Auto major Tata Motors today rolled out the country's first bio?CNG (bio?methane) bus.
The company said the bio-methane engines (5.7 SGI & 3.8 SGI) will be available on light and medium buses.
The company displayed three models, including the lead model Tata LPO 1613 with 5.7 SGI NA BS?IV IOBD?II compliant bus.
The Tata LPO 1613, already in operation by Pune Municipal Transport Corporation, was showcased with bio?methane fuel at the event, the company said in a statement, but it did not reveal the price of a bio?CNG bus.
The buses were showcased at the Urja Utsav organised by oil ministry.
According to Girish Wagh, head of commercial vehicles business at Tata Motors, said the use of bio?CNG will contribute in a positive manner to the smart cities to keep them clean and is a good option for wet garbage management.
Rajendra Petkar, head of power system engineering at Tata Motors, said bio?methane bus is a step towards developing environment?friendly vehicles.
Bio-methane is produced out of biodegradable materials like kitchen waste. The gas, which gets produced by way of natural degradation process, escapes into the atmosphere unused.
Science, technology, innovation keys to India's progress: Modi
July 19, 2017 (N. Delhi)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a meeting with top scientific officials of the Government of India and asserted that science, technology and innovation are the keys to progress and prosperity of India.
The meeting was attended by NITI Aayog member Dr V K Saraswat, Government's Principal Scientific Advisor Dr R Chidambaram and secretaries related to scientific departments in the Union Government.
The officials briefed the Prime Minister on progress in various areas of scientific research.
He said that the objective of the science and technology sector is to use it to solve the country's problems.
While giving the example of talent-spotting in sports, the Prime Minister said that similar mechanisms should be employed to identify the brightest and best science talent among school students.
Stating that a lot of innovation is happening at the grassroots level, Modi urged officials that it should be applied at the grassroot level.
Expressing confidence in the abilities of Indian scientists to rise up to the challenges, and provide solutions to improve the lives of the common man in India, the Prime Minister asked the officials to draw up clear targets to be achieved by 2022, the 75th year of independence.
IISER Kolkata develops fire-retardant, rust-resistant material
July 15, 2017 (Kolkata)
Now, paper or other materials coated with a hydrophobic (water hating) hybrid molecular material synthesised by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata can behave like a lotus leaf and keep the surface clean and water-proof.
Besides increasing the mechanical strength of the coated paper 1.5 times, the molecular material can inhibit bacterial growth and even render the coated material such as paper or wood fire-proof. The results of the study were published in the journal ACS Omega.
The organic-inorganic hybrid material was synthesised by combining polyhedral oligomeric silsesquioxane (POSS) and diphenylalanine. The POSS molecule by itself has unique properties such as high thermal stability and fire retarding ability. While both POSS and diphenylalanine are naturally water repelling, the hydrophobic nature gets enhanced when they are combined.
"The contact angle of paper, which was 62 degree and therefore hydrophilic before coating, increased to 113 degree after coating and became hydrophobic," says Krishnendu Maji from the Department of Chemical Sciences, IISER, Kokata and the first author of the paper.
To demonstrate the effect of the hybrid material's hydrophobic nature, the two-member team led by Prof. Debasish Haldar from the Department of Chemical Sciences, IISER, Kolkata, folded an ordinary paper and a hybrid-coated paper and drenched the two pieces in water. While the paper without any coating could not be unfolded, the coated paper could be unfolded and regain its original shape.
Testing the hydrophobic nature of the hybrid material and its ability to prevent corrosion, the researchers coated iron nails with the hybrid molecular material and exposed it to water. While the nails that were not coated rusted, those with the coating did not. Coating one half of the nail with the hybrid material, the team found the uncoated portion of the nail rusted in about 12 hours when treated with water; the coated portion remained rust-free. "The coated nails did not get rusted when treated with water for up to one month," Mr. Maji says.
The coated nails were able to resist corrosion even when treated with an aqueous solution of sodium chloride, potassium chloride, sodium bromide and even hydrochloric acid.
