Krishna-Godavari (KG) Basin: An Excellent Source Of Methane Hydrate


The Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin holds a massive reserve of methane hydrate and a rich source of cleaner natural gas, claims a study by the Pune-based Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) of the Science & Technology Ministry.

What are Methane Hydrates?

  • Methane hydrate also called ‘Fire Ice’ is a crystalline solid that consists of a methane molecule surrounded by a cage of interlocking water molecules. Methane hydrate is an "ice" that only occurs naturally in subsurface deposits where temperature and pressure conditions are favourable for its formation.

How Methane Hydratesareformed?

  • Methane hydrate is formed when hydrogen-bonded water and methane gas come into contact at high pressures and low temperatures in oceans.

Where Methane Hydrates are found?

  • They are found primarily on the edge of continental shelves where the seabed drops sharply away into the deep ocean floor.

Other areas where Methane Hydrate were found in India

  • They are also found near the coast of Andaman and Mahanadi.

KG Basin has Maximum Diversity

  • This study using molecular and culturing techniques revealed maximum methanogenic diversity in the KG basin, which is one of the prominent reasons to confirm it to be the extreme source of biogenic methane in comparison to the Andaman and Mahanadi basins.

What are Methanogens?

  • Methanogens are microorganisms that produce methane as a metabolic byproduct in hypoxic conditions.

Despite huge potential, why extraction is a challenge?

  • Quite apart from reaching them at the bottom of deep ocean shelves, not to mention operating at low temperatures and extremely high pressure, there is the potentially serious issue of destabilising the seabed, which can lead to submarine landslides.
  • A greater potential threat is methane escape. Extracting the gas from a localised area of hydrates does not present too many difficulties, but preventing the breakdown of hydrates and subsequent release of methane in surrounding structures is more difficult.
  • And escaping methane has serious consequences for global warming - recent studies suggest the gas is 30 times more damaging than CO2.
  • These technical challenges are the reason why, as yet, there is no commercial-scale production of methane hydrate anywhere in the world. But a number of countries are getting close.

One-Step Laser-Based Fabrication To Prevent Rusting


  • Scientists from International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) have brought out a single-step method to develop super-hydrophobic functional surfaces that have ability to repel water. Such surfaces do not allow water to cling long enough to evaporate and leave behind residue.
  • This indigenous laser processing allows the fabrication of fast and flexible super-hydrophobic surfaces on a wide range of materials.

What is New?

  • By adjusting the laser processing parameters, in this method, it is possible to accurately control the structure pattern and precisely tailor the contact angle and the wetting properties of a variety of substrates. It is a robust, simple, fast, precise, and eco-friendly process and can be used to effectively fabricate robust super-hydrophobic surfaces and has high potential for large-scale application.

The Technique

  • In the single-step process developed by ARCI scientists, comprises surface modification using a femtosecond laser (lasers emitting light pulses with durations between a few femtosecondsand hundreds of femtoseconds, i.e. 10-15 of a second), non-thermal, and eco-friendly.

What is the Current Practice?

  • Currently, super-hydrophobic properties are achieved by developing rough surfaces and low surface free energy chemical coatings which are mostly two-step processes. The first step is to construct a rough surface by physical or chemical methods, and the second step involves chemical coatings of low surface free energy chemicals.
  • Drawbacks: However, these super-hydrophobic coating surfaces have many limitations, such as the use of fluorinated toxic reagent and poor mechanical stability.

Benefits

  • The efficient and straight forward strategy will encourage the scalability of the process both in terms of reducing the cycle time and applying the developed hierarchical micro-scale and nano-scale structures over large areas for practical applications in the prevention of corrosion, bacterial growth, and avoidance of repeated cleaning.
  • Eco-friendly self-cleaning surfaces that can protect biomedical and other applications from rusting and bacterial growth may soon be a reality with an ultrafast laser-based process that scientists have developed for fabrication of surfaces without use of coatings or additional surface treatment.

