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Science Monitor: 31 October 2020

Science Monitor: 31 October 2020


1. NCL - DME fired "Aditi Urja Sanch" unit launched


A pilot plant was set up last year at CSIR’s Pune based National Chemical Laboratory, to produce DME from methanol dehydration using indigenous and patented technology. The pilot plant is now producing 20 to 24 kgs of the DME per day. Now, to test this green fuel and its blend as a domestic cooking fuel, NCL scientists have also developed a new burner which is suitable for its combustion. Recently, the newly designed cooking stores were launched for public use on a trial basis.

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About the technology:

  • Working towards methanol economy in the country, the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) has developed indigenous technology to produce eco-friendly and efficient fuel in the form of dimethyl ether or DME. The pilot plant manufacture DME was established last year and now the ultra-clean fuel is ready for public use. A few days before in virtual ceremony, the DME fired "Aditi Urja Sanch" unit was launched by the Union Minister, Dr. Harshvardhan. With the indigenously developed burners designed for DME and DME LPG blend
  • Currently, the pilot plant at NCL is producing 20 to 24 kgs of DME per day and the plan is to scale up the capacity to 0.5 tons of 500 kgs through CSIR fast track commercialization project. The pilot plant produces DME from methanol dehydration, the DME process technology is economical, cost effective and scalable with In-situ product purification as well as heat integral unit that produces pure DME.
  • The fuel can be used independently or can be blended with LPG. NCL plans to expand its use in other sectors as well. NCL has come up with specially designed burners for the complete combustion of DME and DME LPG fuel blend as the density of DME is different from LPG. DME fired cooking units are being used currently on a trial basis at the domestic level. Some NCL employees are also using these stoves.
  • The DME project is moving on a fast track mode from the laboratory to the market and soon it will be available to the people under the methanol economy and green sustainable fuel policy of the country. Successful trial of the indigenously produced clean fuel in the domestic sector will give a big push to the Make in India campaign.

2. New handy oral cancer screening tool


A startup incubated at technology business incubator of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram has developed an innovative imaging device for quick and easy detection of oral cancer. The indigenously developed handheld device was launched on the 28th of the October in Kerala, under the name of oral scan. The device will help in reducing the mortality rate of the disease by facilitating early detection.

In a first, an Indian startup develops a handheld device for detecting oral  cancer - The Hindu BusinessLine

About the tool:

  • Oral cancer is a major concern in India. Every year more than 80, 000 cases of oral cancer are reported in the country. Mortality rate is quite high in oral cancer due to delay in the diagnosis.
  • To overcome this problem, an indigenous screening tool named oral scan has been developed by Sascan Meditech Private Limited, the company is an incubated startup of Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences & Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram. This innovation with seed funding from NIDHI (National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations) scheme of Department of Science and Technology, GoI will help in rapid diagnosis and detection of oral cancer.
  • Currently, to detect early stages of oral cancer, physicians rely on oral examination using the torch light. This practice often fails not only to detect oral cancer but also in locating optimal site for biopsy. So, the patient has to undergo multiple biopsies which delays the diagnosis and treatment of the disease besides increasing the discomfort and expenditure. This problem is solved by the high-tech handled image device oral scan. It aids in early detection of oral cancer and identifies the exact location for biopsy.
  • After successful clinical trials, oral scan has been launched commercially supported by biotechnology ignition grant of BIRAC and invent of DST along with the Kerala startup mission, this device has also received an Indian patent. Use of this indigenous device will surely benefits the doctors as well as the patients.

3. NBRC develops 'ANSH’ Multimodal database for Alzheimer’s disease


Researchers all over the world are studying neuroimaging data to arrive at the etiology of Alzheimer's disease but the existing databases lack the integration of magnetic resonance spectroscopy which limits the availability of neurochemical information to the research community. Now, equipped with its large-scale research and neurodegenerative disorders. Manesar based National Brain Research Centre has prepared a multi-modal neuroimaging database called ANSH which also includes neurochemical data. This database will help researchers to arrive at better results pertaining to Alzheimer's.