The hybrid material is colourless and does not react with metal. The coated silver artefacts were able to resist the formation of black colour (silver sulphide) on its surface when treated with hydrogen sulphide for 10 minutes. "This hybrid material can protect artefacts from environmental pollution and corrosion," says Prof Haldar, the corresponding author of the paper.
The coated paper was found to inhibit bacterial growth. While the researchers observed E. coli growing on the surface of paper that was not coated, the hybrid-coated paper was able to inhibit E. coli growth for 10 days. "We tested the anti-bacterial property for up to 30 days and found the hybrid-coated paper was able to resist E. coli growth," Mr. Maji says
Finally, the fire-retardant property of matchsticks coated with the hybrid material was tested. While matchstick with no coating burnt completely, those coated with only POSS to more time to reach the end of the matchstick. But matchsticks coated with the hybrid material were able to extinguish the flame as soon as fire reached the coated portion. "The peptide not only retards the flame but also extinguishes the fire," they write.
"Plenty of accidents take place when people throw lighted matchsticks. By coating a portion of matchsticks with the hybrid material, such accidents can be prevented," Mr. Maji says.
Hyderabad scientists decode the genetic secrets behind rare diseases in South Asians
July 18, 2017 (Hyderabad)
An international team of researchers, including from the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has decoded the genetic secrets behind certain rare diseases present in people living in India and other parts of South Asia.
The research study was published in the latest issue of the prestigious scientific journal, Nature Genetics. The scientists described how the 1.5 billion people of South Asia are particularly vulnerable to rare genetic diseases. The study provides an extraordinary opportunity to identify mutations that are responsible for population-specific disease and to test for and decrease the burden of recessive genetic diseases in South Asia.
According to the researchers, each person in the world - not only in South Asia - carries several mutations that, if they occurred in two copies, would leads to serious "recessive" diseases. In South Asia, "founder events" in which small numbers of ancestors carrying such mutations gave rise to large numbers of descendants - combined with endogamy leading to marriage only within groups - causes these mutations to often be carried in two copies, leading to a far higher rate of populations-specific diseases than elsewhere in the world.
The researchers said South Asia is inhabited by about 5,000 anthropologically well-defined populations, many of which are endogamous (marrying within a population) communities with significant barriers to gene flow due to sociological, linguistic and cultural factors that restrict inter-population marriage. Several diseases that are specific to populations of South Asia have been identified in the past. However, the genetic causes for the vast majority of population-specific disease are largely unknown.
CCMB director Dr Rakesh Mishra said the study will help in accelerating predictive and personalized medicine.
From the CCMB the study was led by senior scientist Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj. The team identified that about a third of populations in South Asia have had strong founder events/population bottlenecks, which are responsible for a high rate of population-specific disease in the region.
"We have analysed samples from more than 2,800 individuals from over 275 distinct South Asian populations who belongs to various social and linguistic groups from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh using about 600,000 genome-wide markers", said Dr Thangaraj.
As an example of founder event disease gene mapping in South Asia, the authors highlighted the case of the Vysya community. The Vysya have an approximately 100-fold higher rate of butyrylcholinesterase deficiency than other groups, and Vysya ancestry is a known counter-indication for the use of muscle relaxants such as succinylcholine or mivacurium that are given prior to surgery.
The science & technology ministry on Monday launched a low-cost indigenously developed hearing screening device for newborns called Sohum to cater to nearly 26 million babies born every year in India. This device, which allows screening without requiring babies to be sedated, once available across the country can help minimise hearing impairment or even reverse the damage.
The battery-operated noninvasive Sohum uses brainstem auditory evoked response technology, which is recommended as best screening choice by the American Association of Pediatrics and the National Health Services of UK. At present, most of the hospital-born babies cannot be tested in the absence of any cost-effective device.
Globally eight lakh hearing impaired babies are born annually of which nearly one lakh are born in India. "Sohum is a perfect product to be given to the Public Health Centers across the country. Local manufacture of such products is crucial to further bring down costs," said Y S Chowdary, minister of state for science and technology, after launching the device, which is developed by School of International Biodesign (SIB) startup Sohum Innovation Labs India Pvt Ltd.
