In our Science and Tech Issues we will cover only current affairs portion.
Advanced Ultra Super Critical Technology:
- Govt. to develop advanced ultra-super critical (AUSC) technology for power plants.
- It will be used for thermal power plants of future, envisaging reduced coal consumption and CO2 emission.
- This will be the first time large power plant equipment will be manufactured with advanced technologies without any technological collaboration/licensing agreement with foreign companies.
·This technology is still not matured and demonstrated anywhere in the world.
- It is also called as Sundew, mainly distributed in Tropical region.
·Members of this grow in seasonally moist or more rarely constantly wet open habitat
with nutrient poor acidic soils and high levels of sunlight.
·They are carnivorous plant and well known for insect trapping mechanism.
·Many species of Sundew are widely used as herbal medicines.
·Threat: Habitat destruction, Non-point sources of pollution ex. Nutrient rich water
NASA to explore asteroid Bennu during its close encounter with Earth
- A near-Earth asteroid that is coming towards our planet after being dislodged by a gravitational pull can indeed strike us and cause massive destruction, but according to experts, it has a only a one in 2,700 chances of hitting.
- Such an event will not take place for 150 years and the people living in the year 2135 would know whether the asteroid named Bennu posed an actual threat to hit Earth
- The OSIRIS-REx Mission, headed by NASA and the University of Arizona, plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft on September 8 in the efforts to reach Bennu in August 2018.
- OSIRIS-REx will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas V 411 rocket.
- It will orbit the Sun for a year and then use Earth’s gravitational field to assist it on its way to Bennu.
- In August 2018, OSIRIS-REx’s approach to Bennu will begin.
- It will use an array of small rocket thrusters to match the velocity of Bennu.
What are Asteroids?
- Asteroids are small Solar System bodies that orbit the Made of rock and metal, they can also contain organic compounds (some scientists suggest that asteroids could have brought they necessary chemicals to start life on Earth).
- Asteroids are similar tocomets but do not have a visible coma (fuzzy outline and tail) like comets do.
- Asteroids are also known as planetoids or minor planets.
- Asteroids vary greatly in size, some feature diameters as small as ten metres while others stretch out over hundreds of kilometres. Note that objects under ten metres in diameter are generally regarded as meteoroids.
- The first asteroid was discovered in 1801 by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi. Named Ceres, it features a diameter of around 950 kilometres and is now regarded as adwarf planet. Ceres was given dwarf planet status in 2006, along with Pluto, Eris, Makemake and Haumea.
The asteroid belt lies roughly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter in the Solar System. It is home to a large amount of irregular shaped asteroids that range in size from dust through to the dwarf planet Ceres.
Chilli-filled PAVA shells seen as alternative to pellet guns
· PAVA, a chilli based non-lethal munition will replace pellet guns in Jammu & Kashmir, decided an expert panel of the Home Ministry.
· PAVA stands for Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide. It is also called Nonivamide.
· It is an organic compound characteristically found in natural chilli pepper.
· On the Scoville scale (the degree to measure the power of chilli), PAVA is categorised as “above peak”.
It has the ability temporarily but severely irritate and paralyse humans.
NEED FOR AN HPV VACCINE:
A decade after its launch in the global market, the debate around the HPV vaccine hasn’t settled. In India, public health experts still remain unconvinced about its efficacy.
- It is being debated whether HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Vaccine should be included in the universal immunisation programme or not.
About HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Vaccine:
- The vaccine offers protection against sexually transmitted Human Papilloma Virus.
·The vaccine also averts the risk of contracting cervical cancer.
·It needs to be administered before the first intercourse.
·WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends two doses of the vaccine preferably in the age of 9-13 years.
·Two vaccines: Gardasil and Cervarix are available in India.
·The decision to include the vaccine in the immunization programme is pending with the Health Ministry.
No Evidence Found For Sterile Neutrino
- Ice Cube neutrino detector in Antarctica has found no evidence of sterile neutrino,
whose presence was hinted at by experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory in
the 1990s and recently at the Daya Bay nuclear reactor facility in Hong Kong.
·If discovered, this particle would have been a fourth type of neutrino and would
have indicated the existence of new physics beyond the “standard model” of physics
which predicts that there are only three varieties of neutrino.
Sterile neutrino is even more difficult to detect and elusive than the ordinary neutrinos. The only way to detect it is when it is in the process of changing into another type of neutrino — electron neutrino, tau neutrino or muon neutrino.
- Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons.
- Neutrinos are affected only by a “weak” sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it.
·Three types of neutrinos are known; ach type or “flavour” of neutrino is related to a charged particle. Electron neutrino is associated with the electron, and two other neutrinos are associated with heavier versions of the electron called the muon and the tau.
Non-invasive Prenatal Test
- This test will examine foetal DNA in the mother’s blood to determine whether there is a high risk of chromosomal defects
- NIPT is non-invasive prenatal tests, which can be taken up anytime during pregnancy, where blood samples are tested.
- Limitation: This is only a screening test and not a diagnostic test. If the test shows a positive result, the doctor has to validate the defect through amniocentesis.