Invisible Shield For Electromagnetic Interference


  • Scientists from Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), Bengaluru have fabricated a metal mesh structure instead of continuous film on desired transparent substrates to make it a transparent shield for electromagnetic interference (EMI).
  • These transparent and flexible EMI shields are made of metal meshes using the crack templating method via spray coating which is pioneered in their laboratory.
  • The CeNS team has developed a copper metal mesh on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) sheet as its substrate, which exhibited a visible transmittance, a parameter of visible transparency of about 85% and sheet resistance. These transparent and flexible EMI shields made of metal mesh coatings on desired transparent substrate showed remarkably high values for total EMI shielding.

What is new?Metal Mesh is Superior to Continuous Metal Film

  • Instead of continuous film of metal (Cu) coating on any transparent substrate (glass, PET) where transparency can be compromised. In this method, the CeNS team has deposited metal mesh networks on the substrate, which covers only 7% area of substate, unlike 100% coverage of continuous film. This makes metal mesh transparent compared to continuous metal film. Metal mesh provides better electromagnetic shielding compared to same thickness of continuous metal film where transparency can be compromised. 

Uses and Advantages

  • The invisible shield can be used in various military stealth applications and can cover electromagnetic wave emitter or absorber devices without compromising their aesthetics.
  • This metal mesh can be created on any desired substrates such as acrylic, polycarbonate, glass, etc. without compromising the conductivity of the electrodes. 

“Swadeshi Microprocessor Challenge”


On 18th August 2020, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister of Law & Justice, Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, launched “Swadeshi Microprocessor Challenge- Innovate Solutionsfor #Aatmanirbhar Bharat” to provide further impetus to the strong ecosystem of Start-up, innovation and research in the country.

Aim of this Initiative

  • “Swadeshi Microprocessor Challenge- Innovate Solutions for #Aatmanirbhar Bharat” seeks to invite innovators, startups and students to use these microprocessors to develop various technology products.
  • As one of the concrete steps towards realizing the ambition of self-reliance and a momentous stride towards “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, this initiative is aimed at not only meeting India’s future requirements of strategic and industrial sectors but also has the potential to mitigate the issues of security, licensing, technology obsolescence and most crucially cutting dependency on imports. The design, development & fabrication of these state-of-the-art processor variants at foundry in the country and abroad, is the successful step to leapfrog to ultimate goal of vibrant ecosystem of Electronic System Design & Manufacturing in the country.
  • Open to students at all levels and startups, the Challenge demands contestants to not only tinker with these Swadeshi Processor IPs & facilitate them with innovating the frugal solutions for societal needs but also make available the entire home-grown ecosystem around Swadeshi Processors to develop the complex designs for catering to both global and domestic requirements in near future. 

Support by the Ministry

  • Ministry of Electronics and IToffers a slew of benefits to the contestants and technology resources that include not only the internship opportunities and regular technical guidance from the best VLSI & Electronics System Design Experts in the country but also the business mentorship & funding support, facilitated by Incubation Centres. Financial support to the tune of Rs. 4.30 Crore at various stages of the Challenge for developing the hardware prototype and incubating a start-up is being offered.

Recent Achievements in this Field

  • IIT Madras and Center for Development of Advance Computing (CDAC) have developed two microprocessors named SHAKTI (32 bit) and VEGA (64 bit) respectively using Open Source Architecture under the aegis of Microprocessor Development Programme of Ministry of Electronics and IT.          

The Challenge           

  • The Challenge spread over 10 months, kick-starts with registration process at https://innovate.mygov.in on 18th August 2020 and culminates in June 2021, with an opportunity for 100 Semi-finalists to win total Rs. 1.00 Crore of Award, 25 Finalists to win total Rs. 1.00 Crore of Award and top 10 teams entering the finale, will get the seed fund of total Rs 2.30 Crore and 12 months incubation support. Above all, participants will get an opportunity to translate their innovations around Swadeshi Processors, showcase them at a higher viewership platform and facilitate them to scale from ideation to marketplace, thereby standing a chance to contribute to the overall mission of #AtmaNirbharta of Government.

Mystery Of Extreme Helium Stars Solved


  • A study by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) detected the presence of singly ionised fluorine for the first time in the atmospheres of hot Extreme Helium Stars(EHe).
  • The origin and evolution of these Hydrogen deficient objects have been shrouded in mystery. Their severe chemical peculiarities challenge the theory of well-accepted stellar evolution as the observed chemical composition of these stars do not match with that predicted for low mass evolved stars.
  • Detection of fluorine in hot extreme Helium Stars solves their evolution mystery.
  • An extreme helium star or EHe is a low-mass supergiant that is almost devoid of hydrogen, the most common chemical element of the universe.There are 21 of them detected so far in our galaxy.

