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Satellite family being built at University PAGE 11

Coffee, tea add-ins reduce effectiveness of drinks PAGE 15

Aerospace students get kids excited about space PAGE 18





Technograph editor Isabella Jackson Assistant Technograph editor Brooks Berish Editor-in-Cheif Masaki Sugimoto Managing editor for reporting Michal Dwojak Managing editor for online Annabeth Carlson Creative director Hannah Auten Designers Michelle Tam Jacob Singleton Copy chiefs Samantha Skipper Caitlin Bremner Writers Jillian Kaehler Mara Shapiro Emily Scott Samantha Charge Co-publishers Kit Donahue Melissa Pasco

University professor seeks to create self-healing batteries.



Robot bats are used to try and better understand how bats move



University professors work with students in order to create satellites



How add-ins in coffee and tea lead to negative health effects


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Self-healing batteries generate advancements in technology BY SAMANTHA SCHRAGE | TECHNOGRAPH WRITER


any may notice that over time, a cellphone’s battery life slowly decreases. Although this is often attributed to the phone’s age, the decrease in battery life is caused by a much more scientific process. As is the case with almost all electronics, as time progresses the lithium-ion batteries that power these devices develop small micro-cracks, causing them to lose capacity, and as a result lose battery life.

Professor of aerospace engineering and faculty entreprenuerial fellow, Scott White and his team of 13 students are changing the life capacity of lithium-ion batteries by developing technology that heals those micro-cracks as they form. Not only is the research team hoping to prolong the life of lithium-ion batteries, but members also hope to make them safer to use. The “self-healing” batteries function and act as normal bat-

teries would, but incorporate microcapsules into the battery electrodes that are triggered under certain environmental conditions. The healing process is very similar to blood healing a wound. The microcapsules are triggered when the microcracks form, and either release a conductive healing agent to repair the damage or release a fire retardant to prevent combustion of the battery. The batteries are developed as part of the Department of


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“Hopefully some

of the students involved in the class will be inspired to continue with the company ... ” SCOTT WHITE PROFESSOR OF AEROSPACE ENGINEERING

Energy-sponsored research centered on next-generation lithiumion batteries. The research team works anywhere from five to 10 hours per week and conducts several experiments to ensure that these batteries will perform in reallife situations. “We develop the batteries using rigorous testing procedures in our labs at the Beckman Institute. We simulate real-world conditions and charge-discharge cycles to see how long the batteries can last with, and without, our technology,” Tony Griffin, a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering, wrote in an email. Aside from the microcapsules, the batteries function as any normal battery would, and plan to replace

the existing lithium-ion batteries used in today’s technology. “This is a major positive aspect of our work, because we can easily incorporate our technology into existing commercial battery designs and manufacturing processes,” Griffin wrote. The impact of these new lithiumion batteries on the technology industry does not go unnoticed. In addition to battery life, the safety of lithium-ion batteries is one of the most urgent issues facing the technology industry today. “We are also developing an autonomic shutdown technology which shuts down lithium-ion batteries when they get too hot, preventing them from exploding or setting on fire. That technology could save billions of dollars and even lives,” Griffin wrote. These lithium-ion batteries also have the power to change the automobile industry, specifically the battery capacity and safety of electric cars. “The lack of capacity (and retention of capacity) limits the utility of electric vehicles. The next generation of battery electrodes that can deliver increased range (capacity) suffer dramatic capacity degradation. Our technology can make these new materials a viable solution for electric cars,” White wrote in an email. The research project is part of the College of Engineering’s

Faculty Entrepreneurial Fellows program, for which Professor White was selected this year. The program allows White to teach and mentor 13 students from the College of Engineering and the College of Business. Together, the research group will be able to bring their technology to the commercial market. “My goal is to launch a new company by the end of the year that will take this research and bring it to the commercial market. Hopefully, some of the students involved in the class will be inspired to continue with the company afterwards and will have the skills and the confidence to start their own companies down the road,” White wrote. The research the students are conducting not only allows them to learn from Professor White and from each other, but also inspires them to work toward their professional goals and realize that the work they are doing can make a difference in people’s everyday lives. “I have been very interested in start-ups and entrepreneurship over the past few years, and I think this work will give me the experience necessary to bring promising and helpful high-tech research out of the labs and into the hands and homes of people everywhere,” Griffin wrote. Samantha can be reached at