- A first-of-its-kind leprosy vaccine developed in India
·It is to be launched on a pilot basis in five districts in Bihar and Gujarat.
·Developed by: The National Institute of Immunology.
The disease, caused by the bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, affects around 1.25 lakh people every year in India. 60% of the world’s leprosy patients live in India.
Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms
- Japanese scientist has discovered a technique which could be used to identify
disaster victims in mass floods.
·This technique not only compare how each individual SNP matches but also
examine how many consecutive matches there are.
·SNP are the most common type of genetic variation among people. Each SNP
represents a difference in a single DNA building block, called a nucleotide.
·SNPs underlie differences in our susceptibility to disease; a wide range of human
diseases, e.g. sickle-cell anaemia, β-thalassemia and cystic fibrosis result from
- SNPs occur normally throughout a person’s DNA. They occur once in every 300
nucleotides on average, which means there are roughly 10 million SNPs in the
·Most SNPs have no effect on health or development. Some of these genetic
differences, however, have proven to be very important in the study of human health.
·Researchers have found that SNPs may help predict an individual’s response to
certain drugs, susceptibility to environmental factors such as toxins, and risk of
developing particular diseases. SNPs can also be used to track the inheritance of
disease genes within families.
Carbon dioxide recycled to create usable fuel:
- According to a study published in journal Science, Scientists have developed a highly effective method of converting carbon dioxide into methanol.
·Methanol can be used as low emission fuel for vehicles.
- The gas produced by the burning of fossil fuels can be converted into usable energy source by using sunlight, similar to the way plants convert CO2 into sugar.
· Plants use catalysts in the conversion; similarly here scientist used tungsten diselenide as catalyst to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide being highly reactive can then easily converted into useful fuel such as methanol.
·Significance: This method directly targets the conversion of CO2 making it highly effective for environment protection.
First human genetic editing trial in China
- Chinese scientists will perform the world’s firstgenetic editing trial on humans this month, in an attempt to find a cure for lung cancer.
- A group of oncologist at the West China Hospital of Sichuan University, Chengdu, will inject patients with cells that have been modified using theCRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique
What is CRISPR?
- CRISPR, short forclustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, was named “2015 Breakthrough of the Year” by the U.S. journal Science .
- It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches.
- Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification.
- CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste.
Sorting bioparticles at the nanoscale
- Lab-on-a-chip technologies have become an incredibly helpful tool for physicians as they can be significantly faster, portable, easy to use and require less sample volume to help detect diseases.
- The goal is to shrink down to a single silicon chip all of the processes necessary to analyze a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.
What is nano-DLD?
- Nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement
- Using a technology called nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement, or nano-DLD allows a liquid sample to be passed, in continuous flow, through a silicon chip containing an asymmetric pillar array
- This array allows the system to sort a microscopic waterfall of nanoparticles, separating particles by size down to tens of nanometers resolution.
To predict cyclone, ISRO to build ScatSat- 1 satellite
- In order to predict the genesis of cyclones in the oceans, the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC) — an arm of ISRO — is developing a new, miniature weather-forecasting satellite — ScatSat — at the cost of an estimated Rs 300 crore.
- This satellite is expected to take over some of the functions of OCEANSAT-2, a satellite that had accurately predicted the landfall of cyclone Phailin on the Orissa coast in October 2013.
- Purpose: The indigenously developed weather forecasting satellite will be equipped with on board instruments to monitor sea surface winds and help predict the genesis of cyclones
- This ScatSat satellite will measure the wind speed and it’s direction over the ocean. It can predict the formation of cyclones, about 4-5 days in advance. This time period is very crucial in saving lives
- Payload: The primary payload of ScatSat-1 is a scatterometer to keep a watch on the speed and direction of ocean winds that indicate the formation and strengthening of cyclones.
- The amazing fact about this satellite, weighing 301 kg, is that it is being built at 60% of the actual cost, and in one-third of the estimated time. About 40% of satellite is made by recycling the leftover equipment from previous satellite missions. It will be launched in July 2016 and will have a mission life of five years.
- The data generated by this mini-satellite will be used by NASA, EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
- A scatterometer in the satellite will help predict formation of cyclones in the seas.
- Such predictions help in timely evacuation and minimise human casualties.
- A scatterometer is a microwave radar sensor.
- It measures the scattering effect produced while scanning the surface of the Earth from an aircraft or a satellite. It will measure the direction and speed of winds over the seas and oceans.
- The satellite has been designed to withstand multiple system failures, unlike the last one.
It is a device that creates merged reality and developed by Intel corporation. The headset uses Intel’s RealSense cameras, which have depth-sensing capabilities, to allow, without the need for additional sensors, objects such as the user’s hands to be tracked and entered into the virtual world displayed within the goggles.
What is Merged Reality?
Merged reality is next evolution of virtual-reality which drags real-world objects into the virtual realm using 3D cameras. The merged reality is more dynamic and natural, and allows people to do things that are now impossible. It goes beyond virtual reality, in that it digitises the real world and allows people to experience the virtual world without coming into conflict with the real world.
