Current Affairs - New Technology

String-Based Technology to Revolutionize Lithium Production

Recently, scientists have developed a groundbreaking string-based technology with the potential to transform lithium production.

Key Points

  • Breakthrough: Researchers at the University of Princeton have pioneered a technique that significantly reduces land usage and production time.
  • This advancement can enhance lithium production at existing facilities worldwide while making previously untapped sources economically viable.
  • String-Based Approach: The researchers employed porous fibers twisted into strings, designed with a hydrophilic core and a hydrophobic surface.
  • When one end is immersed in a saltwater solution, capillary action causes water to ascend the string, similar to how trees transport water from roots to leaves.
  • Efficient Salt Crystal Formation: Rapid surface evaporation of water leaves behind salt ions, including sodium and lithium.
  • As the salts become more concentrated, they crystallize into sodium chloride and lithium chloride crystals, which can be easily harvested.
  • Lithium Production Challenges: A significant portion of the world's lithium is sourced from expansive "brine reservoirs" located in salt flats.
  • The conventional extraction method demands vast areas and can take several months or even years to yield usable lithium for batteries.
  • Surging Lithium Demand: The global demand for lithium was 500,000 metric tons of lithium carbonate equivalent in 2021, and it is projected to surge to two to three million tons by 2030, primarily driven by the growing adoption of electric vehicles and energy storage solutions.
  • Expanding Resource Opportunities: The technology opens doors to extract lithium from previously overlooked sources, including defunct oil and gas wells and geothermal brines, which were deemed too small or diluted for practical lithium extraction.

IISc Scientists Develop Innovative Approach to Detect and Target Cancer Cells

Recently, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) introduced a groundbreaking method for detecting and eradicating cancer cells, particularly those forming solid tumor masses.

Key Points

  • Hybrid Nanoparticles: IISc scientists have engineered hybrid nanoparticles composed of gold and copper sulphide.
  • These nanoparticles possess the dual capability to exterminate cancer cells through heat and facilitate their identification using sound waves.
  • Synergistic Properties: The nanoparticles exhibit photothermal, oxidative stress, and photoacoustic properties. When exposed to light, they absorb the energy, generating heat that can eliminate cancer cells.
  • Additionally, these particles produce singlet oxygen atoms, which are toxic to cancer cells, creating a dual-impact mechanism for cell eradication.
  • Diagnostic Potential: Unlike traditional methods like CT and MRI scans, which require trained radiologists for interpretation, these nanoparticles leverage their photoacoustic property to absorb light and generate ultrasound waves.
  • This property enables the high-contrast detection of cancer cells once the particles reach them, offering improved image resolution and precision.
  • Integration with Existing Systems: The nanoparticles can be seamlessly integrated with existing detection or treatment systems.

Scientists Create Human Embryo Model in Lab without Eggs or Sperm

Recently, scientists in Israel grew a human embryo model in a laboratory setting, devoid of eggs and sperm, by using a combination of stem cells.

Key Points:

  • Innovative Approach: Israeli researchers have developed one of the most comprehensive models of a 14-day-old human embryo, utilizing a mixture of stem cells and chemicals.
  • Multiple Cell Types: This mixture spontaneously assembles into various cell types necessary for fetal development, including those supporting nutrients, guiding body development, and forming essential structures like the placenta and umbilical cord.
  • Low Efficiency: However, only 1% of the mixture demonstrated spontaneous assembly, making the process relatively inefficient.
  • Ethical Challenges: Researchers face ethical constraints when studying the early stages of embryo development, as it's challenging to access embryos post-implantation in the uterus.
  • Miscarriage and Birth Defects: Investigating the initial stages is crucial, as most miscarriages and birth defects occur during this period. It can provide insights into genetic and inherited diseases.
  • Improving IVF: Understanding why some embryos develop normally and others don't could enhance in vitro fertilization success rates.
  • Gene Function Exploration: These models allow scientists to explore the roles of various genes in fetal development, offering valuable insights into development processes.