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UI creates robotic drone bat to study biological bat movement BY MARA SHAPIRO | TECHNOGRAPH WRITER


or the past two years, the Engineering department at the University has been striving to create a robotic bat, a drone that recreates a biological bat’s flight. As of this year, what once started off as a 1.5 million dollar grant became a reality for Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Seth Hutchinson, graduate student in the Coordinated Science Lab Alireza Ramezani and Caltech Associate Professor of Aerospace and Bren Scholar Soon-Jo Chung. Chung is also an associate professor at the University and research scientist at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Ramezani explained the importance of the drone. “It’s the first work of its kind. You can’t find any other examples of robots that copy biological bats. Plus, it’s a platform that has some similarities to bats. It has an articulated skeleton, elastic membrane and an advanced degree of autonomy,” Ramezani said. According to Ramezani, biologists currently have a high interest in studying bat movement, particularly their complex upside down landing maneuver. The drone could help to better understand the original movements through its robotic reconstruction. The skeletons of the bat are made out of carbon fiber rods, while its wing is made from a custom-made silicone membrane. According to Chung, the white joints are created from 3D printed parts in addition to several other electronic parts. The bat’s current research focus is that of the diving, sharp turns and the complex landing maneuver. Along with biologists at Brown University, the research team is studying biological bats in order to make the

drone more realistic. “We are improving the strength of the bat,” Chung wrote via email. The bat is currently being monitored in a controlled environment so as not to damage the drone. As of now the bat flies when it is thrown into the air by hand, but Ramezani said the team is currently working on an automatic launcher. If Ramezani had to go back and change an aspect of the 93 gram drone, he would want it to resemble more of a vampire bat, which is a smaller specimen than the one they created. “Unfortunately at this time we have a lot of restrictions in terms of the electronics/mechanical design,” Ramezani said. Both Ramezani and Chung are working on future projects, some of which do not involve bats. Ramezani is hoping to have the bat interact with human robots, as human robotics is what he wants to focus on once he becomes a part of the faculty at the University. Chung’s focus is more along the lines of the bat, as he is working on a robotic falcon that will hope to solve bird strikes problems.







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University students and professors create satellite family BY MADELINE GALASSI | TECHNOGRAPH WRITER


hile University students are known for having their heads in the clouds, some engineering students and professors have theirs even higher. IlliniSat-2 is a family of satellites that students and University professors are creating. There are five satellites total: LAICE, CubeSail, Sassi2, Space Ice and CapSat. IlliniSat-2 is the successor of IlliniSat-1. IlliniSat-1 had only one satellite, ION1. The satellites launch vehicle failed when it launched out of Russia in 2006. While the design of the satellite was fine, the launch vehicle was flawed, and ION1 never made it to space. “It was very disheartening to a lot of the team at the time,” Alexander Ghosh, systems integration and testing manager for IlliniSat-2 and adjunct research

assistant professor, said. “Around 2007, a new team of almost fresh students came in, and said ‘What are we going to do next?’ So we looked at the design mentality of ION1, not that it exploded, and said that we could do better. Then, we started outlining what would be IlliniSat-2.” The satellites are CubeSats which means they are small, around the size of shoeboxes. Ghosh explained the commonality between the IlliniSat-2 family and their origins. “We have about a third of a section of the satellites that is the same to all of them,” Ghosh said. “The idea of having this family is that we can build the same way many times, and then put in different science experiments.” Ghosh explained the advantage behind developing a family of

satellites, rather than simply an individual. “The advantage to the family concept is that we started with LAICE and CubeSail, but then we pitched to NASA that we wanted 3 more, and explained their science missions,” Ghosh said. “They said that since we’re so far along with these, making three more with the same design is a good idea.” LAICE, an acronym for lower atmosphere ionosphere coupling experiment, is the largest of the group. It is launching first, with a launch scheduled for August. The process of creating LAICE has not been a short one. According to Gary Swenson, professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering, LAICE has been being worked on by a series of students over the course of many years.