Annular Solar Eclipse


  • An annular solar eclipse occurred on June 21, 2020. This was the first solar eclipse of 2020. It was visible in parts of north India. The rest of the country, however, could observe a partial eclipse.
  • A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the Sun and the Earth. There are three types of solar eclipses – total, partial and annular.
  • In a total eclipse, the disk of the Sun is fully obscured by the Moon.
  • In partial and annular eclipses, only part of the Sun is obscured.
  • In an annular solar eclipse, the Moon covers the Sun from the centre. This leaves the outer rim of the Sun perceptible.
  • The phenomenon is popularly known as the ‘ring of fire.'

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich


  • The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich spacecraft is a part of the Copernicus Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission, a joint U.S.-European effort in which two identical satellites will be launched five years apart.
  • The spacecraft will join the Copernicus constellation of satellites that constitutes the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme.
  • Once in orbit, each satellite will collect sea level measurements down to the centimeter for 90% of the world’s oceans. The data will add to almost 30 years of information gathered by an uninterrupted series of joint U.S.-European satellites, creating an unprecedented — and unbroken — 40-year sea level dataset. The spacecraft will also measure the temperature and humidity of Earth’s atmosphere, which can be used to help improve weather forecasts and hurricane predictions.

Stars Of Varied Ages Can Co-Exist In Open Clusters


  • Using the 1.3-m telescope at Devasthal (Uttarakhand) astronomers at the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) have found that stars of varied ages can co-exist in open clusters. This challenges earlier understanding that stars in an open cluster have the same age.
  • Open star clusters are a system of stars bound by gravity in which stars are born from the same molecular clouds. All the stars in a cluster follow the evolutionary sequence as per their initial masses at the time of formation of these stars.  Open clusters are also important in probing formation and evolution of Milky Way Galaxy as they are distributed throughout the Galactic disk.
  • Stellar Evolution is the process by which a star changes over the course of time depending on the mass of the star.

Pulsars: Cosmic Lighthouses


  • Just as lighthouses have helped sailors navigate safely into harbor for centuries, future space travellers may receive similar guidance from the steady signals created by pulsars.
  • Scientists and engineers are using the International Space Station to develop pulsar-based navigation using these cosmic lighthouses to assist with wayfinding on trips to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis programme and on future human missions to Mars.
  • Pulsars, or rapidly spinning neutron stars, are the extremely dense remains of stars that exploded as supernovas. They emit X-ray photons in bright, narrow beams that sweep the sky like a lighthouse as the stars spin.
  • An X-ray telescope on the exterior of the space station, the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer or NICER, collects and timestamps the arrival of X-ray light from neutron stars across the sky.
  • Software embedded in NICER, called the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology or SEXTANT is using the beacons from pulsars to create a GPS-like system.
  • This concept, often referred to as XNAV, could provide autonomous navigation throughout the solar system and beyond.
  • The stability of the pulses allows highly accurate predictions of their time of arrival to any reference point in the solar system.
  • Navigation information provided by pulsars does not degrade by moving away from Earth since pulsars are distributed throughout our Milky Way galaxy.

Magnetocaloric Material For Cancer Treatment


  • Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) have developed a rare-earth-based magnetocaloric material (certain materials in which application and removal of a magnetic field causes the materials to become warmer or cooler) that can be effectively used for cancer treatment.
  • Advancements in magnetic materials led to the development of magnetic hyperthermia to address the issues of side effects of cancer treatment like chemotherapy.
  • In magnetic hyperthermia, magnetic nanoparticles are subjected to alternating magnetic fields of few Gauss, which produce heat due to magnetic relaxation losses. Usually, the temperature required to kill the tumor cells is between 40 and 45°C. However, the drawback in magnetic hyperthermia is the lack of control of temperature, which may damage the healthy cells in the body and also have side effects like increased blood pressure, etc.
  • These problems can be avoided by using magnetocaloric materials, as it can provide controlled heating. The advantage of magnetocaloric materials which heat up or cool down with the application and removal of the magnetic field, respectively is that as soon as the magnetic field is removed, cooling effect is generated, unlike in magnetic nanoparticles where overheating persists, even after removal of the magnetic field.
  • This method, when used in conjunction with radiation therapy, would reduce the side effects, damage caused to the human body and also reduce the treatment time of cancer tumours.