MeitY to Host Global IndiaAI 2023 Summit

Recently, MeitY has announced the Global IndiaAI 2023 Summit, slated for October 14 and 15, which will gather AI experts, startups, and investors from across the globe.

Key Points:

  • India's Leadership in AI: India's assumption of the chairmanship of the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) last November, coupled with its role in the G20, positions the country as a key player in the emerging tech landscape.
  • Focus on Local Innovation: Inspired by the success of the SemiconIndia Summit, the government aims to use this global event to promote local innovation and showcase AI-based public infrastructure tools.
  • India's Unique Strength: India's diversity is a significant asset for AI development, offering diverse datasets for AI models.
  • The government emphasizes responsible AI to encourage innovation while curbing user harm.
  • Global Collaboration for AI: The summit aims to foster a collaborative and participatory approach to AI, enhancing governance and transforming lives.
  • It also seeks to build global partnerships and shape the world's technology landscape.
  • Showcasing IndiaAI Initiatives: The event will showcase IndiaAI initiatives, including Digital India Bhashini, India Datasets program, IndiaAI Future Design program for startups, and IndiaAI FutureSkills program for nurturing AI talent.

ISRO's 'Nabhmitra' Device Successfully Tested for Fishermen's Safety

On 26th August, the ISRO-Space Applications Centre's innovative device 'Nabhmitra', aimed at enhancing the safety of fishermen, has undergone successful testing in Neendakara.

This ground-breaking technology enables effective two-way satellite-based communication and distress signaling, fostering improved maritime security for fishing communities.

Key Points

  • Two-Way Messaging Services: One of the device's remarkable features is its ability to facilitate two-way messaging services between fishing boats and onshore authorities.
  • This communication capability significantly contributes to the safety and security of fishermen while out at sea.
  • Localized Weather and Cyclone Warnings: Fishermen will receive weather and cyclone warnings in their local language through this system.
  • This feature is essential for ensuring that vital alerts reach fishermen accurately and promptly, aiding them in making informed decisions about their journeys.
  • Distress Signaling: In situations of distress, such as capsizing or fire, the 'Nabhmitra' device empowers fishermen to send distress messages to relevant authorities.
  • Navigational Information: Beyond safety features, the device offers valuable navigational information to fishermen.
  • It provides details about shipping channels, maritime boundaries, and fishing fields, enhancing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of fishing operations.

India's First AI School Launched in Kerala

On 29th August, India's first AI school, Santhigiri Vidyabhavan, was inaugurated in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, marking a significant step towards technology-driven education.

Key Points

  • Innovative Educational Institution: Santhigiri Vidyabhavan, Kerala's first AI school, utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced technological systems to enhance the learning experience for students.
  • Technology-driven Learning: The AI school integrates AI technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing, and data analysis into education, including curriculum design, personalized learning, assessment, and student support.
  • Holistic Approach: The AI system not only covers academic subjects but also provides guidance on interview skills, group communication, mathematics proficiency, writing skills, etiquette, English language proficiency, and emotional well-being.
  • Preparation for Competitive Exams: The AI school helps students prepare for significant exams like JEE, NEET, CUET, CLAT, GMAT, and IELTS, enhancing their chances of success in higher education.
  • Affordable Technology: Despite employing advanced technology, the AI school offers online resources created with AI on its website, making valuable educational tools accessible without excessive costs.

Development in Mini-Channel Heat Exchangers for Space Applications

Recently, scientists from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) and Khalifa University, UAE, achieved remarkable progress in advancing heat management for miniature electronic devices, particularly those used in space applications.

Key Points:

  • Breakthrough in Heat Exchangers: The miniaturization of electronic components in space missions and consumer electronics leads to significant heat generation.
  • Efficiency: High-performance computing processors can generate substantial power, resulting in heat loads that require efficient heat management.
  • Objective: The IIT Madras research aims to enhance the performance of these heat exchangers by disrupting the smooth flow inside the mini-channels through plate electrodes.
  • Wide Applications: The implications of this study extend to electronic thermal management, particularly in space technology.
  • Intelligent Control: The design's electrically driven nature enables intelligent control and rapid response.
  • The mechanism identified also holds promise for enhancing thin-film boiling and two-phase heat transfer systems.