Hackers Attack Delhi Based Diagnostic Centre
- A diagnostic centre in National capital Delhi was recently attacked through a
ransomware by hackers who gain access to its servers.
·The unknown hacker asked for ransom in the form of bitcoins to restore the data.
·It is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a
sum of money is paid.
- Ransomware often infiltrates a PC as a worm or Trojan horse that takes advantage
of open security vulnerabilities. Most ransomware attacks are the result of clicking on
an infected e-mail attachment or visiting a hacked website.
- VCs are digital representations of value, issued by private developers and denominated in their own unit of account.
·VCs can be obtained, stored, accessed, and transacted electronically, and can be used for a variety of purposes, as long as the transacting parties agree to use them.
·The concept of VCs covers a wider array of “currencies,” ranging from simple IOUs of issuers (such as Internet or mobile coupons and airline miles), VCs backed by assets such as gold and “cryptocurrencies” such as Bitcoin.
- A crypto currency is a medium of exchange like normal currencies such as USD, but designed for the purpose of exchanging digital information through a process made possible by certain principles of cryptography.
·Cryptography is used to secure the transactions and to control the creation of new coins.
- The first crypto currency to be created was Bitcoin back in 2009.
·Today there are hundreds of other crypto currencies, often referred to as Altcoins.
·Government has no control over crypto currencies as they are fully decentralized.
Doppler radar to boost weather forecasting
- In a bid to improve weather forecasting services, Indian Space Research Organisation has commissioned a Doppler weather radar at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
- The C- band Polarimetric Doppler weather radar (C-DWR) is the first of its kind in South India.
- The data generated by the DWR would be shared with the India Meteorological Department to supplement its prediction.
- It would be made available to researchers and other user agencies also.
- The only other C- DWR in the country is at Chirapunji. Two more units are coming up at Bhuj in Gujarat and Gopalpur in Odisha.
- The DWR is expected to aid rainfall estimation and detect thunderstorm, cyclones and other severe weather events within a radius of 400 km.
- It has instruments to measure rainfall intensity, wind shear and velocity and locate a storm centre and the direction of a tornado or gust front.
- Equipped with a parabolic dish antenna and a foam sandwich spherical radome, the radar is designed to improve precision in long range weather forecasting and surveillance using the Doppler effect.
- It works by bouncing a microwave signal off a target and analysing how the object’s motion has altered the frequency of the return signal.
Fly on rails: Global tenders floated to induct Maglev trains
- Maglev, which is derived from the term ‘magnetic levitation’, is a transport method that employs magnetic levitation to move the vehicle without touching the ground. Withmaglev technology, a vehicle travels along a ‘guideway’ using magnets to create both lift and propulsion. This process reduces friction and allowing higher speeds.
- The ShanghaiMaglev Train, also known as the Transrapid, is the fastest commercial train in the world with top speed of 430 kilometres per hour.
- China has successfully launched its first satellite for mobile telecommunication, Tiantong-01.
- It is the first satellite of China’s homemade satellite mobile telecom system, and a key part of the country’s space information infrastructure.
Dengue & Chikungunya Spread In India:
Dengue is being reported in explosive proportions globally in recent decades, bringing
with it a substantial socioeconomic impact on individuals and society. Mortality from it
still prevails in developing countries, forming a formidable threat to public health.
Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical viral disease spread by several species
of mosquito of the Aedes type, principally A. aegypti. In a small proportion of cases, the
disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting
in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue
shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.
How To Minimise The Impact
- Vector control takes centre stage to prevent spread of Dengue. It is observed that
dengue mosquitoes are found inside homes; hence impregnating indoor curtains with
insecticides such as Pyrethroid has proved efficacious
·Community-level implementation of small interventions to prevent water
accumulation in coolers, manhole lids, tyres and water tanks along with general
cleanliness particularly in the urban areas are required.
·Use mosquito repellents. Almond oil with few drops of neem oil can be effective.
·Use mosquito repellents. Almond oil with few drops of neem oil can be effective.
·Beside this robust and accurate surveillance, modelling studies, heat maps of global
data and release of sterile mosquitoes can be seriously taken into consideration.
- It is a fever caused by a Arbovirus that is transmitted between people by two types
of mosquitos: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. They mainly bite during the day.
·Arboviruses were originally present only in the forest areas infecting primarily
monkey species. Humans were just incidental hosts. But now due to the impact of
industrialisation and loss of forest cover, these viruses have made humans as their
- The virus cannot spread from one human to another but can spread only by
mosquitoes which get infected while biting an infected individual, thereafter
transmitting the virus by biting an uninfected individual.
·Female mosquitoes need proteins from mammalian blood for their eggs to develop,
which is why they bite humans and due to this they spread to humans as certain
viruses like the dengue and chikungunya viruses collectively called arboviruses
(ARthropodBOrne viruses) make use of this requirement of the mosquitoes to ensure
their own survival.
- Like childhood’s chicken pox, it happens only once in lifetime.