AU Microscopii B


  • AU Microscopii b or AU Mic b for short is a new planet discovered by NASA scientists while analysing data gathered by the agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), as well as the recently retired NASA Spitzer Space Telescope.
  • It is as big as Neptune and rotates around a young star (AU Mic) in just over a week.

Artemis Accords


  • NASA has laid out a new set of principles that it hopes will inform how states and private companies will interact on the Moon.
  • The new guidelines, called the Artemis Accords, seek "to create a safe and transparent environment which facilitates exploration, science, and commercial activities for the benefit of humanity".
  • The new agreement reiterates this: "International cooperation on Artemis is intended not only to bolster space exploration but to enhance peaceful relationships between nations. Therefore, at the core of the Artemis Accords is the requirement that all activities will be conducted for peaceful purposes, per the tenets of the Outer Space Treaty."

Solar Minimum


  • The sun is said to have reached into a state of ‘solar minimum’ as it has been more than 100 days since the sunspots are virtually not visible at all.
  • Solar minimum is the period of least solar activity in the 11-year solar cycle of the Sun. During this time, sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes, and often does not occur for days at a time.
  • It may cause health risks to astronauts travelling through space as the sun’s magnetic field weakens and provides less shielding from these cosmic rays.

Arktika-M


  • Russia will launch its 1st satellite named Arktika-M to monitor the Arctic climate and environment later this year.
  • Russia`s Arktika-M remote-sensing and emergency communications satellites will gather meteorological data in the polar regions of the Earth, which will allow to improve weather forecasts and will enable scientists to better study climate change.

SpaceX’ VisorSats


  • Elon Musk's company SpaceX has come out with a solution to the problem of its mega-constellation of Starlink satellites (to provide satellite Internet access) lighting up the night sky and irking astronomers.
  • A "sunshade" had been developed to address the problem. Dubbed VisorSat, the system is a set of darkened shades that can be deployed to keep the sun from glinting off the bright parts of each satellite.
  • The goal is to make the satellites invisible to the naked eye and minimise their impact on astronomy with a focus on ensuring that whatever impact they do have does not hinder the scientists' ability to make new discoveries.

R&D Statistics And Indicators 2019-20


  • The R&D Statistics and Indicators 2019-20 is based on the national S&T survey 2018.
  • It has been brought out by the National Science and Technology Management Information (NSTMIS), Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Major Findings

  • India’s gross expenditure in R&D has tripled between 2008 & 2018.
  • Women participation in extramural R&D projects has increased significantly to 24% in 2016-17 from 13% in 2000-01 due to various initiatives undertaken by the Government in S&T sector.
  • Number of researchers per million population in India has increased to 255 in 2017 from 218 in 2015 and 110 in 2000.
  • India occupies 3rd rank in terms of number of Ph. D.’s awarded in Science and Engineering (S&E) after USA (39,710 in 2016) and China (34,440 in 2015).
  • During 2018, India was ranked at 3rd, 5th  and 9th  in scientific publication output as per the NSF, SCOPUS and SCI database respectively.
  • India is ranked at 9th position in terms of Resident Patent Filing activity in the world.
  • According to WIPO, India’s Patent Office stands at the 7th position among the top 10 Patent Filing Offices in the world.

ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA)


  • It is an experiment by NASA involving an array of radio antennas attached to a helium balloon which flies over the Antarctic ice sheet at 37,000 meters.
  • The height is important here to shut out all other "noises" so that the ANITA antennas can "listen" to the cosmos and detect high-energy particles, known as neutrinos, which constantly bombard the planet.
  • Neutrinos are high-energy particles that pose no threat to us and pass through most solid objects without anyone even noticing. Neutrinos constantly bombard Earth and as per some estimates emerging from studies, 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second!
  • Rarely do they interact with matter. But if they do smash into an atom, they produce a shower of secondary particles we can detect, which allows us to probe where they came from in the universe. ANITA detects neutrinos pinging in from space and colliding with matter in the Antarctic ice sheet.