"Congenital hearing loss is a result of both genetic and non-genetic factors. These factors are mostly associated with resource-poor countries such as India where... hearing impairment goes undiagnosed.
Thus, when it is discovered at the age of four plus, it's too late to reverse the damage and this leads to... problems such as impaired communication skills and even possible mental illness," said a science & technology ministry note. "The Sohum team has come up with a screening device to facilitate the routine screening of newborn babies," said the ministry while noting that the device has already been installed in five clinical centers which are currently running the screening programme. "The aim is to screen two percent of hospital-born babies in the first year," said the ministry.
CFTRI gets thumbs up for ragi mudde making-machine
Jul 13, 2017 (Mysuru)
The continuous ragi mudde making machine, developed by the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), has become an instant hit with a steady stream of inquisitive visitors thronging the institute to catch a glimpse of the innovation that makes the region's much-loved food.
Two days after its launch, the fully automated machine has generated a lot of curiosity among hostels, hospitals, hotels, and educational institutions, witnessing a high footfall. Perhaps, the institute has never seen such an awe-inspiring response to its technology within hours of its launch.
"The interest that the machine has created has surprised us. There has been a steady stream of curious visitors coming to us to know the innovation and how it can be adopted by them. The machine has been designed keeping in mind the local food interests," CFTRI Director Ram Rajashekaran told The Hindu.
He said CFTRI designed the machine with funding from the Department of Science and Technology as there was a request from the public on developing a technology that could constantly make ragi mudde (finger millet ball) without much human intervention.
Ragi mudde is a traditional food largely consumed in south Karnataka, and a few other parts of south India. Ragi is considered a "wonder food" because of its low Glycemic index and nutrients like calcium, iron, and dietary fibre. From small children to the elderly, ragi is considered one of the best foods. The traditional method involves cooking ragi powder in hot water and stirring it with a wooden stick. This traditional method is practised in household level, according to CFTRI.
With ragi mudde gaining popularity and being served in many big restaurants, hostels, and even in jails, CFTRI felt the need for standardising the ragi mudde making process and mechanisation to serve a large population of society. It was eventually conceptualised and materialised recently. Former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda had recently inaugurated the machine, which requires ragi powder and water to make the mudde. Steam quality and other working parameters of the machine are maintained within the range by the control system of the machine. The unit can be cleaned easily. Mr. Rajashekaran said ragi mudde can be cooked fast and untouched by human elements. Ragi powder and water is added to the machine and ragi balls come out as a continuous discharge with consistent shape and weight. The machine can produce 250 muddes an hour and one person is enough to operate the machine.
By mimicking tiny features of insect wings and shark skin, a team from Bengaluru's Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has found a way to prevent bacterial infection on orthopaedic implants without using chemicals.
The team led by Kaushik Chatterjee from the Department of Materials Engineering at IISc relied purely on surface nanostructure to give the titanium metal used in implants the ability to kill bacteria.
Encouraging results were achieved in laboratory studies by making the shiny surface of implants rough through etching. The etched titanium surface is marked by randomly spaced nanopillars of 1 micrometre height and this makes it capable of killing infection-causing bacteria that adhere to the surface. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The rough surface of titanium was able to mechanically kill, within four hours of contact, nearly 95% of E. coli, 98% of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and 92% of Mycobacterium smegmatis. Though only 22% of Staphylococcus aureus attached to the surface were killed within four hours, the efficiency shot up to 76% at the end of 24 hours.
Research on mechanism
Hospital-based bacterial infections from orthopaedic implants can lead to medical complications.
"We don't know the precise mechanism by which the bacteria get killed. But we think the nanopillar architecture formed by dry etching mechanically ruptures the bacterial cells. Like in the case of the wing surface of cicadas, the bacterial cell membrane might be getting stretched by the nanopillars," says Jafar Hasan from the Department of Materials Engineering at IISc and the first author of the paper.
Bacteria have high motion capability and adhere to the surface to form a biofilm. Since titanium surface is marked by sharp tips, the cell membrane gets mechanically damaged when in contact.
While the disease-causing bacteria get killed, stem cells of the kind that form bone were unaffected by the etched surface.