CSIR Launches Indigenous e-Tractor

On 21st August, 2023, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science & Technology, as well as MoS for PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy, and Space, unveiled the CSIR Prima ET11, the first indigenous e-Tractor developed by the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) in Durgapur.

Key Points

  • Role of Start-Ups in Agri: Union Minister pointed out the significance of the increasing number of startups entering the agriculture sector, focusing on niche technologies such as e-Tractors, recycling garbage, drip irrigation, and genome sequenced farming.
  • The 5 S’s Mantra: The Minister introduced the mantra of "5 S’s" for successful R&D in government-run scientific laboratories: Showcasing, Stakeholders, Startups, Synergizing, and Strategizing Industry linkage.
  • Upcoming CSIR Campaign: The CSIR-CMERI is gearing up for the "One Week One Lab" campaign from September 11-15, 2023.
  • This campaign aims to showcase the laboratory's cutting-edge research, products, technologies, expertise, and facilities to various stakeholders.

Researchers Unearth 'Demon Particle' Paving the Way for Room-Temp Superconductors

Recently, scientists made a groundbreaking discovery of a massless particle, often dubbed the 'demon particle,' which has the potential to facilitate the development of superconductors capable of functioning at room temperature.

Key Points:

  • Superconductors at Room Temperature: Superconductors that function at room temperature could enable advancements in technologies like high-speed computing and precision medical imaging.
  • Theoretical Prediction by David Pines: Theoretical physicist David Pines had initially proposed the existence of the demon particle in 1956.
  • The scientist had theorized that electrons would exhibit unique behaviours when passing through solids, possibly losing their individuality due to electric interactions.
  • However, with significant mass, these interactions were believed to be impossible at room temperature, except for the 'demon' particles, which have no mass and can form under various energy conditions.

Breakthrough in Breeding Low-Glucosinolate Mustard Seeds

Recently, Indian scientists have developed the first ever low-pungent mustard that is pest and disease-resistant.

Key Points

  • Utilizing Oilseeds to the Fullest: India's primary domestically-grown oilseed, rapeseed-mustard, contributes significantly to vegetable oil and meal production.
  • While its oil is widely used, its meal, a protein-rich byproduct, finds application in livestock, poultry, and aqua feed.
  • Rapeseed-Mustard's Role: Rapeseed-mustard accounts for 42.6% of India's vegetable oil production, second only to soybean at 19.2%. In meal production, it holds 30.3%, following soybean at 38.9%.
  • Efforts to Improve Rapeseed-Mustard Quality: Scientists have been working to breed rapeseed-mustard lines with lower glucosinolate levels to match canola-quality rapeseed.
  • Challenges Due to Glucosinolates: Mustard seeds contain glucosinolates, compounds that contribute to the oil and meal's pungency.
  • High glucosinolate levels limit consumer acceptance of mustard oil and render rapeseed meal unpalatable to poultry and pigs, requiring mixing with fodder.
  • Challenges in Large-scale Cultivation: One obstacle to large-scale cultivation of low-glucosinolate mustard lines is their vulnerability to pests and diseases. Glucosinolates serve as natural defenses for these plants.
  • Gene Editing to the Rescue: Researchers have used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to modify 10 out of 12 glucosinolate transporter genes in Indian mustard (Varuna variety).
  • This reduced glucosinolate content in seeds while maintaining high levels in other plant parts, aiding resistance against pests and diseases.
  • Transgene-Free Innovation: The edited mustard lines are genome-edited (GE) and do not contain foreign genes.
  • Less Cumbersome Regulatory Approval: Unlike genetically modified (GM) crops, GE lines are transgene-free and have no Cas9 protein, simplifying regulatory approval.
  • Boosting Domestic Oilseed Production: India is a major importer of edible oils, spending billions annually. Enhancing domestic oilseed production, like low-glucosinolate mustard, can help reduce dependence on imports and save foreign exchange.
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