Over the years, ANITA has detected a handful of "anomalous" events. Instead of the high-energy neutrinos streaming in from space, they seem to have come from a strange angle, through the Earth's interior, before hitting the detector. These findings can't be explained by our current understanding of physics.

UV Blaster


  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed an Ultra Violet (UV) Disinfection Tower for rapid and chemical free disinfection of high infection prone areas. 
  • The equipment named UV blaster is a UV based area sanitiser designed and developed by Laser Science & Technology Centre (LASTEC), the Delhi based premier laboratory of DRDO with the help of M/s New Age Instruments and Materials Private Limited, Gurugram. 
  • The UV Blaster is useful for high tech surfaces like electronic equipment, computers and other gadgets in laboratories and offices that are not suitable for disinfection with chemical methods. The product is also effective for areas with large flow of people such as airports, shopping malls, metros, hotels, factories, offices, etc.
  • The UV based area sanitiser may be used by remote operation through laptop/mobile phone using WiFi link.
  • This sanitiser switches off on accidental opening of room or human intervention. One more salient safety feature of the product is the key to arm operation.

Tianwen 1


  • China's space agency - China National Space Administration (CNSA) has named its first Mars exploration mission as “Tianwen 1” meaning "quest for heavenly truth."
  • The program has been named after a long poem by ancient Chinese poet Qu Yuan.
  • China's Mars mission includes complete orbiting, landing, and roving in one mission.
  • So far, the United States and the former Soviet Union are the only two countries to land a spacecraft on Mars, but the European Space Agency and India have successfully sent spacecraft to enter the planet's orbit.

Vertical Transmission


  • Vertical transmission refers to the transmission of an infection from a pregnant woman to her child. It can be antenatal (before birth), perinatal (weeks immediately prior to or after birth) or postnatal (after birth).
  • The infections of which vertical transmission has been known to happen are HIV, Zika, Rubella and the Herpes Virus.
  • Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has laid down the need for healthcare workers to factor in the consequences of the probable vertical transmission of COVID-19.

Sodium Hypochlorite


  • Recently, the Health and Family Welfare Ministry has issued advisory against spraying of chemical disinfectants on individual or group which is physically and psychologically harmful.
  • The Ministry said that inhalation of sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl or NaClO) can lead to irritation of mucous membranes of nose, throat, respiratory tract and may also cause bronchospasm.
  • Sodium hypochlorite is most often encountered as a pale greenish-yellow dilute solution commonly known as liquid bleach, a household chemical widely used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.

COVSACK


  • The “COVSACK” is a kiosk developed byDRDOfor the COVID-19 sample collections.
  • This newly made kiosk can make the process of collecting samples free of infection spread and will help in combatting the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

CollabCAD


  • CollabCAD is an indigenous three dimensional computer aided design system which helps the used to build models in virtual 3d space and create and engineering drawings for shop floor which makes it a complete package for smart manufacturing.
  • It is jointly launched by Atal Innovation Mission, NITI Aayog and National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  • CollabCAD initiative aims to provide a great platform to students of Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) across country to create and modify 3d designs with free flow of creativity and imagination.

TriboE Mask


  • A team of researchers at the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), Bangalore, has come up with a recipe for making face masks, termed as TriboE Mask that can hold electric charges to restrict the entry of infections but interestingly, without any external power.
  • The innovation relies on electrostatics. When two non-conducting layers are rubbed against each other, the layers develop positive and negative charges instantly and continue to hold the charges for some time. This electric field, quite strong at proximity, has been used to deactivate or possibly even kill the germs.
  • The idea comes from physics textbooks on triboelectricity (The triboelectric effect is a type of contact electrification on which certain materials become electrically charged after they are separated from a different material with which they were in contact). In this case they used two outer layers of polypropylene and inner material –Nylon.