Unlike bacteria that have rigid membranes, the stem cells are bigger, softer and better able to conform and attach themselves to the rough surface.
"We want to etch actual implants and carry out trials on rats and rabbits to test for bactericidal activity and to understand how the rough implant behaves inside the body and study how the bone attaches itself to the implant and grows," says Dr. Chatterjee, the corresponding author of the paper.
Pune scientists develop new bone graft substitutes
May 19, 2017 (Pune)
Two scientist-entrepreneurs working out of their lab at the Venture Centre of the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, have developed two new bone graft substitutes, which will better augment and regenerate bones lost due to any disease or injury. These will also come handy in the case of those with congenital defects.
Doctors that TOI contacted said they were already looking forward to the commercial availability of the products, especially for their near-to-natural composition, porous structure and resorbable feature. And what more! They will be available at a cost lesser than those of the currently-available imported varieties, they said.
It took scientists Nilay Lakhkar and Amol Chaudhari nearly a year to develop the products - PoroSyn and SynOst (bioactive synthetic bone graft granules and putty).
Backed by a financial grant from Biotechnology Industrial Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) for their innovative work in bio-tech products, the scientist-duo have already submitted a provisional patent application for PoroSyn. It has been developed with proprietary technology and is composed of calcium, sodium and phosphorous - three elements naturally found in bones.
They will ensure better uptake of the treatment by the body as well as heal faster.
While the concept has already got the thumbs up at the recent Pitch Fest in the Start Up Bio 2017 event at Bangalore, the process for conducting clinical trials
Tech to keep your vada pav hot and delicious on the street
May 24, 2017 (Bengaluru)
Two years ago, the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) organised a training for street food vendors in Mysuru on preparing quality food in hygienic conditions. Not just the vendors, the institute's scientists, too, picked up some useful lessons.
The trainers discovered that the carts the vendors used lacked the infrastructure to prepare hygienic food. The premier laboratory of the publicly funded Council of Scientific and Industrial Research has now come up with a solution -a solar-powered, modular vending cart that seeks to introduce sensors and cloud-based services to the street food business.
The sensors in the Smart Carts will monitor the quality of food by recording the pH levels, the temperatures of raw and cooked food kept in refrigerators and warmers, and the duration of storage.
The data will be transmitted to the CFTRI server, which, in turn, will splash the quality-check numbers on its mobile app that can be downloaded by vendors and consumers.
"Our Smart Cart will lift the quality of street food," said Ram Rajasekharan, director at CFTRI, adding that India has an estimated 10 million street food vendors. The carts, according to him, can also help Indian food entrepreneurs seeking to take their brands to overseas markets where Indian food is popular.
The base price of the carts, which can be customised, is Rs 60,000.
The technology blended into the cart would not only help vendors keep a check on the quality of food he is selling, but also help consumers choose the best available vendor by looking at the data on the app, said V Arun Kumar, the 32-year-old food safety scientist who designed the cart.
CFTRI will cobrand the carts with Bengaluru-based startup Hertz Mechatronics, which has fabricated the cart according to the lab's specifications. "It would take a couple of weeks to produce a cart," said Prabu Kumar M, project manager at the startup.
The cart, the CFTRI director said, includes a restaurant-grade kitchen made with stainless steel, an onboard refrigerator, a food warmer, and a sink with separate tanks for fresh and waste water - helping to create a better culinary experience for consumers. It also comes with a built-in system to hold a gas cylinder and a dustbin.
"The array and design of the units in the Smart Cart can be realigned as desired by the end-user without changing its core features on food safety, operational efficacy and energy efficiency," Rajasekharan said.
