Oct. 27), NYC Today (Oct. 27).

Capital One digital lab in Research Park

Chicago Tribune (Oct. 26) -- Capital One has opened a digital lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, joining Yahoo, Anheuser-Busch InBev and John Deere as companies with innovation centers on campus.The lab, which opened last week at the university's Research Park, will employ students to work with data science and technology research and experimentation. The lab also will give students real-world opportunities to supplement university coursework. Also: MarketWatch (Oct. 23), News-Gazette (Oct. 24), WSNEWS 4 Investors (Oct. 26).

Wearable electronics

Chicago Inno (Oct. 26) -- Three Illinois alums are working on a wearable device that can sense when you're in an emergency and call 911. The device, named Anansi, will integrate sensors into a wearable worn on the wrist that can measure an individual's physiological parameters, and when those levels are breached, the device will start vibrating. ECE alumna Nikita Parikh enlisted fellow Illinois alums Hollis Carroll (an industrial designer who's worked on assault prevention tech previously), and Matthew Vanek (a software engineer) to start working through solutions. Together, they created a prototype in a senior design class run by professor Scott Carney, and were accepted to Chicago Innovation Exchange's Summer@CIE program.

Illinois' invents

The Huffington Post (Oct. 23) -- A new effort called "You're Welcome" by Illinois and the cities of Champaign and Urbana appears to throw the region's hat into the ring in an attempt to claim the "mother of invention" title. And realistically speaking, it's not that much of a stretch.

Feeding humanity

Newsweek (Oct. 22) -- Right now – at this very moment – there are over 7 billion humans on Earth. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. K.C. Ting, head of Illinois' department of agricultural and biological engineering, works with farmers to increase yield while keeping the costs of things like water and fertilizer flat – or reduced.

Self-healing materials

The Week (New York, Oct. 20) -- Researchers at Illinois, funded by the Air Force, created a gel that can automatically fill and repair holes within 20 minutes, getting the original material back to normal function in three hours. "What we had done is essentially mimic the blood clotting feature you see in humans and other biological systems so that now the fluids don't just bleed out of the hole anymore, they're actually retained in place and we grow on top of them until we completely seal up the damage itself," explains Scott R. White, professor of aerospace engineering at Illinois.

Wired In: Scott Daigle

News-Gazette (Oct. 18) -- MechSE alum and IntelliWheels CEO Scott Daigle talks about the ways his business, in the University of Illinois Research Park, makes using wheelchairs more efficient.

Power Optimization center launch

WCIA-TV (Oct. 15) -- A new, $18.5 million Engineering Research Center led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is out to pack more power into less space for the electrical systems. Called P.O.E.T.S., the Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems center will attack the thermal and electrical challenges surrounding mobile electronics and vehicle design as a single system. P.O.E.T.S. is funded by the National Science Foundation. France Córdova, who leads the NSF, joined industry partners and members of the Illinois congressional delegation for the center's official launch on October 15. Also: News-Gazette (Oct. 16).

New surgical tool

Chicago Tonight WTTW (Oct. 15) -- Malignant tumor strongholds and their microscopic spies can’t hide in the thicket of flesh much longer, for surgeons have a new weapon: a device developed at Illinois that sheds light on their location. Literally.. Also: NOVA (PBS; Oct. 22).

Robot jazz

KWQC-6 TV (from The Associated Press, Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 15) -- Improvisation is at the heart of jazz, and an Illinois researcher working with NCSA aims to use it to study interactions between people and increasingly intelligent computers. Also: Fox2Now (St. Louis, Oct. 15). Also: KTVI-2 TV (FOX; from AP, St. Louis, Oct. 15), Peoria Journal Star (from The Associated Press; Oct. 15), The Pantagraph (from AP, Bloomington, Ill., Oct. 15), Herald & Review (from AP, Decatur, Ill., Oct. 19), Live Science (Oct. 21), Yahoo! News UK (from Live Science; Oct. 22), Boing Boing (Oct. 22), Scientific American (Oct. 22), Popular Science (Oct. 22), NBC News (from Live Science; Oct. 22).