·At present there are no virus-specific detection methods and doctors have to
resort to employing antibody-specific testing which delays diagnosis by a great extent. This is a primary concern with respect to chikungunya treatment and its
Bicyclic Azetidine Series:
- It is newly discovered novel compound that shows great promise in the battle
- It was found to cure the disease with just a single, low-dose treatment, provide
prophylaxis and prevent disease transmission both in the lab and in animals.
·The compound was able to achieve extraordinary results in mice as it targets the
parasite’s protein translation machinery (phenylalanine tRNAsynthetase), which is
the very core of the parasite’s housekeeping function of synthesising about 5,000
Biodegradable Energy Harvester – From Raw Fish Scales
- Fish scales, a by-product that is usually thrown away, contain collagen fibres that
possess a piezoelectric property, which means that an electric charge is generated
in them in response to mechanical stress.
- Researchers, at Jadavpur University, have synthesised flexible bio-piezoelectric
nanogenerator (BPNG) from this bio-waste.
- This could be used in transparent electronics, biocompatible and biodegradable
electronics, edible electronics.
- This could act as a sustainable green energy source for next generation selfpowered implantable medical devices.
- Apart from above in self-powered implantable medical devices, surgeries, ehealthcare monitoring, as well as in vitro and in vivo diagnostics, apart from its
myriad uses for portable electronics.
Hydrogen-bonded Organic Frameworks
- Researchers from Pune’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research
(IISER) and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) have synthesised two novel porous
and crystalline hydrogen-bonded organic frameworks (HOFs) that could potentially be used as a proton exchange membrane in fuel cells which could make fuel cells
that are cheaper and more efficient.
- They are hydrogen bonded complex compound which have the advantages of
solution process ability and characterization and easy purification.
- Currently Nafion is used which has major drawbacks in terms of applicability at a
high temperature range or low humidity, high production costs and gas leakage
New Catalyst To Make Water E. coli Free
- Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru have developed a
new catalyst which can make water completely free of E. coli in about 30 minutes by
exposing it to sunlight.
- New catalyst is made by synthesising a zinc oxide photocatalyst that absorbs both
UV and visible light to kill the bacteria.
- Catalyst have been doped with a metal and a non-metal (copper and nitrogen) so
that it absorbs both visible and UV light.
- This catalyst able to reduce the E. coli load in water from 10 million to zero in about
Working Of New Catalyst
- Conventional catalysts like TiO2 are active only in the UV region as it has a wide
band gap. Thus, conventional strategy relies on UV light to kill pathogenic bacteria.
But these are often expensive and need relatively more sophisticated process.
- In case of new catalyst (ZnO), researchers have reduced the band gap by co-doping
it with copper and nitrogen.
- The co-doped ZnO catalyst will be able to absorb even the longer wavelength of 400-
700 nm which is the visible range of the spectrum.
- When one shine light of appropriate wavelength on a photocatalyst, the electrons
and holes get separated. The electrons and holes themselves can produce free
radicals that kill the bacteria.
What is Hyper elastic Bone?
- It is a new synthetic material that can be implanted under the skin as a scaffold for
new bone to grow on, or used to replace lost bone matter altogether.
- HB are made of hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring mineral that exists in our
bones and teeth.
- Surgeons currently replace shattered or missing bones with a number of things. The
most common option is an autograft where a piece of bone is taken from a patient’s
own body, usually from a hip or a rib, and implanted where it’s needed elsewhere in
the same patient’s skeleton.
- Surgeons prefer autografts because they’re real bone complete with stem cells that
give rise to cartilage and bone cells to provide extra support for the new graft.
- A patient instead of going through painful autograft surgeries or waiting for a custom
scaffold to be manufactured, he or she could be X-rayed and a 3D-printed hyper
elastic bone scaffold could be printed that same day. HB will provide strength to
What are the Great Balls of Fire?
- They are mysterious, super-hot blobs of gas which were detected by the Hubble
- Each as massive as planet Mars and zooming so fast through space that they would
travel from earth to the moon in 30 minutes,
- The GBF have continued once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years.
- Where are these observed: The gas balls were observed near a red giant called V
Hydrae, about 1,200 light years away from earth. Red giants are stars that are
nearing the end of their fuel supplies and have begun to puff up and expand.
- Scientists at the Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine at Amrita
University, Kochi, have used photodynamic therapy for treating residual cancer cells
of a high-grade brain tumour (glioblastoma).
- This therapy uses a photosensitive drug that becomes active under the action of light
and converts molecular oxygen into reactive oxygen species that kill cancer cells.
- Photodynamic therapy is a well-known treatment option but can be used only when
cancers are near the skin as light cannot penetrate deep.
- While the photosensitive drug injected into the body intravenously is not cancer-cell
specific and is less efficient in absorbing light to generate reactive oxygen species,
scientists have turned to nanotechnology and used light in the near-infrared region to
achieve better results as light in the near-infrared region can penetrate to about 0.8
cm into body tissues.
- The drug encapsulated in a nanoparticle has peptides functionalised on its surface
and is selectively absorbed only by cancer cells. The nanoparticles containing the
drug have better ability to kill cancer cells as they absorb three times more light in
the near IR region than the free drug.
