Science & Tech: Aug-Nov 2018 Summary

ISRO launches communication satellite GSAT-29

Communication satellite GSAT-29 was launched successfully by the second developmental flight of Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark III (GSLV MKIII-D2) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.

Gaganyaan

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Russia’s federal space agency Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (ROSCOSMOS) have agreed to worked together for first manned space mission Gaganyaan. In this regard, both space agencies have signed MoU at end of delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladmir Putin in New Delhi.

Earlier, India and France also signed agreement to collaborate for ISRO’s first human space mission Gaganyaan to be launched in 2022. Both countries also announced working group for Gaganyaan.

In this regard, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is setting up third launch pad at Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh to undertake Gaganyaan manned space flight programme. ISRO currently has two launch pads which are already full. Third launch pad is being set up for the human space flight.

ISRO MoU with CUJ

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Central University of Jammu (CUJ) in Jammu today for setting up of Satish Dhawan Center for Space Science in University. It will be first of its kind institute coming up in Jammu and Kashmir.

ISRO postpones Chandrayaan-2

ISRO has postponed Chandrayaan-2, India’s second mission to moon to January 2019. This will be second time mission has been postponed. The ambitious mission was earlier planned to be launched in April 2018 and was later fixed for October 2019. With this delay, India may lose fourth position in the world for soft-landing on the moon to Israel as it too planning to launch moon mission in December 2018.

ATAGS Gun Trials

India’s first high capacity indigenous long range 155mm and Dhanush’s supplement gun ATAGS (Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System) trials began at Pokhran Field Firing Range in Jaisalmer district.

What is ATAGS

The Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS) project was started in 2013 by DRDO to replace older guns in service in the Indian Army with a modern 155mm artillery gun. The ATAGS is being developed by the Defence Research & Development Organisation on two parallel tracks – one prototype in partnership with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division) and another with Kalyani Group (Bharat Forge). The gun in its last trials in August 18 had fired up to 47.2  KMs.

Solar Parker Probe

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe successfully completed flyby of Venus during its first gravity assist from planet. These gravity assists will help spacecraft tighten its orbit closer to Sun over course of the mission. The spacecraft in future will be carrying six Venus gravity assists over the course of the seven-year mission.

#PowerOf18

Twitter India has launched #PowerOf18 campaign aimed at encouraging youth to contribute in public debates and participate in civic engagement for the 2019 general elections.

SpiNNaker

The world’s largest supercomputer Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) machine designed to work in same way as human brain was switched on for the first time.

(QR)-enabled fridge magnets for Utility Bill Payments

New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has launched quick response (QR)-enabled fridge magnets for digital payment of bills. The magnets are personalised and each customer will have unique QR Code mapped to their consumer account number. It is powered by SignCatch, an IT and services company. There will be separate magnets provided by the NDMC to its consumers; doorstep for both electricity and water bills. Consumers can stick these magnets on their refrigerators at home and use their smartphones to scan QR Code on magnet to pay their bills instantly.

Shakti

The researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) have designed India’s first indigenous microprocessor called ‘Shakti’. It is aimed at developing industrial-grade microprocessors and other components of the microprocessor ecosystem. It will also help to reduce dependency on imported microchips and risk of cyber-attacks.

Fusion Energy Conference

The 27th Fusion Energy Conference (FEC 2018) was held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The six-day event is organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and hosted by Department of Atomic Energy and Gandhinagar-based Institute of Plasma Research. The aim of FEC 2018 was to provide forum for discussion of key physics and technology issues as well as innovative concepts of direct relevance to the use of nuclear fusion (reaction that powers Sun and stars) as a source of energy.

Ask Disha

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered chatbot Ask Disha ((Digital Interaction to Seek Help Anytime) to help its users answer various queries. The chatbot is special computer programme designed to simulate conversation with users, especially over the internet.

Bio-electric Medicine

Scientists from US claimed that they have developed world’s first bioelectronic medicine, which is implantable, biodegradable andwireless device that speeds nerve regeneration and improves healing of damaged nerve. The device has not been tested in humans, but its successful testing on animals (rats) offer promise as future therapeutic option for nerve injury patients.