First Made-in-India COVID-19 Test Kit


  • Pune based biotechnology firm Mylab Discovery Solutions Pvt. Ltd. is the first Indian entity to get government approval for commercial manufacturing of their COVID-19 testing kit.
  • The product is named Mylab PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit.
  • The COVID-19 test is based on reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) which allows for detection even in the early stages of infection.
  • With the government’s emphasis on ‘Make in India’, Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) supported the company.
  • The kit was developed and evaluated in a record time of six weeks and costs nearly one-fourth of the currently procured kits. It can detect infection in 2.5 hours.

DST ’s COVID-19 Task Force To Map Technologies


  • The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has set up a COVID 19 Task Force for mapping of technologies from R&D labs, academic institutions, startups, and MSMEs to scout for and fund nearly market-ready solutions in the area of diagnostics, testing, health care delivery, and equipment sup-plies.
  • These solutions include personal protective equipment (PPE), affordable kits for screening, ventilators and oxygenators, data analytics for tracking, monitoring, and controlling the spread of outbreak through AI and IoT based solutions.
  • The Task Force is to identify the most promising startups and help them rapidly scale up.
  • To this end, DST has invited two separate sets of proposals, one each under Science & Engineering Research Board (SERB) and Technology Development Board (TDB), to support scientific solutions and commercial manufacturing of both new and existing solutions.

CSIR-IHBT Develops Natural Hand Sanitizer


  • A team of scientists from CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) based in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, has developed a new hand sanitizer.
  • The sanitizer has been made using natural flavours, active tea constituents and alcohol as per the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Chemicals like parabens, triclosan, synthetic fragrance and phthalates have not been used in the product.
  • The technology has been transferred to a Palampur based company for commercial production and marketing in all major cities across the country.

IIT-Mandi To Establish Technology Innovation Hub


  • Under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS), the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has sanctioned Rs 7.25 crore to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi to establish a Technology Innovation Hub (TIH).
  • The TIH will focus primarily on human-computer interaction (HCI) research with emphasis on design and development of technology interfaces and the study of interaction between humans and computers.
  • The hub will work towards developing a technology interface for challenges in the areas of cybersecurity, defence, healthcare, forensics, landslides, environment, air pollution, and agriculture.
  • TIH will also work on the development and evaluation of interfaces of IoT-based Cyber-Physical Sys-tems (CPS).
  • It will collaborate with other leading institutions and work in the areas of skill development and entrepreneurship.

Synechococcus Sp. PCC 7002 To Boost Biofuel Production


  • In a Department of Biotechnology, sponsored research, scientists at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) have developed a method to improve the growth rate and sugar content of a marine cyanobacterium called Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002.
  • They successfully engineered Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 which showed a higher growth rate and sugar (glycogen) content. When grown on air, the growth was doubled and the glycogen content of the cells increased by about 50%.
  • Biotechnological processes such as biofuel production are dependent on the availability of low-cost and sustainable supply of sugars and a nitrogen source. Plants, through the process of photosynthesis, convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into biological components such as sugars, proteins and lipids.
  • The cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) can also perform photosynthesis and produce sugar by fixing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Apart from higher yield of sugars, cyanobacterial biomass also provides a nitrogen source in the form of proteins.
  • Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 is a model marine cyanobacterium. There are other Synechococcus species and related organisms where this work can be extended.
  •  The present finding will help improve the economic feasibility of marine cyanobacteria-based sugar, and consequently, biofuel production.

Chatbot ASKDISHA: Now In Hindi


  • Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) has enabled Artificial Intelligence based chatbot ASKDISHA to converse with customers in Hindi language, apart from English, on their e-ticketing site.  The customers can now ask queries to ASKDISHA in Hindi language by voice as well as text.
  • In order to resolve queries of railway passengers over the internet pertaining to various services offered, Indian Railways had introduced the services of ASKDISHA in October, 2018.
  • IRCTC plans to launch ASKDISHA in more languages along with many other additional features in the near future.
  • The chatbot is a special computer programme designed to simulate conversation with users, over the internet. Since its initial launch, more than 150 million passengers have been benefited by ASKDISHA with 10 billion interactions for seeking help on reservation of tickets, cancellation, enquiry of refund status, fare, PNR search, train running status, enquiry about retiring rooms and tourism products.