China has successfully launched a new high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) dubbed as Gaofen-3
- The Gaofen-3 satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), under guidance of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CATC).
- It is China’s firstgeosynchronous orbit high-definition optical imaging satellite and the world’s most sophisticated satellite.
- TheGaofen-3 satellite is China’s first low orbit remote sensing satellite.
- It has lifespan of eight years.
- It will provide high-definition remote sensing data for its users over long periods of time.
- It has 12 imaging modes that will provide high-definition observation satellite is capable of taking wide pictures of earth and photographing detailed scenarios of specific areas.
- TheGaofen-3 satellite is China’s first SAR imaging satellite. It is accurate to one meter in distance and covers the globe with an all-weather 24-hour observation service.
- It will be used fordisaster warning, water resource assessments, weather forecasting and the protection of maritime rights.
- It will also help the country protect itsmaritime interests, especially amid rising tensions in the South China Sea
Deep Brain Stimulator
- Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram have agreed to join hands to develop ‘Deep Brain Stimulator’ (DBS).
What are the facts?
- Deep brain stimulation(DBS) is a surgical procedure used to treat a variety of disabling neurological symptoms—most commonly the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD), such as tremor, rigidity, stiffness, slowed movement, and walking problems.
- The procedure is also used to treat essential tremor, a common neurological movement disorder.
- DBS does not damage healthy brain tissue by destroying nerve cells. Instead the procedure blocks electrical signals from targeted areas in the brain.
- At present, the procedure is used only for patients whose symptoms cannot be adequately controlled with medications.
- DBS uses a surgically implanted, battery-operated medical device called a neurostimulator—similar to a heart pacemaker and approximately the size of a stopwatch—to deliver electrical stimulation to targeted areas in the brain that control movement, blocking the abnormal nerve signals that cause tremor and PD symptoms.
- Before the procedure, a neurosurgeon uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanning to identify and locate the exact target within the brain where electrical nerve signals generate the PD symptoms.
- Some surgeons may use microelectrode recording—which involves a small wire that monitors the activity of nerve cells in the target area—to more specifically identify the precise brain target that will be stimulated.
- Generally, these targets are the thalamus, subthalamic nucleus, and a portion of the globus pallidus.
- Once the system is in place, electrical impulses are sent from the neurostimulator up along the extension wire and the lead and into the brain. These impulses interfere with and block the electrical signals that cause PD symptoms.
The DBS system consists of three components:
- The lead- (also called an electrode)—a thin, insulated wire—is inserted through a small opening in the skull and implanted in the brain. The tip of the electrode is positioned within the targeted brain area.
- The extension- is an insulated wire that is passed under the skin of the head, neck, and shoulder, connecting the lead to the neurostimulator.
- The neurostimulator- (the “battery pack”) is the third component and is usually implanted under the skin near the collarbone. In some cases it may be implanted lower in the chest or under the skin over the abdomen.
· China has launched the world’s first quantum satellite- Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS. It is an effort to establish communications that cannot be hacked.
All About it
- In its two-year mission, QUESS is designed to establish ‘hack-proof’ quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground.
- The satellite will be put into Earth orbit around 500 km above ground.
- The craft’s main instrument is a “Sagnac” interferometer that is used to generate two entangled infrared photons by shining an ultraviolet laser on a non-linear optical crystal.
The main goals of QUESS will be to demonstrate quantum key distribution (QKD) between the satellite and two stations on the ground – the Nanshan 25 m telescope at the Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory in western China and the Xinglong Observatory in Yanshan, around 200 km south of Beijing.
BARC develops portable kit for detection of Chromium contamination of water
- Chromium is widely used in various industries like leather, steel, chrome plating, paint manufacturing, wood preservation etc. Untreated effluents from these industries cause widespread contamination of water as been reported in several parts of the country.
- Chromium in the environment primarily exists as Trivalent Chromium Cr(III) and Hexavalent Chromium Cr(VI). The later is toxic and the World Health Organization has classified it as carcinogenic and can cause stomach ulcers and cancers and severe damage to kidneys and liver.
- As per Indian standard IS10500 for drinking water, the maximum permissible concentration of Cr(VI) in drinking water is 50 microgram per litre. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends a still lower permissible concentration of 10 microgram per liter.
- Detection of Cr(VI) at such low levels is not only technically challenging but also expensive and time consuming since it involves collection of water samples from affected areas, transport to laboratory, storage and finally analysis. The method can be used for limited water samples with errors due to conversion of Cr(III) to Cr(VI) and vice versa during transport and storage.
- BARC has developed a simple, user friendly, quick and cost effective kit for onsite determination of Cr(VI), which meets IS10500 as well as EPA criterion. It provides the much needed solution to measure the level of Chromium contamination in drinking water and tap water, lakes, rivers as well as ground water. The procedure involves adding a specified amount of specific reagents to the water sample and identifying the developed colour.
- The colour develops within 5 minutes and the distinction can be made with naked eye. For ease of comparison a colour chart is provided with the kit. Water samples can be immediately categorized as being safe or toxic for drinking from Chromium(VI) point of view. The kit provides several advantages including onsite detection and instantaneous results, elimination of use of sophisticated instruments for analysis, low investment on infrastructure for production of the kit, easy availability of raw materials and very good accuracy for the intended purpose.