The bioelectronic medicine device is wireless is powered and controlled wirelessly by transmitter outside body. This bioelectronic medicine device delivers regular pulses of electricity to damaged peripheral nerves after surgical repair process. This results in accelerating regrowth of nerves.

Coal-gasification based fertilizer plant

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched commencement of work for India’s first Coal-gasification based fertilizer plant with pet coke blending will come up in Talcher, Odisha. The coal gasification based fertilizer plant is being developed by Talcher Fertilizers Limited (TFL).

TFL is joint venture company of GAIL (India) Limited (GAIL-29.67% stake), Coal India Limited (CIL-29.67% stake), Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers Limited (RCFL-29.67% stake) and Fertilizer Corporation of India Limited (FCIL-10.99% stake). The plant will be built at an estimated investment of Rs. 13,000 crore and is targeted to be commissioned by 2022

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR)

India’s first indigenously developed 500-megawatt (mw) Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu is expected to achieve criticality in 2019. PFBR has been designed indigenously by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR). It is pool-type reactor with 1,750 tonnes of sodium as coolant.  It is designed to generate 500 MW of electrical power, with operational life of 40 years. It generates power by burning mixed uranium-plutonium MOX fuel, a mixture of PuO and UO.

Bombali: New Ebola Virus Strain

Researchers working in joint US-West African study funded by USAid have discovered new strain of Ebola virus in bats in northern Bombali region of Sierra Leone. It has been named as Bombali virus strain, after district where it was found. The Bombali virus is overall sixth known virus strain Ebola virus. Others are Zaire, Sudan, Tai Forest, Bundibugyo and Reston.

Kadaknath gets GI Tag

Kadaknath chicken meat from Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh has received Geographical Indication (GI) tag from Chennai based Geographical Indication Registry and Intellectual Property India. GI tag will ensure that no one else can use name Kadaknath Chicken while selling any other black chicken. It will also enhances its commercial value that will translate into higher prices for producers mainly tribal districts of Jhabua.

Blockchain District

Telangana State Information Technology, Electronics and Communication department (ITE & C) signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tech Mahindra to launch India’s first Blockchain district. The MoU was signed at International Blockchain Congress 2018 held in Hyderabad.

It will be centre of excellence, incubator and process development for emerging technology with innovative infrastructure and facilities to foster growth of Indian blockchain start-ups and companies. Tech Mahindra as its founding member will provide platform and technology assistance to all incubators in it. It will also empower accelerators to develop and solve market problems across its global customer ecosystem. Telangana (ITE & C) Department will provide regulatory and policy support to enable and promote Blockchain growth both in India and globally.

Digital Literacy Library

Social networking giant Facebook has launched Digital Literacy Library to help young people build skills they need to safely enjoy online technology. The lessons can be found on Facebook’s Safety Center as well as on Berkman Klein’s Digital Literacy Resource Platform.

Facial Recognition to increase security

Tokyo 2020 will be first Olympics to use facial recognition technology to increase security around all venues. For this, games organisers have partnered with Japanese telecommunications and information technology giant NEC to develop the first system of this kind to be implemented at an Olympics games.

Thermal Battery Plant

The world’s first-ever thermal battery plant owned by Bharat Energy Storage Technology Private Limited (BEST) was inaugurated in Amravati, Andhra Pradesh. This plant aims to create new energy storage form that is expected to have commercial applications, while also maintain low carbon footprint and less dependent on external factors like weather. The plant will begin its commercial operations from May 2019. BEST is planning to create a battery capacity of 1000MW. This is expected to be upgraded to a 10GW capacity by 2025.

Aerogel

Scientists have developed Aerogel, a transparent heat-resistant super-insulating gel using beer waste. It may be used to build greenhouse-like habitats for human colonised on extraterrestrial habitats such as Mars or Moon. It could also be used on buildings on Earth to help make huge savings on energy costs.