Uncovering online algorithms

The Huffington Post (Oct. 15) -- Users have some control over their newsfeed, with Facebook rolling out curation tools that allow you to "See More" updates from certain users and hide others. But these user capabilities aren't always easy to find. "While the levers exist, people don't use them because they're hidden," says Karrie Karahalios, an Illinois researcher who co-authored the "Uncovering Algorithms" paper.

Translation apps

Wall Street Journal (Oct. 15) -- A desire to broaden his diet led ECE alumnus Ryan Rogowski, co-founder of Waygo, to start his company. After studying linguistics and computer vision at Illinois, Rogowski moved to Beijing to work for an app startup. “I could barely read any Chinese,” he said, “and I was so scared of getting sick, that I figured out the words for kung pao chicken.” After eating that dish nearly every day for a month, he decided to build an app that used a smartphone’s camera to recognize the thousands of characters in the Chinese logographic system.

CS Alumna

Evening Standard (London, Oct. 14) -- After a degree in computer science at Illinois, “before it was trendy,” Tech City chair Eileen Burbidge worked for a telecoms company which sent her to the Bay Area of San Francisco, which was then in the process of being transformed into Silicon Valley.

Patterns everywhere in nature

WCAI-90.1 FM (NPR; Woods Hole, Mass., Oct. 14) -- Nigel Goldenfeld sees patterns everywhere in the natural world. The physicist from Illinois is a member of its top-ranked Condensed Matter Theory group, and studies how patterns evolve in time, “be they snowflakes, the microstructures of materials, the turbulent flow of fluids, geological formations or even the spatial organization of microbes.”

CS alums' startup Optimizely raises $58M

TechCrunch (Oct. 13) -- Optimizely, the company that has become synonymous with A/B testing, has raised $58 million in Series C funding. Optimizely co-founder & CTO Pete Koomen earned his MS degree in computer science from Illinois.

Precision physics calculation

Phys.Org (Oct. 13) -- Illinois physicists are part of a team of theoretical high-energy physicists in the Fermilab Lattice and MILC Collaborations publishing a new high-precision calculation that could significantly advance the indirect search for physics beyond the Standard Model (SM). The calculation applies to a particularly rare decay of the B meson (a subatomic particle), which is sometimes also called a "penguin decay" process. Also: ScienceBlog (Oct. 13), R&D Magazine (Oct. 14).

Applications to Engineering at Illinois are up

Crain's Chicago Business (Oct. 12) -- Illinois, the state's flagship institution for STEM education, says its College of Engineering has seen record numbers of applications, which have doubled since 2010.

Illinois leads $28.1M cyber resilient energy delivery systems consortium

NBC News (Oct. 13) -- The Department of Energy is dedicating over $34 million to the establishment of two major research endeavors aimed at protecting the nation's power grid against hackers and other cyber threats. Some $12.2 million will go to a research center led by the University of Arkansas, while another $22.5 million will be shared among the members of the University of Illinois Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium. Both will look into ways of protecting power grid elements — from the hardware that runs transformers to the software that power companies use — from cyberattacks. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 13), KUAR-FM (NPR, Arkansas, Oct. 12), (Oct. 12), Los Alamos Daily Post (Los Alamos, N.M., Oct. 13), Transmission and Distribution World (Oct. 14), WCIA-TV (Oct. 15).

Artificial intelligence

TechCrunch (Oct. 8) -- After decades of subtle developments that largely went unnoticed by much of the working world, artificial intelligence (AI) has taken center stage in the last few years as a “hot” technology. Eyal Amir, an associate professor of computer science at Illinois, focused on AI research. “More generally what you see as a trend is for different pieces of data coming together, and that we give the computers a little bit more autonomy,” Amir says. “We start trusting the ability of the computer to do basic tasks and to have knowledge that we don’t have.”