“It’s a University of Illinois, studentbuilt thing, and we’re very proud of that.” GARY SWENSON ELECTRICAL AND COMPUTER ENGINEERING PROFESSOR

“LAICE has been a program that we’ve been working on for four years.” Swenson said. “But the infrastructure that goes into IlliniSat has been going on with students since about 2006.” According to Ghosh, LAICE will launch out of Kennedy Space Center, located in Cape Canaveral,

Florida. Primarily, the National Science Foundation provided the funding, while NASA is providing a free launch. “LAICE is the biggest satellite we’ve built so far,” said Ghosh. “The National Space Foundation has given us about a million dollars to build LAICE over the past five years.” The primary goal of LAICE is to look at the phenomena of airglow, seen in the Northern Lights, and to learn more about how it occurs. Many engineering students have contributed to the creation of LAICE, along with students and faculty at Virginia Tech. “The energy is there, and everyone is committed to seeing this thing work,” Swenson said. “It’s a University of Illinois, student-built thing, and we’re very proud of that.” All technology is constantly changing, and satellite technology is no exception. The technology in ION1 was much different than the technology being used in IlliniSat-2. “ION1 was a single mission, and

everything was tightly integrated and very hard to diagnose or take apart,” Ghosh explained. “We really wanted the IlliniSat-2 mission to be scalable and modular, so we could take out parts and put in a replacement if something went wrong. That’s also what enables us to put different science missions in, because we treat the science missions as a different component.” IlliniSat-2 was worked on in class by students up until this school year. Professor Swenson began the class with a co-worker in 2000. This year, students have taken different routes to being involved with IlliniSat-2. through volunteering, RSOs and other coursework. Swenson explained that the technology in IlliniSat-2 is useful to learn for students in multiple areas of engineering. “It’s interdisciplinary. There’s aerospace engineers, there’s electrical engineers, there’s computer engineers and they all have to be talking to each other,”


Swenson said. “It’s really exciting since it’s all starting to come together.” Emilio Gordon, sophomore in aerospace engineering, became involved through the RSO SatDev, or Satellite Development Organization. After becoming involved with the satellites, he took it upon himself to create his own class. “I organized and teach the AE199 class. Last semester I came up with the idea of having a class to introduce new students,” Gordon said. “When I was a freshman myself, I found it difficult to join SatDev, so I wanted to help students not worry about what they don’t know yet.” Gordon credits much of his knowledge that he shares in AE199 to SatDev and is currently working on the thermal simulations of LAICE. Gordon explained how working on

LAICE has benefited him in school. “What you learn in class is very different than what you do on the team. There are a lot of different elements that come into this, because this is a real scientific mission,” Gordon said. “It adds to a different perspective of things. If I’m in class and something is brought up, I’m instantly reminded of SatDev, rather than just the general concept.” All five satellites are being launched to answer different scientific questions, and all are partnered with different universities and companies to aid in bringing the satellites to life. While LAICE is partnered with Virginia Tech, CubeSail is with an engineering company, Sassi2 is with Purdue and SpaceIce is with Northwestern. With the launch of LAICE, there is a lot of knowledge to be gained.

“As we’re up for maybe two years, we’ll have a lot of opportunities as the satellite goes around the planned every hour and a half, or 16 times per day,” Swenson said. “We very frequently will make global observations of the phenomenon we’re studying.” Through hard work, commitment and time, University engineering faculty and students will have a product up in space this summer. Madeline can be reached at


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Coffee, tea add-ins increase calorie count, reduce energy BY JILLIAN KAEHLER | TECHNOGRAPH WRITER


offee on a college campus seems like a no-brainer. Whether it’s early mornings or late night pick-me-ups, caffeine tends to deliver. But many people don’t realize what they are putting into their bodies when they chug caffeinated drinks with cream and sugar. University kinesiology and community health assistant professor Ruopeng An began looking into the additives that Americans put into their coffee and tea and researching the effects they have on the body. In his final research paper, An said that “the purpose of this study was to examine the consumption of coffee and tea with add-ins (e.g. sugar, cream) in relation to energy, sugar and fat intake among the U.S. adults 18 years of age and above.” “The goal was to really drill down the individual components of what folks are

drinking, and knowing what those caloric intakes are in the coffee and tea, such as sugar, cream and flavoring syrups,” said An. An used data compiled from a 2001 to 2012 study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey that used “a cross-sectional sample of 13,185 and 6,215 adults who reported coffee and tea consumption in in-person 24-hour dietary recalls, respectively.” Approximately 67.5 percent of coffee consumers drank coffee with caloric add-ins, and about 33.4 percent of tea consumers always drank tea with caloric add-ins. Based on the findings, sugar, sugar substitute, cream, cream substitute, half-and-half and whole or reduced-fat milk were among the most popular addins for coffee. Sugar, sugar substitute, honey and whole or reduced-fat milk were among the most popular add-ins for tea.