Existing kits for onsite detection of Chromium (VI) are currently imported and the cost of analysis is beyond Rs.100 per sample. In comparison, analysis using BARC kit costs Rs.16 per sample. This is yet another example of BARC’s efforts towards ‘Make in India’ campaign of the Government of India.
Sunshine, seaweed help to break down dye waste
- Scientists at the Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Bhavanagar, Gujarat have been able to completely degrade three industrial dyes — methyl orange, methylene blue and reactive black-5 — in the presence of sunlight.
- The researchers developed a photocatalyst using titanium dioxide doped with red seaweed polymer carrageenan to degrade the dyes. The results were published recently in the journal RSC Advances.
- Despite stringent environmental regulations, a comprehensive method of treating industrial dye is not available. The methods available are expensive and do not completely break down the dye molecules to non-toxic constituents but merely concentrate the contaminants.
- “Annually, more than 500 tonnes of non-degradable textile colour wastesare being disposed of in natural streams without adequate treatments,” the paper says.
- Titanium dioxide has conventionally been used for photocatalytic degradation of industrial dyes, but it takes a long time to degrade dyes. So the researchers doped titanium dioxide nanoparticles with sulphur and carbon by treating it with carrageenan.
- The nanocomposite was found to behave as an excellent photocatalyst that helped degrade industrial dyes quickly in a single-step process.
- “The energy required to activate the catalyst is less when it is doped and this makes the dye degradation faster.
Solar concentrator used
- Unlike a commercial titanium-dioxide-based catalyst that did not clear the dye solutions, the photocatalyst prepared in the lab was found to degrade the dyes when exposed to direct sunlight between noon and 2 pm during May-July.
- “The Titanium-dioxide-doped photocatalyst degraded reactive black-5 and methylene blue in about one-and-half hours and 60 per cent of methyl orange in two hours.
- “Visible light is mainly responsible for degradation; ultraviolet radiation intensity was just 3 per cent.”
- When a solar concentrator was used, the degradation process was hastened. “Reactive black-5 and methylene blue degraded within five minutes and methyl orange degraded completely in 20 minutes,” says Dr. Meena. There was no significant colour change in the case of control titanium dioxide sample that was not doped.
- “When a solar concentrator is used the intensity of visible light is more and this plays an important role in the degradation process.
- The researchers are planning to conduct studies during winter to assess the photocatalyst’s ability to break down the dyes when bright sunlight is not available.
- The nanocomposites are thermally stable and can be reused up to six times with the degradation efficiency remaining at over 97 per cent.
The nanocomposite photocatalyst can safely and completely treat harmful dyes in an eco-friendly and cost-effective manner.
U.S. set to hand over Internet’s naming system to ICANN
- The U.S. is set to cede power of theInternet’s naming system to a non-profit organisation on October 1, ending the almost 20-year process to hand over a crucial part of the Internet’s governance.
- The Domain Naming System, DNS, is one of theInternet’s most important components.
- It pairs the easy-to-remember web addresses with their relevant servers. Without DNS, one would only be able to access websites by typing in its IP address, a series of numbers such as “126.96.36.199”.
- The U.S. will give up its power fully to Los Angeles-basedICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a non-profit organisation.
- The terms of the change were agreed upon in 2014, but it was not until now that the U.S. said it was finally satisfied thatICANN was ready to make the change.
- Users of the web will not notice any difference becauseICANN has essentially being doing the job for years. But it’s a move that has been fiercely criticised by some U.S. politicians as opening the door to the likes of China and Russia to meddle with a system that has always been “protected” by the US.
- ICANNwas created in 1998 to take over the task of assigning web addresses. Until that point, that job was handled by one man – Jon Postel. He was known to many as the “god of the internet”, a nod to his power over the internet, as well as his research work in creating some of the systems that underpin networking.
- Postel, who died not long afterICANN was created, was in charge of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
- Administration of the IANA was contracted to the newly-formedICANN, but the U.S.’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the of Department Commerce, kept its final say over what it was able to do.
It is that final detail that is set to change from October 1. No longer will the US government — through the NTIA — be able to intervene on matters around internet naming.
- It is the world’s largest and longest aircraft. It recently embarked on its maiden flight in central England.
- It is a hybrid airship made by Hybrid Air Vehicles in United Kingdom. Airlander 10 is a partly plane and partly airship filled with helium gas.
It can stay airborne for more than two weeks unmanned.
NASA set to launch asteroid space dust probe
- NASA is all set to begin itsfirst robotic mission aimed at scooping up 4.5-billion-year-old dust from an asteroid. The $800-million NASA mission is called OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.
- The unmanned spacecraft will travel to an asteroid near Earth called Bennu to collect space dust that may reveal how the materials necessary for life — such as carbon and ice — made their way to our planet.
- Material returned is expected to enable scientists to learn more about the formation and evolution of the Solar System, initial stages of planet formation, and the source of organic compounds which led to the formation of life on Earth.