RAISE 2020


  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will organize the first Global AI Summit in India- ‘RESPONSIBLE AI FOR SOCIAL EMPOWERMENT’ (RAISE 2020), during 11th -12th  April with a focus on harnessing AI for social transformation, inclusion, and empowerment.
  • The summit will bring together the innovators, investors and collaborators of the technology.
  • RAISE 2020 will have the following three key features:
  • AI Startup Pitchfest: It will be an exclusive closed door pitching for a select few before the best of investor community and potential customers.
  • AI Startup Theatre: It will provide a great opportunity for select start-ups to showcase their offerings at the centre stage of a premium and one of its kind summits to audience from around the globe.
  • AI Startup Awards: The awards will recognize the potentially high impact, champion startups for using AI as a solution and enabler.

EChO Network


  • EChO Network, a national program, has been launched to train a new generation of educators and students who can identify and solve problems in an interdisciplinary manner and who can listen to our natural world and tackle real-world problems in medicine, agriculture, ecology, and technology.
  • The initiative has drawn in partners from Government, industry and academia, with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Govt. of India steering the program under the guidance of Prof. Shannon Olsson, Director, EChO Network. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Hindustan Unilever Limited, RoundGlass, India Climate Collaborative, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) are the founding partners of the EChO Network.

Tweezer Clock


  • This is a clock designed by researchers at California Institute of Technology and NASA-Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that will give more accurate and precise time than currently used atomic clocks.
  • Atomic clocks are used around the world to precisely tell time. Standard atomic clocks in use today, based on the atom cesium, tell time by "counting" radio frequencies.
  • The new clock design builds upon two types of optical atomic clocks already in use. The first type is based on a single trapped charged atom, or ion, while the second uses thousands of neutral atoms trapped in what is called an optical lattice.
  • Instead of using a collection of many atoms, the new design uses 40 atoms -- and those atoms are precisely controlled with laser tweezers.

Trastuzumab: WHO Approved First Biosimilar Medicine For Breast Cancer


  • The World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified its first biosimilar medicine – trastuzumab – for treatment of breast cancer. The medicine, supplied by Samsung Bioepis NL B.V. (Netherlands), was assessed by WHO and found comparable to the originator product in terms of efficacy, safety and quality.

Biosimilars: They are much less expensive versions of innovator biotherapeutics while keeping the same effectiveness. They are usually manufactured by other companies once the patent on the original product has expired.

Biotherapeutics: Biotherapeutics are pharmaceutical products derived from biological and living sources. They include therapeutic vaccines, blood, blood components, cells, gene therapies, tissues and other materials.

WHO Prequalification: Prequalification is a service provided by WHO to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of those products that address global public health priorities.

‘Bibha’ & ‘Santamasa’


  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named a star and its planet with Indian names:
    • Bibha or HD 86081 is a yellow-white dwarf star in the constellation Sextans. It is bigger and more massive than our Sun. The star has been named ‘Bibha’ in honour of a pioneering Indian woman scientist Bibha Choudhury, who discovered subatomic particle, pi-meson. ‘Bhibha’ also means “a bright beam of light” in Bengali.
    • Santamasa or HD 86081b is a planet revolving around ‘Bibha’ has been named as ‘Santamasa’ to reflect the cloudy nature of its atmosphere. ‘Santamasa’ is the Sanskrit term for ‘clouded’.

CST-100 Starliner


  • The Boeing CST-100 Starliner (Crew Space Transportation) is a crew capsule manufactured by Boeing as its participation in NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Its primary purpose is to transport crew to the International Space Station (ISS) and to private space stations.
  • A recent uncrewed test flight of Starliner experienced an anomaly that precluded a docking with the International Space Station and was recalled and landed safely in the New Mexico desert.

MMP7 & Hypertension


  • Indian Institute of Technology Madras researchers have found an association between a particular tissue-remodelling enzyme called ‘MMP7’ and risk of hypertension.
  • Hypertension, a common disease in India, is associated with remodelling of heart tissues. Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) play a crucial role in such hypertension-induced heart tissue remodelling, which results in alterations in the structural and mechanical support to blood vessels. This directly results in an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.
  • MMPs are a group of enzymes that have been found to be associated with degradation of extracellular matrix proteins (that provide structural support to the cells), during regular tissue growth.