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“When people consume more calories, that reduces their energy and decreases activity level, leading to gained weight over time.” RUOPENG AN KINESIOLOGY AND COMMUNITY HEALTH ASSISTANT PROFESSOR With that information, An and his colleagues created a coding-like system that tracked each specific food and ingredient that people were adding to their drinks. “We built these codes based on regulations from the USDA for each food and add-in. It took us quite some time to develop, but we were able to utilize the statistical data modeling as our data source based on that information,” An said. In An’s research paper, he discussed that among coffee consumers, “females, young and middle-aged adults (18-64 years of age) and racial/ethnic minorities were more likely to consume caloric addins in combination with coffee compared with males, older adults (65 years of age and above) and non-Hispanic whites. An’s goal in conducting his research is to alert and inform adults about what they are consuming. For tea consumers, “females, older adults (65 years of age and above), nonHispanic blacks, Hispanics, adults with college education and above, non-obese adults and adults diagnosed with diabetes were more likely to consume caloric addins in combination with tea compared with males, young adults (18-34 years of age), non-Hispanic whites, adults with high school or lower education, obese adults

and adults without a diabetes diagnosis,” according to An’s research paper. According to An, on average, people are going to consume over 100 more calories with those drink add-ins, which over time will lead to weight gain. “We all know that the U.S. is undergoing a major increase in the obesity rate over the last 30 years. When people consume more calories, that reduces their energy and decreases activity level, leading to gained weight over time,” An said. University students vary in their coffee selections, some being health-conscious in their choices and others choosing instead to indulge. “I always get an espresso,” said Fransisco Sobral, senior in Engineering. “I go with this option because I’ve been told health wise it’s more concentrated, and has less calories associated with it. I never do add-ins.” Ashley Fieber, sophomore in LAS, explained that the amount of calories in add-ins is something she has never considered. “I’ve never really thought about the amount of calories in bigger drinks,” Fieber said. “It wouldn’t make me change my order, though some days I just have to get a frappuccino with ev-

erything in it.” Hannah Uhler, sophomore in AHS, explained that she opts out of coffee and sticks to other drink selections. “I tend to usually stick to iced tea and lemonades,” Uhler said. “I don’t really add more sugar in, because they are already so sweet, but knowing the health effects doesn’t change my mind.” Moving forward, An wants to remind everyone to adhere to the tips outlined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: don’t do the extra flavoring, don’t use sugar sweetening and opt for the low fat milk option instead. So the next time you’re in line at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, remember to “skip the whip” and “get back to basics.” Without all the additives, it’s still guaranteed to wake you up.



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20 “We have a variety of portable, hands-on projects that students K-12 can build and test, and in doing so, learn something about the fundamentals of aerospace engineering,” Wrobleweski said. The Illini Aerospace Outreach receives other requests as well.

“It was so cool to learn about aerospace through a program that came to my school.” PETER CATIZONE SEVENTH GRADER FROM NAPERVILLE

“We are sometimes approached by other organizations to help out with their outreach opportunities, especially when they need something different. We have been contacted by some teachers as well for science fairs and small after-school programs,” Chen said. Students who have been exposed to IAO’s various outreach projects or something similar in their own school districts have all been extremely optimistic about aerospace. Peter Catizone, a seventh grader from Naperville, has been exposed to various programs that are similar to IAO’s. Catizone was unsure about what aerospace included before he was presented with projects and got

to see things like real jet engines. “The projects I was able to see really caught my interest — I didn’t even know what aerospace engineering was and then I saw all these projects and realized how cool it was,” Catizone said. IAO tries its best to cater to students interested in both the aircraft and the spacecraft aspects of aerospace. “We design airplanes, rockets, satellites, and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) while having fun. As an organization, we try to have projects that show both sides of aerospace; however, most of our projects are air-related since we have mostly aircraft members,” Chen said. IAO aims to attract students like Catizone into all science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields. Chen said his organization’s goal is to make students excited about these topics. “It was so cool to learn about aerospace through a program that came to my school — I definitely want to look more into it for the future,” Catizone said after he attended an outreach event at his school. The IAO recognizes the importance of getting kids involved early-on with STEM programs, which is why they mainly do outreach with younger students in elementary or mid-

dle school. IAO believes it is never too early to start exposing students and peaking their interests in really amazing projects. Wroblewski is currently involved in a project leading an after school enrichment program at Yankee Ridge Elementary School. She explained that other than this program, which she is directly involved with, IAO has been able to form partnerships with other groups around campus to spread its message and engage more people in aerospace. It is important to break down any stigmas around STEM fields and to encourage anyone to explore whatever might interest them in this field. “If anyone wants to learn more about aerospace, they should come to the Engineering Open House, where all of the aerospace RSOs have something to share. Most importantly, come to IAO’s exhibit where we have real jet engines that have been used and many other small projects that will get anyone excited about what we do in aerospace engineering,” Chen said. IAO continues to make aerospace less intimidating and a more reasonable task for students. Megan can be reached at