NSF chief inaugurates $18M POETS Center

News-Gazette (Oct. 8) -- The head of the National Science Foundation will visit the University of Illinois next week to highlight the UI's multimillion-dollar grant for a new Engineering Research Center. France Cordova, an astrophysicist, former Purdue University president, and the first female chief scientist at NASA, will speak at an event next Thursday marking the $18.5 million grant for the Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems center. Also: ASEE FirstBell (Oct. 9), Herald-News (Joliet, IL, Oct. 11), News-Gazette (Oct. 16), Daily Illini (Oct. 19).


Fast Company (New York, Oct. 8) -- The Snooz’s core fan technology was engineered over two years by researchers from the University of Illinois. The device is a portable white noise machine, powered by the sound of a real fan rather than a looping MP3 of static playing out of a speaker.

Origami engineering

The Wall Street Journal (from CityLab; Oct. 7) -- Researchers at Georgia Tech, Illinois, and the University of Tokyo have come up with a new, origami-inspired structural-support configuration called “zipper tubes,” long tubes with zigzagged creases.

Nobel assist

News-Gazette (Oct. 7) -- Two teams of scientists who solved an important puzzle about the tiny "ghost" particles--neutrinos--received the Nobel Prize for Physics. The winners were Arthur McDonald of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Collaboration at Queen's University in Kingston, Canada, and Takaaki Kajita of the Super-Kamiokande Collaboration at the University of Tokyo. Their work has prompted physicists to revise their theories about nature and could lead to new understandings about the sun and the evolution of the universe, said Illinois physics professor Mark Neubauer, who worked with the Sudbury group as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Hyperloop system

Fortune (Oct. 5) -- As announced in June, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is inviting challengers to design early prototypes of pods that could travel through the ultra-high-speed Hyperloop system. One team with a big head start is based in Illinois’ department of mechanical science and engineering, where Emad Jassim directs the undergraduate program. Students there have been working on Hyperloop designs since 2014, and built a working scale model of the Hyperloop as a senior design project.

Quantum dot brightness improves imaging

Phys.Org (Oct. 5) -- Researchers, lead by BioE assistant professor Andrew Smith, have introduced a new class of light-emitting quantum dots (QDs) with tunable and equalized fluorescence brightness across a broad range of colors. This results in more accurate measurements of molecules in diseased tissue and improved quantitative imaging capabilities. Also: ScienceBlog (Oct. 5), AzoNano (Oct. 6).

Soda can physics

Tech Insider (Oct. 5) -- ChemE professor Bill Hammack, The EngineerGuy, explains in a recent video, pulling a soda-can tab exerts force on the rivet, which in this case is the load you want to move.

Sustainable electronics

BTN Live (Oct. 2) -- Conventional wisdom says that the best way to make a product more sustainable is eliminate or reduce the need for it to be replaced. But there isn’t anything conventional about the work aerospace engineering professor Scott White and his team do in this space. In this one-minute video, White discusses ways for electronics to self-destruct on command.

Physics alumnus

Chico Enterprise-Record (from the Chicago Tribune; Chico, Calif., Oct. 2) -- Lombard, Illinois, native Timonthy Zahn had become an acclaimed science-fiction writer by the early '90s. He was working on his doctorate in physics at Illinois when he saw the first "Star Wars." Today he plays a significant role in keeping the '70s generation of fans involved.

College of Medicine dean search underway

WAND-TV (Sept. 30) -- The University of Illinois announced today the establishment of a search committee to identify and attract the inaugural dean of the new Carle-Illinois College of Medicine. Andreas Cangellaris, dean of the College of Engineering, and Jon Bailey, associate medical director surgical services, program director OMFS Residency at Carle Health System, will co-chair the committee. Also: Newsroom America (Sept. 30), Daily Illini (Sept. 30), The Republic (from The Associated Press; Columbus, Ind., Sept. 30), News-Gazette (Oct. 1).

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