Protein That Repairs DNA


  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Hyderabad (IITH) have unravelled the mechanism of action of a protein (alkB homolog 3, or ALKBH3) that repairs damaged DNA.

SnowEx


  • It is a NASA campaign for a better understanding of how much water is contained in each winter’s snowfall and how much will be available when it melts in the spring.

Radioactive Cesium Technology To Measure Soil Erosion


  • Researchers at the ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Dehradun have come up with a way to monitor soil erosion and decrease in carbon content in soil by correlating it with levels of radioactive cesium in soil.
  • Radioactive cesium technology is a more rapid and less expensive method for soil erosion studies in the severely intensive croplands. It gives more accurate results for all types of erosion studies including historic, comparative and long-term soil and soil organic carbon erosion.
  • For measuring cesium levels in soil, gamma spectroscopy technique is used. Different sites were found to have varying levels of cesium pointing at different degrees of soil degradation in different sites. By applying various formulas, the cesium loss was then used to calculate erosion and associated carbon loss in soil.
  • This method can help in monitoring the effects of soil erosion and effectiveness of soil conservation strategies.

First Indigenous Fuel Cell System


  • The first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with Indian industries under India’s flagship program named “New Millennium Indian Technology Leadership Initiative (NMITLI)” was launched on the occasion of CSIR Foundation Day.
  • The 5.0 kW fuel cell system generates power in a green manner using methanol / bio-methane, with heat and water as bi-products for further use; amounting to greater than 70% efficiency, which otherwise may not be possible by other energy sources.
  • The Fuel Cells developed are based on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) Technology.

A Stable Form Of Plutonium Discovered


  • A new compound of plutonium (Pu) with an unexpected, pentavalent oxidation state — Pu (V) has been discovered by scientists.
  • The new compound is solid and stable, and may represent a transient phase in radioactive waste repositories.
  • They figured it as Pu (V), pentavalent plutonium, a never-observed-before form of the element.
  • Plutonium is an unstable element and is tricky to transport, store and dispose of, but the find could lead to new ways to tackle those problems.

GEMINI: An Aid To Fishermen


  • GEMINI (Gagan Enabled Mariner’s Instrument for Navigation and Information) is a portable receiver linked to ISRO-satellites, that is “fail-proof” and warn fishermen of danger.
  • The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS), a Hyderabad institute collaborated with Accord, a private company, to develop this receiver.
  • GEMINI works on GAGAN developed by ISRO and the Airports Authority of India and is an India-made global positioning system and relies on the positioning system by ISRO’s GSAT satellites.
  • With this device, fishermen outside the signal range of their phone companies can also access warnings and alerts.

'AISoft'


  • The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) researchers have developed algorithms that enable novel applications for artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and deep learning to solve engineering problems.
  • The researchers are going to establish a startup to deploy their AI Software called 'AISoft' to develop solutions to engineering problems in varied fields such as in thermal management, semiconductors, automobile, aerospace and electronic cooling applications.
  • AIsoft was used to solve thermal management problems and found to be nearly million-fold faster compared to existing solutions currently used in the field.

JE & Bluetongue Detection Kit


  • Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) - Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, have developed two diagnostic kits:

Japanese Encephalitis (JE) ELISA Kit (IgM)

  • The kit is helpful for assessing the active infection of JE virus in the swine population which predicts the outbreak of JE in the humans.
  •  As compared to the commercial kit available in the market at a price of Rs. 52,000; the ICAR-IVRI developed is available for the farmers at a minimal price of Rs. 5,000 only.
  • Each kit is meant for testing around 45 samples.

Bluetongue: Sandwich ELISA for detection of Antigen

  • With the help of the Kit, the Bluetongue Virus can be controlled with the vaccination of susceptible animals, vector control and quarantine of infected animals with the good management practices.
  • Apart from the vaccination, the early diagnosis and isolation of the infected animals are one of the commonly suggested preventive methods for controlling the spread of the disease.
  • Bluetongue (BT) Virus: The Bluetongue (BT) virus is an insect-transmitted viral disease of domestic and wild ruminants that includes the camelid species. The disease is widespread among the sheep, goats, cattle, buffaloes and camels in the country.