Science Monitor: 2 January 2021
Science Monitor: 2 January 2021
1. Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium
In view of the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 and to monitor the genomic variations in the covid-19 virus on a regular basis, the Indian government has launched Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortium. The consortium comprising of a network of 10 laboratories will not only ascertain the status of the new variant in the country but also establish sentinel surveillance for early detection of future genomic variants.
About the Consortium:
- Reportedly, the new strain SARS-CoV-2 found in Britain is 70 percent more infectious than the original strain though nothing is confirmed about its virulence yet. Meanwhile surveillance has increased at the international airports in India and RT-PCR test has been made mandatory for the passengers arriving in India from UK.
- Taking strict action in this regard, the Indian government has also established a consortium to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2. On a regular basis, 10 labs have been selected to do genome sequencing of the new strain.
- 10 laboratories of the consortium include research institutes and centre like National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani, Kolkata and CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), Delhi. Among these DBT - National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani, Kolkata and CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), Delhi will maintain a national database of all the genomic sequencing data while NCDC will maintain a database of all the samples of new variants which are of public health significance.
- Genome sequencing of all the covid-19 positive flyers who arrived in India between 9th and 22nd December is being done in theses labs to get accurate data on the presence of a new strain. According to the available data about 33,000 people from the UK came to India between 25th November to 23rd December.
- These people are being tracked to get them tested and to perform genomic testing on the positive samples. More than 200 people have been found to be covid-19 positive and at least 25 have been infected with the new strain. The patients are under isolation and the recent contacts have been quarantine to control the spread.
2. REWIND 2020 - Scientific Contribution
Indian scientists came out of their silos and collaborated nationally and internationally to fight the pandemic and devised appropriate solutions plus the year also raised scientific awareness among the general public and people followed the scientific guidelines to stay safe from the pandemic.
About the Contribution:
- The difficult period of covid-19 has highlighted science in a big way. People paid attention to scientific guidelines and followed standard operating procedures relating to washing hands and sanitization. The pandemic forced the people to adopt new practices suggested by the scientists. Scientific awareness increased among all sections of the society.
- In the year 2020, the top labs of the country worked directly for the society and developed quick solutions. Year 2020 saw accelerated science and technology interventions as well as collaborations to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic.
- Drone technology was improved upon to use unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and sanitization. UVC light-based disinfection systems were developed on a wide scale and made available in the market. In view of the shortage of ventilators many IITs and other institutions of the country developed indigenous ventilators using innovative technologies.
- Scientists worked on a war footing. Innovative systems were developed for the sanitization of people, vehicles and buildings. To make India self-reliant in the field of covid-19 testing, a number of simple, accurate and inexpensive testing kits were made available in record time.
- Institutes and startups geared up to manufacture protective masks and other PPE essentials to meet the demands of the corona warriors. DRDO scientists achieved a unique feat by building a temporary covid-19 hospital equipped with state-of-the-art facilities in record time. For the first time in the country readymade and portable hospital units were developed. Engineers succeeded in developing fully functional and state-of-the-art mobile diagnostic labs to serve the remotest parts of the country.
- Along with this, for the first time in the world, accelerated efforts in the field of science let to the development of various vaccine candidates against covid-19 within a span of few months which will be documented as an exceptional outcome of the year 2020.
3. METAL CO2 battery for MARS MISSION
In 2013, India launched its first mission to Mars and became the first country in the world to enter the Mars orbit in its very first attempt. Now India is preparing for second mission to Mars which is planned for the year 2020. To make this mission more affordable and efficient Indian researchers at IIT Hyderabad are working on the development of metal carbon dioxide battery which according to them can reduce the mass of the payload.
About the battery:
- Efficient energy storage systems are critical for space missions. Currently, lithium-ion batteries are used by space agencies like ISRO. Though, there is a need for better options demonstrating high energy density and improved cyclability.
- In view of this, researchers at IIT Hyderabad’s Department of Chemical Engineering led by Associate Professor Shekhar Sharma are working on a metal carbon dioxide battery to develop improved energy storage systems. According to the researchers, metal CO2 batteries can be 10 times more efficient especially in the case of mars mission as such batteries can use CO2 directly as a fuel which is present abundantly on the red planet.
- Professor Sharma has also developed a coin cell prototype of the Metal-CO2 battery at the institute’s carbon laboratory. The technical feasibility of this battery was demonstrated in the simulated Mars environment created in the lab where the porous cathode of the cell used the C02 from the atmosphere and converted it into electrical energy as the Martian atmosphere contains up to 95 percent of CO2. So, the realization of such batteries will prove to be a boon for any Mars mission.
- The successful development of this technology can provide lander and rover of the future Mars mission with efficient energy systems as the battery will use Martian CO2 as a fuel so less battery will be needed which will reduce the mass of payload as well as the cost of the launch. Moreover, this technology can also be used to fix increased CO2 emissions on the earth as they are a major cause of global warming. CO2 can be stored in such batteries without the need to convert it in any other form.
- The study was published as a featured letter in the journal ‘Materials Letters’ and looking at the novel purpose of the research, the team has also filed for an Indian patent. The researchers plan to involve government organizations like ISRO in the early phase of the real battery prototype for timely inputs to implement this technology successfully.
4. Science Express
1. First indigenous pneumococcal conjugate vaccine ‘Pneumosil’:
- On 28 December, India launched its first indigenous pneumococcal conjugate vaccine ‘Pneumosil’. The vaccine developed by Serum institute in collaboration with Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and PATH was formally inaugurated by Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the vaccine will provide protection against 10 strains of pneumococcus bacteria besides being highly affordable.
- The development is particularly relevant in view of the current pandemic as serious implications of covid-19 also include pneumonia. According to the SII, the vaccine can prevent 50 to 60 percent of infant deaths in India in the next three years.
2. Facial Temperature to Identify Criminals:
- Researchers at the IIT, Kanpur have developed a new technique based on facial temperature to identify criminals. For this, researchers conducted a study pertaining to different human emotions such as shame, embarrassment, remorse and guilt. Under this study, students were reminded of the past events and their lives through illustrations and the emotions evolved in the students were studied through high resolution thermal camera.
- According to the research, the left cheeks of the subjects became warmer when they were faced by embarrassing incidents. On the other hand, when the subjects felt guilty their right cheek area around the lips and forehead become warmer. This research ahs been published in the International journal Frontiers in Psychology.
3. India gets its highest situated meteorological centre:
- India got its highest meteorological centre in Leh on 29th December. The centre was inaugurated virtually by Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan in the presence of the concerned officials. Located at a height of about 3500 meters, the centre will strengthen the weather forecasting system in the Ladakh region which has varying microclimatic zones.
- Timely updates will reduce the risks associated with disasters like cloud burst, flood, avalanche, etc. The centre will provide short range, medium-range and long-range weather forecast for Leh and Kargil. The services will also benefit the tourists, armed forces and the farmers.
4. New passenger tracking system at IGI airport:
- In view of the covid-19 pandemic a new queue management system has been installed at terminal 3 of the Delhi Airport. The system called ‘Xovis Passenger Tracking System’ ensures better management of passenger flow while adhering to norms related to social distancing.
- Under the system sensors mounted on the roof to count and track the passenger and crowded areas are identified immediately. The system also displays through screens live waiting time for airport processors like check-in, security check, etc.