CSIR perfects technology for producing diesel from plastic waste at commercial scale
May 23, 2017
The technology developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to produce diesel from plastic waste was very close to be used for commercial production. This technology is among a host of other "useful for the common man" technologies the government was focusing on, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan said here today, at a press conference held here to brief the media on the activities of his Ministry, on three years of the Modi government. The CSIR scientists had scaled up the technology to produce one tonne diesel per day, which was going to be very significant for energy needs at the local levels, and also for solving the problem of disposal of massive plastic was that was being generated everyday in the country. As part of a programme for providing solution to the common man's problems in their day-to-day life, and to make the youth employable, the Ministry had also embarked upon an ambitious project to train one lakh students of science in various skills in the next two years. Dr Vardhan said during the last three years, the efforts of his Ministry had been to take the technology from lab to land and to align the scientific research and development to national priorities. "We are inferior to none. We have taken long strides in weather forecasting, earthquake observation," he said and pointed out that India was also in 88 international scientific research and development collaboration, with very active 40 collaborations.The Minister said science and technology was going to play a very big role in achieving the target of doubling the farm income by 2022.Besides, it was working in a very focused way in helping in the major initiatives of Swachch Bharat, Make in India, Digital India. Dr Vardhan also spoke of the work being done to develop Ocean technology to tap its vast potential in every field, especially in energy security. To inspire the quest for science, the Ministry was soon going to lauch a 'Jigyasa' (curiosity) programme in collaboration with the HRD Ministry, under which school children will come to CSIR labs to see for themselves the work being done there, he said. In reply to a question, he said the CSIR was working on about 140 projects related to the solution of day-to-day needs of the people.
Buyers of Apple iPhone SE could soon find a "Made in India" tag on their devices. Taiwanese contact manufacturer Wistron would be making it at their plant in Bengaluru.
The company recently conducted a trial run at the factory. The few phones made during the trial run will be in stores in two weeks.
Full-scale production will take more time, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. The global tech major confirmed the production at the sole facility in India.
"We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SEs in Bengaluru. We'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month," Apple said in an email.
Karnataka was quick to claim credit for this. Its Information Technology Minister Priyank Kharge said, "It shows the Bengaluru ecosystem is able to attract the world's best companies. If the Make in India initiative has to work, we need to incentivise manufacturers to gradually increase local sourcing."
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited India last May and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They reportedly discussed manufacturing of iPhones in India, for the local market and export. Since then, the government has turned down Apple's demands for tax sops. But, the fast-growing domestic market seems too attractive for the company.
With a dip in iPhone sales in developed markets like the US and China, India is now a major focus for Apple. Since the country's appetite for expensive flagship devices is still small, Apple continues to produce its four-year-old iPhone 5s to compete with Xiaomi, Motorola, Samsung and others in the mid-level market.
Is domestic production going to cut prices? There is no clarity on that yet. Experts said assembling devices locally will help it save 12 per cent in taxes.
One can buy an iPhone SE for Rs 27,200 but on Flipkart and Amazon, it is available for as low as Rs 20,999. Apple is known to maintain price parity across the world. In the US, the iPhone SE starts at $399 (about Rs 25,000).
"Prices might go below Rs 20,000 only in October," said Neil Shah, research director, devices and ecosystems, Counterpoint Research. "At that price it has to compete with Chinese rivals Oppo and Vivo."
For the first time in India, a geopolymer concrete road made of fly ash and other waste materials has been successfully laid at Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee. The road was made of fly ash, the ash produced by the burning of powdered coal, from NTPC Dadri.
The road, which is 50m long and 3m wide and has a concrete strength of 40MPa, was made from fly ash, aluminate and silicate-bearing materials. As opposed to conventional cement concrete roads, this road will not need water curing.
This achievement paves the way for large-scale fly ash utilisation, NTPC Dadri officials said. The road has been developed jointly by NTPC Dadri's research and development wing ? NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance ? and CSIR.
S K Sinha, group general manager, NTPC Dadri said fly ash discharged from the Dadri power station is being used for various purposes, such as landfilling, manufacture of ash bricks, tarring of roads and the creation of an 'ash mound' eco park. "Medicinal and other plants have also been cultivated on the ash mound. Ash utilization has been around 205% this year," Sinha said.
Visual, non-invasive monitoring of body temperature of patients without using a thermometer may become a reality soon, thanks to the work carried out by a team of scientists led by John Philip, head of the smart materials section at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, near Chennai.