- If successful, OSIRIS-REx will be the first US spacecraft to return samples from an asteroid.
- The mission, developed by the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, is planned for launch in September 2016. The science team includes members from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Italy.
Why asteroid in general and bennu in particular was chosen for the study?
- An asteroid was chosen as the target of study because an asteroid is a ‘time capsule’ from the birth of our Solar System.
- In particular, Bennu was selected because of the availability of pristine carbonaceous material, a key element in organic molecules necessary for life as well as representative of matter from before the formation of Earth.
The science objectives of the mission are:
- Return and analyze a sample of pristine carbonaceous asteroid regolith in an amount sufficient to study the nature, history, and distribution of its constituent minerals and organic material.
- Map the global properties, chemistry, and mineralogy of a primitive carbonaceous asteroid to characterize its geologic and dynamic history and provide context for the returned samples.
- Document the texture, morphology, geochemistry, and spectral properties of the regolith at the sampling site in situ at scales down to millimeters.
- Measure the Yarkovsky effect (a thermal force on the object) on a potentially hazardous asteroid and constrain the asteroid properties that contribute to this effect.
Characterize the integrated global properties of a primitive carbonaceous asteroid to allow for direct comparison with ground-based telescopic data of the entire asteroid population.
Bavar 373 missile defence system
- It is a domestically built long-range missile defence system by Iran.
- The project started when the country was under international sanctions.
- The system was designed to intercept cruise missiles, drones, combat aircraft and ballistic missiles.
- The project was launched as an alternative to the Russian S-300 system, the delivery of which was suspended in 2010 due to sanctions imposed over Iran’s nuclear programme.
ISRO successfully test-fires scramjet engine
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently successfully tested its own scramjet engines from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. The mission was successful.
- In this mission, the ISRO has successfully demonstrated its capabilities in critical technologies like ignition of air breathing engines at supersonic speed, air intake mechanism and fuel injection systems.
- With this, India became thefourth country to demonstrate the flight testing of a scramjet engines. This mission is a milestone for ISRO’s future space transportation system.
What is scramjet?
- Rockets usually carry both fuel and oxidiser for easy combustion. Scramjet engine uses the oxygen from atmosphere to compress fuel, thus reducing the weight of rocket and increasing the efficiency.
- The scramjet engine is used only during the atmospheric phase of the rocket’s flight.
- These engines have no moving parts. Instead of the rotating compressor and turbine in a jet engine, air is compressed and expanded by complex systems of shockwaves under the front of the aircraft, inside the inlet and under the fuselage at the rear.
- The scramjet enginecan also liquefy the oxygen and store it on board.
- Scramjet engines will help bringing down launch cost by reducing the amount of oxidiser to be carried along with the fuel.
Scramjet engines designed by ISRO uses hydrogen as fuel and the oxygen from the atmospheric air as the oxidiser.
Endosulfan causes DNA damage in animals: Study
What is Endosulfan?
§ Endosulfan is an off-patent organochlorine insecticide and acaricide that is being phased out globally.
§ The two isomers, endo and exo, are known popularly as I and II. Endosulfan sulfate is a product of oxidation containing one extra O atom attached to the S atom.
§ Endosulfan became a highly controversial agrichemical due to its acute toxicity, potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor. Because of its threats to human health and the environment, a global ban on the manufacture and use of endosulfan was negotiated under the Stockholm Convention in April 2011.
§ The ban has taken effect in mid-2012, with certain uses exempted for five additional years.
§ More than 80 countries, including the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, several West African nations, the United States, Brazil, and Canada had already banned it or announced phase-outs by the time the Stockholm Convention ban was agreed upon.
§ It is still used extensively in India, China, and few other countries.
§ It is produced by Makhteshim Agan and several manufacturers in India and China.
§ Endosulfan is one of the most toxic pesticides on the market today, responsible for many fatal pesticide poisoning incidents around the world.
§ Endosulfan is also axenoestrogen—a synthetic substance that imitates or enhances the effect of estrogens—and it can act as an endocrine disruptor, causing reproductive and developmental damage in both animals and humans.
§ It has also been found to act as an aromatase inhibitor.
Whether endosulfan can cause cancer is debated. With regard to consumers’ intake of endosulfan from residues on food, the Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations has concluded that long-term exposure from food is unlikely to present a public health concern, but short-term exposure can exceed acute reference doses.
In a first, natural gas hydrates discovered in the Indian Ocean
- A large natural gas discovery has been made in the Indian Ocean following a joint expedition by India and the U.S., opening up a new resource to meet energy needs.
- India’s Oil Ministry and the US Geological Survey made the discovery of large, highly enriched accumulations of natural gas hydrate — an icy form of the fuel — in the Bay of Bengal.
“This is the first discovery of its kind in the Indian Ocean that has the potential to be producible.
What are gas hydrates?
- Natural gas hydrates are a naturally occurring, ice-like combination of natural gas and water found in oceans and polar regions. The amount of gas within the world’s gas hydrate accumulations is estimated to greatly exceed the volume of all known conventional gas resources.
They are considered as vast resources of natural gas and are known to occur in marine sediments on continental shelf margins.