Aeolus

European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully launched wind-sensing satellite named Aeolus into orbit on board of Vega rocket from French Guyana. It is world’s first wind-sensing satellite dedicated to map Earth’s wind on global scale in particular tropical winds which are very poorly mapped because of almost complete absence of direct observations.

FabCI

Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad (IIT-H) has launched “Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI)”, an exclusive incubator to boost chip design. It is first of its kind in India that will focus on creating an ecosystem for start-ups in chip design.

India’s first Bio-fuel powered Flight

India’s first first-ever biofuel powered flight between Dehradun and Delhi was propelled by blend of oil from jatropha seeds and aviation turbine fuel. The 43-minute flight was operated by SpiceJet’s Bombardier Q-400 aircraft, with 20 officials and five crew members on board.

Navlekha

Google has unveiled Project Navlekha to make online content relevant for more Indian users especially in local languages. India is important market for Google as it is  second largest population of internet users in the world. At present, amount of online content in Indian languages is only 1% of what is available in English.

Horizon 2020

Union Government and European Union (EU) have collaborated for research programme named Horizon 2020 to develop Next Generation Influenza Vaccine to protect citizens across the globe.

Union Government advices States to ban e-Cigarettes

Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued advisory to all states and Union Territories to not allow manufacture, sale and advertisement of e-cigarettes and other Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). It also has issued warning that use e-cigarettes and other ENDS devices pose great health risk to public at large, especially to children and pregnant women. Punjab, Karnataka, Kerala, Mizoram, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar already have prohibited manufacture, import, sale and distribution of e-cigarettes and ENDS.

ENDS are devices that heat solution to create aerosol, which also frequently contains flavours, usually dissolved into propylene glycolor and glycerin. e-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) are most common prototype of ENDS. These devices do not burn or use tobacco leaves but instead vaporise solution, which user then inhales. The main constituents of solution are nicotine, propylene glycol (with or without glycerol and flavouring agents). According to World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Global Tobacco Epidemic 2017, 30 countries have already banned ENDS.

ENDS including e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, vape, etc. are great health risk to public at large, especially to children, adolescents, pregnant women and women of reproductive age. They contain nicotine, addictive component of tobacco products. In addition they contain metals, including lead, chromium and nickel and chemicals like formaldehyde with concentrations equal to or greater than traditional cigarettes.

Cyclotron 30

India’s biggest cyclotron facility named Cyclone-30 became operational at Kolkata-based Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), which comes under Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Cyclotron is used to produce radioisotopes for diagnostic and therapeutic use for cancer care. Radiations from these isotopes are used to destroy cancer cells.

World’s first hydrogen train

Germany has rolled out world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger train. These locomotives named iLint trains emit zero emissions, making them eco-friendly. These hydrogen trains are manufactured by French TGV-maker Alstom and are commercially running on 100km route in northern Germany.

EyeROV TUNA

India’s first underwater robotic drone EyeROV TUNA was handed over to Naval Physical and Oceanographic Laboratory (NPOL) of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). This underwater drone will be used by NPOL for research and development activities which in turn would result in commercial product for defence purposes.

First indigenous anti-nuclear leakage kit

Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS) has developed India’s first indigenous medical kit for protection against nuclear warfare or radioactive leakage. The kit will ensure protection from serious injury and aid faster healing of wounds due to nuclear warfare or radioactive leakage.

Apsara

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay has recommissioned India’s oldest nuclear research reactor named Apsara, which was shut down permanently in 2009 for repair. The refurbished version of this reactor has been named as ‘Apsara-upgraded’ (Apsara-U) and also has double capacity compared to its earlier version.  It is located within India’ s nuclear weapons facility at BARC’s Trombay campus (Maharashtra).

Dataset

Google has launched Dataset Search, a new search engine for scientific community that will help them make sense of millions of datasets present online. It will also help scientists, data journalists and geeks to find data required for their work and their stories or simply to satisfy their intellectual curiosity.

Space Elevators

Japanese researchers from Shizuoka University will conduct world’s first experiment to test small prototype of space elevator in space by using two mini satellites. The test equipment will be launched by Japan’s space agency on board of H-2B rocket from southern island of Tanegashima.