The concept is based on ferrofluid emulsion contained in a thin film that changes colour with rise in temperature within a narrow range ? 30-40° C. The study was published in the journal Optical Materials.
The emulsion has iron oxide nanoparticles containing oil droplets dispersed in water. "Till now ferrofluid was used as a magnetic stimuli-responsive material. We now found that in the presence of a temperature-sensitive polymer ? poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), also known as PNIPAM) ? the ferrofluid emulsion can be used as a thermally tunable grating to produce different colours," says Dr. Philip.
"Recently, we were looking at the interaction forces between droplets covered with thermo-responsive polymers. To our surprise, we found that the adsorbed polymer swells and collapses upon changing the temperature between 32° and 36° C. This change was clearly manifested as colour change. From this observation came the novel idea of using PNIPAM-stabilised emulsions as a multistimulii grating. This is a first of its kind approach where the grating spacing can be tuned either by changing the temperature or by changing the magnetic field strength," says Dr. Philip.
Up to about 34° C, the polymer is highly hydrated and swollen due to repulsive interaction between individual monomer segments.
But when the temperature crosses 34° C, the polymer becomes dehydrated leading to a collapsed state.
The polymer will once again become hydrated and swollen when the temperature falls below 34° C. "By using certain additives, we can tune the collapse of the polymer to higher temperature to reflect fever conditions," clarifies A.W. Zaibudeen, senior research fellow at IGCAR and the first author of the paper.
Using magnetic fields, the scientists first achieved a particular ordering (spacing between the arrays of emulsion droplets) of emulsion and got a particular colour.
When polymer is added as a stabiliser and the temperature is increased, the grating spacing of the polymer changes and gives rise to a different colour or spacing.
"The colour given off at normal temperature can be fixed by changing the emulsion property and magnetic field strength," Dr. Philip says.
If the normal temperature is fixed at yellow, the change will be to green when the temperature increases.
Colour with higher wavelength is produced at lower temperature and colour of lower wavelength at higher temperature.
Govt to revisit strategy to fight tuberculosis, says health minister
April 8, 2017 (Dharamshala)
The government is revisiting its strategy to combat tuberculosis after setting an ambitious target to eradicate the dreaded disease from India by 2025. It will come up with a national plan with an aim to have a ?dynamic strategy? to tackle the problem, according to Union health minister J.P. Nadda.
"We are revisiting our strategy to fight tuberculosis and we are coming with national plan. It is under active consideration and in the next one month we will review it," he told reporters at the TB-Free India Summit in Dharamsala. The country needs to have a dynamic strategy in order to deal with the problem, he added.
Tuberculosis (TB) takes lives of over 4.8 lakh Indians every year. Over 28 lakh TB cases are reported per year in the country. Nadda said India is also moving towards better fund allocations for the health ministry. "In terms of GDP, the funds should be 3 to 4 per cent. Health policy 2017 commits that we will bring it to 2.5 per cent of the GDP and we are moving forward in that direction," the minister said.
The ministry's budget has gone up by over 27% in the current fiscal as compared to the previous financial year, he added. Stating that fund allocation is not a problem, Nadda said the issue is the inability of the states to fully spend their respective budgets. The ministry has identified 175 districts across nine states which would require additional focus in terms of implementation of various health schemes, he added.
Nadda said India has been able to reverse cases of TB, HIV and malaria in the country due to active health programmes. Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and former BCCI chief Anurag Thakur said the central government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to eradicate TB from the country by 2025. "When the head of the government makes a commitment to make country TB free by 2025 that clearly sends the message," he said.
Citing success of Jan Dhan and Ujjwala schemes, the three-time BJP MP said the government was also committed to a TB free India. In order to bring awareness regarding the disease, MPs played a twenty over cricket match with Bollywood celebrities at the HPCA stadium in Dharamsala. MPs team was led by Thakur while Bobby Deol captained the Bollywood team.
The two-day summit is jointly hosted by the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (the Union), as a part of a TB-Free India campaign being implemented by Central TB Division, ministry of health & family welfare. The meet is also supported by Challenge TB (the flagship TB control programme of the United States Agency for International Development), the Global Fund and World Health Organization.