Scientists for first time develop laser from fluorescent jellyfish proteins
- Scientists for the first time have developed LASER (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) from fluorescent jellyfish proteins that were grown in bacteria.
The first of its kind represents a major advance breakthrough in so-called polariton lasers operating at room temperature.
What is Laser?
• A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation.
• Major difference between laser and other sources of light is that, laser emits light coherently.
What is Polariton laser?
• Polariton laser works by passing photons back and forth between excited molecules.
• Unlike conventional lasers, the photons in Polariton laser are released and reabsorbed within the device itself before zooming out as laser light.
• To develop the fluorescent Polariton laser, scientists had engineered barrel-shaped fluorescent proteins from jellyfish DNA.
• They had filled optical microcavities (between two mirrors) with this protein before subjecting them to optical pumping.
• Nanosecond flashes of blue light from an external laser were used to bring the system up to the required energy to create laser light.
• After the threshold was reached for polariton lasing, scientists pumped more energy into the device setup that resulted in conventional lasing.
• These lasers have the potential to be far more efficient and compact than conventional ones.
• It could open up research avenues in quantum physics and optical computing. Consumes less energy compared to conventional lasers.
• It can be used for the purpose more efficient optical communications or in medical lasers that are less destructive to living tissue.
Serotonin: Scientists unmask the dark side of the ‘happy hormone’
- It is known as one of the “happy hormones” and its discovery ultimately led to the development of what were hailed as depression ‘wonder drugs’ like Prozac.
- But, despite being prescribed as a treatment for anxiety, these ‘SSRI’ drugs designed to boost levels of serotoninin the brain had a strange and mysterious side-effect. In some cases, they initially made people feel more anxious or even suicidal.
- Now a new study, published in the journal Nature, has found that, contrary to the popular view serotoninonly promotes good feelings, it also has a darker side.
- Researchers in the US delivered a mild shock to the paws of mice and found this activated neurons that produce serotoninin an area of the brain known to be involved in mood and depression.
- Artificially increasing these neurons’ activity also appeared to make the mice anxious.
- Using sophisticate equipment to monitor the mice’s brains, the scientists, from North Carolina University’s medical school, then mapped what they described as an “essential” serotonin-driven circuit “governing fear and anxiety”.
- Professor Thomas Kash, one of the researchers, said: “The hope is that we’ll be able to identify a drug that inhibits this circuit and that people could take for just the first few weeks of SSRI use to get over that hump.
- “More generally, this finding gives us a deeper understanding of the brain networks that drive anxiety and fear behaviour in mammals.”
- According to the NHS website, SSRIs are “usually the first choice medication for depression” because they “generally have fewer side effects”.
- “These can be troublesome at first, but they’ll generally improve with time,” it says.
- It says the “common side effects” of the drugs can include: “Feeling agitated, shaky or anxious; feeling or being sick; dizziness; blurred vision; low sex drive; difficulty achieving orgasm during sex or masturbation; in men, difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection.”
Closest Earth Like Exoplanet Found
- Just over four light years away, a planet orbits its cool red-dwarf star – Proxima Centauri, the sun’s closest star neighbour. What is special about this planet is that after years of tracking it, astronomers have come to the conclusion that it is in the habitable zone of its star.
- Informally designated Proxima b, the planet revolves around its star once every 11.2 days and is located at a distance of nearly 7 million kilometres from its star. This is only about 5 per cent the Earth-Sun distance. The mass of the planet is believed to be about 1.3 times that of the Earth. It could contain water and it is estimated that surface temperatures could be close to – 40 degrees C.
- Put together, all these factors hint at the tantalising possibility that Proxima b can support life or is habitable.
- The first exoplanets were spotted in 1995, and today there are over 3,000 known exoplanets. Yet this system is special for being close and lending itself to easy observation.
- The star Proxima Centauriis about 4.2 light years away from the sun – a distance that it would take 4.2 years to traverse if you were travelling at the speed of light – a fact that looks very attractive when contemplating interstellar travel.
- The star, Proxima Centauri, is not very bright and cannot be tracked with the naked eye, especially as it is very close to the brighter binary star pair Alpha Centauri AB.
- Red dwarfs such as Proxima Centauri can also vary in brightness which can mislead the observer into thinking they are observing a planet.This possibility was ruled out by monitoring its changing brightness carefully.
Astronomers also deduce that its climate would be markedly different from the Earth’s, due to its manner or rotation – it appears unlikely the planet will have any seasons.
India Declares itself Free from Avian Influenza (H5N1)
- The Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers welfare has declared India free from Avian Influenza (H5N1).
- India had notified outbreak of Avian Influenza (H5N1) in May 2016 in Karnataka.
- There has been no further outbreak reported in the country thereafter.
- However, the Center has emphasized the need for continued surveillance especially in the vulnerable areas bordering infected countries and in areas visited by migratory birds.
What is H5N1?
- H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”).
- Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person.
- When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.
How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?
- Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
- The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.
- There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.
Why is there so much concern about H5N1 influenza?
- H5N1 infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate.
If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.