No cure for Alzheimer's disease in my lifetime

About the database:

  • Alzheimer's is a major neurodegenerative disorder and the most common cause of dementia. Unfortunately, with each passing year, the patients of Alzheimer's are increasing globally. Although, physical and biological abnormalities of the patients have helped in understanding the disease. Yet, no treatment could be developed to cure it.
  • Researchers at Manesar based National Brain Research Centre are also working on Alzheimer's through brain mapping and brain imaging techniques and over the last decade the NBRC researchers have arrived at significant findings through their studies.
  • The centre has performed neuroimaging nearly 3000 people and has gathered the complete brain data of 1300 people including the healthy control group and the patient groups.
  • Now, the centre’s neuroimaging and neurospectroscopy laboratory has created a multi-modal neuroimaging database called ANSH which also includes data on neurochemical. This effort will aid in the prognosis of the Alzheimer's and help in identifying its causes.
  • The brain imaging data of NBRC includes magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance spectroscopy along with the neuropsychological data of the patients to get an insight into the patient’s behaviour. After analysing and correlating these factors the condition of human brain is assessed and the disorders are identified comprehensive data is crucial not only crucial for diagnosing diseases like Alzheimer's but also for protecting their causes.
  • This unique initiative is funded and supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) of the GoI along with the Indo-Australian biotechnology fund.
  • ANSH is the first platform where antioxidant neurotransmitter and energy metabolites are discussed along with the other data types. The development of ANSH platform will facilitate collaborative research and multi-site data sharing across the globe and hopefully will also help in developing its treatment.

4. Astronomers uncover mystery behind decline of star formation rate


Using the upgraded giant meter wave telescope Indian astronomers have succeeded in measuring the atomic hydrogen content of around 8000 distant galaxies. According to the astronomers of National Centre for Radio Astrophysics, Pune and Raman Research Institute (RRI) of Bangalore, the finding of their study explains the declining rate of star formation to a great extent. The giant research has been published in the journal Nature.

Star Formation (Stellar Evolution or Life Cycle Of A Star) | PMF IAS

About the research:

  • According to the astronomical study, the rate of star formation in the universe is dropping continuously after it peaked about 8 to 10 billion years ago and the astronomers are wondering what happened in the earliest epoch of the universe.
  • Recently, a team of astronomers from the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Pune and the Raman Research Institute (RRI) of Bangalore has managed to answer this question. The astronomers have succeeded in recording the earliest report in the universe by measuring the autonomic hydrogen gas content of the distant galaxies as they were eight billion years ago. The study has deciphered the mystery behind the decline in the star formation activity and the research has been published in the research journal Nature.
  • Galaxies contain a lot of gas mainly the atomic hydrogen that converts into stars with time as it is the primary fuel for star formation but unlike stars which emit light strongly at optical wavelengths the atomic hydrogen signal lies at the radio wavelength of the 21 centimetres and therefore can only be detected with radio telescope.
  • The giant meter wave radio telescope Pune was designed and built in the 1980s and 90s for the same goal. With the earlier version of GMRT, astronomers could study only 850 galaxies for similar research in 2016 but that was not enough. The situation changed with the upgradation of GMRT in 2017 which enable the scientists to detect the signals of about 8,000 galaxies dating back to 8 billion years as the 21 cm signal is fairly weak, so it was not possible to detect the signal from the individual galaxies. To overcome, this limitation, the team used a technique called “stacking” to combine the 21 cm signals of nearly 8,000 galaxies and measured the average gas content of these galaxies.
  • The research funded by the Department of Sciences & Technology and Department of Atomic Energy not only highlights the successful collaboration of Indian astronomers at NCRA and RRI, but also the telescope like GMRT that allow us to peer into the universe to unravel its mysteries.


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