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University researchers develop technology that could provide alternative way to treat cancer BY EMILY SCOTT | TECHNOGRAPH WRITER


or nearly 10 years, University professor Jianjun Cheng had an idea. He wanted to use click chemistry, a specialized type of chemistry that involves joining substances to biomolecules — which are molecules present in living organisms — in order to target cancer cells. This

process is used in targeted cancer therapy, a type of chemotherapy that uses the differences in cancer cells to locate them. Cheng, professor of materials science and engineering, led a team of researchers that have developed a way to target cancer cells by taking advantage of the

cell’s metabolism. “This definitely will provide an alternative way to treat cancer,” Cheng said. Typically, targeted cancer therapies take advantage of antigens, which are toxins present on the surface of cancer cells. These antigens serve as targets that the cell


“I think many cancers can potentially be utilized for this treatment.” JIANJUN CHENG UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR

creates. Targeted therapies introduce antibodies that counteract these antigens in order to single out the cancer cells. But some cancers don’t create antigens. So Cheng’s solution was to externally introduce a functional group, a group of atoms or bonds that cause chemical reactions, into the cancer cells. This is easy to do in a lab but becomes much more difficult in humans. “In a cancer patient, if you don’t even know where the tumor is ... how do you recognize those tumors and then put the target there?” Cheng said. “That’s really tricky. So, designing such a technology, that’s the key for this whole process.” Cheng thought to take advantage of a cell’s metabolism, a process that involves the cell processing sugar to provide energy for cell functions. When this happens, the sugar breaks apart and goes to the surface of the cell. Cheng and his team came up with the idea to design a specialized sugar that could be introduced to the tumor, undergo metabolism,

break apart and reach the surface, and thus become a target. But they had to design a sugar that would only metabolize in cancer cells, and not in normal cells. They used the functional group azide, a small-molecule sugar. To ensure this sugar would only metabolize in cancer cells, they had to introduce something else. “This is the really tricky part,” Cheng said. “What we did is we put a protecting group here. This protecting group inhibits the sugar activity, unless it is removed.” The other way it can be removed is by a tumor-specific enzyme. When the enzyme removes the sugar, the sugar can then be metabolized. However, this wouldn’t happen in other cells. Once the sugar becomes metabolized, it goes to the cell surface and can then be targeted by therapeutic drugs. These findings were recently published in the journal Nature Chemical Biology. The technology they developed is the first of its kind and could become useful in treating cancers that don’t express antigens. Because they don’t express antigens, these cancers can’t be treated by current targeted cancer therapies. An example of a cancer that doesn’t express antigens is triplenegative breast cancer, an aggressive cancer that can be difficult to treat. They also tested their technology on colon and lung cancer. “I think many cancers can potentially be utilized for this treatment because this is a very practical technology,” Cheng said. “Any can-

cer, if we can identify specific enzymes that can create this bond and activate to the sugar, can potentially be utilized for treatment. It’s really depending on how many different types of enzymes we can identify for the specific tumor.” Cheng said this technology could also compete with the current targeted cancer therapies. However, it could still be several years before it’s transformed into a treatment that’s available for cancer patients. The team is currently in the beginning steps of licensing the technology. They’ve started a company at the University’s Research Park that they will use to develop the technology further. Kaimin Cai, a University Ph.D. student who has been involved with this research for over two years, is leading the team’s efforts in transitioning from research to market. He said they are currently working on developing a “next generation” sugar that could perform better than the sugar they originally tested. Additionally, they are exploring other drugs they could use with this technology and other cancers this technology could help treat. Cai said it’s exciting to be a part of research that could benefit future cancer treatment. “Usually we work in the lab, do something, publish a paper and no one really cares,” Cai said. “It’s really exciting to find something that has the potential to be used to the advantage of society.” Emily can be reached at





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