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Science Monitor: 8 May 2021

1. COVID-appropriate behaviour and Vaccination can tackle all variants of SARS-CoV-2:

Context:

The second wave of COVID-19 is affecting every system of the country. The main reason behind the aggravation of the disease is our lack of adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols. Although, the new strains of the virus are in circulation, yet all of these strains can be tackled effectively by following the same measures that were used for the original virus. This is the time to strengthen our COVID response by saying yes to vaccination and also by strictly adhering to COVID appropriate behavior.

About the measures:

  • India is currently battling the devastating second wave of the COVID-19 infection. As a result, the health infrastructure across the country has come under tremendous pressure. Further reports of new and more infectious variants of the virus have alSee the source imageso scared people. However, Indian scientists are keeping an eye on all the variants of concern and genome sequencing is being done continuously to identify the significant mutations in the virus.

  • As it is clear, the more a virus spreads amongst a population, the more it changes or mutates. In such a situation, it is a collective responsibility to break the chain of infection and stop it from spreading further.

  • One important step in this direction is the vaccination of more and more people. Vaccination strengthens the immune system of a person and helps to fight an infection in a better way. This will reduce the burden on our health services and infrastructure and scientists and health workers will be able to work more efficiently.

  • No matter how contagious the virus is and how many times it undergoes mutation, there are some easy ways to control its spread, all we have to do is follow the guidelines that are now accepted globally to break the chain of COVID-19 transmission, if you follow COVID appropriate behaviour like social distancing of two meters, avoiding crowded areas, not attending any physical events, using double masks while venturing out, maintaining hand hygiene and sanitizing regularly, we can surely succeed in breaking the chain of transmission.

  • Currently, experts recommend use of double masks, first you must put on a surgical mask in such a way that no air escapes from its sides and then put on a cloth mask on top. If you're able to secure an authentic N95 mask, then there is no need to wear a double mask.

  • Misinformation on the pandemic is another problem for the country. Incomplete and incorrect information should not be shared with anybody. Attention should only be paid to authentic and official sources such as Ministry of Health.

2. CSIR-CMERI develops a new customizable Oxygen Enrichment Unit:

Context:

In view of the situation arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, CSIR's Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute at Durgapur has developed an Oxygen Enrichment Unit. This cost-effective unit can be used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients and may also help reduce the demand for oxygen cylinders and ventilators in the country.

About the device:

  • Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research spread across the country have been working on strengthening the nation by developing various quick solutions. The current crisis is due to high demand of oxygen. It is estimated that about three lakh patients infected with COVID-19 are in need of oxygen daily.

  • Many CSIR’s institutes have come forward to find solutions to this problem. One such solution is the Oxygen Enrichment Unit developed by CSIR's Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute in Durgapur.

  • The institute has entered into agreements with several industries for commercial production of this unit to provide indigenous solutions to the country. This unit will help in high flow oxygen therapy which has been proven to be an improved method in the treatment and management of COVID-19 patients.

  • This indigenous Oxygen Enrichment Unit of CSIR-CMERI works on the principle of Pressure Swing Adsorption and utilizes zeolite columns for selective removal of Nitrogen from air to provide Oxygen-enriched air.

  • The oxygen is then given to patients through an Oxygen mask or a cannula placed in the nose. The device is capable of delivering Oxygen at the rate of 15-30 litres/minute with a purity of more than 90 percent. Being a cost-effective, small and customizable device, this unit can easily be delivered to patients who are in desperate need of Oxygen.

  • CSIR's Pune based National Chemical Laboratory has also developed a larger Oxygen enrichment device based on hollow fibre membrane.

  • In view of the increasing air pollution and pulmonary diseases such technologies will also prove useful in the post COVID times. The customizable Oxygen Enrichment Unit of CMERI can also operate at a height of up to 14,000 feet, therefore it can also be used by armed forces personal stationed in high altitude areas.

3. A new technique by IIT Mandi to detect neurological diseases:

Context:

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology Mandi have invented a new technique to detect abnormal brain characteristics associated with ischemic stroke. This technique will now make it easier to study the blood flow and functions of the nerves of the brain. The method helps in locating and classifying damaged sites or lesions in the brain that lead to neurological diseases.

About the method:

  • According to health surveys, about 3 crore people in India suffer from neurological disorders. These include epilepsy stroke, Parkinson's Traumatic Brain Injury and neuroinfections.

  • Although, neurosurgeons in hospitals across India have made considerable progress in neurosurgical diagnosis and treatment, yet brain disorders often go undetected which leads to delay in treatment strategies.

  • To overcome this shortcoming researchers at the IIT, Mandi have developed a method that helps in locating and classifying lessons in the brain that lead to neurological diseases. Using this method, the diagnosis can be done quickly and accurately.

  • Neuro Vascular Coupling (NVC) involves complex interactions between neurons and blood vessels that regulate blood flow to the brain, when nerve impulses do not trigger the required blood flow, neurovascular uncoupling occurs. It leads to narrow or blocked blood vessels leading to decreased blood flow and Ischemic stroke.

  • Studies show that 85 percent strokes are Ischemic stroke that is why it is important to assess the status of Neuro Vascular Coupling for the prevention diagnosis and treatment of such diseases, for this, researchers at IIT, Mandi used a multi-modal brain stimulation system.

  • They combined electroencephalography and near infrared spectroscopy into an integrated device that allows to measure the nerve action and brain blood flow at the same time. The NVC problems can be identified immediately by feeding the acquired data into mathematical models. The method can pinpoint the actual location of the NV Uncoupling.

  • The device can also help in identifying the progress of diseases such as Parkinson's and can predict occurrence of these diseases even before the appearance of the symptoms.

4. Science Express

1. Biodegradable yoga mat developed by 6 young girls from Assam:

  • Six girls from Assam have developed biodegradable yoga mats using water hyacinth- a freshwater weed. The girls belong to a fishing community living on the fringe of Deepor Beel, a freshwater lake in southwest of Guwahati recognized as a Ramsar site.

  • The lake is the source of livelihood for 9 villages though it has been suffering from excessive growth of water hygiene. A women's group led by the 6 girls was formed at the initiative of North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach, an autonomous body under Department of Science and Technology, Government of India to create wealth from water hyacinth plants.

  • Solar dryers were provided to the group for quick drying of plants and natural dye and other resources are being used to give them a better look and form. The yoga mats are completely biodegradable and compostable and are named Moorhen.

  • This innovation provides a sustainable solution against the menace of water hyacinth and can contribute significantly towards the environmental conservation and Aatma Nirbhar Mission.

2. This ultra-white paint could cool buildings, cutting the need for air conditioning:

this-ultra-white-paint-could-cool-buildings,-cutting-the-need-for-air-conditioning

  • An ultra-white paint can reduce the need for air conditioners, this is claimed by researchers at Purdue University in the state of Indiana, USA. The researchers have developed an ultra-white paint that reflects 98.1 percent of sunlight.

  • Researchers have created this paint using different sized particles of Barium Sulfate. If this paint is used on roofs and walls, the house can remain cool without an air conditioner. Painting a roof of 1000 square feet home with this paint translates to a cooling power of 10 kilowatts.

  • At night, the paint was found to keep the surfaces 19 degree Fahrenheit cooler than the surroundings while during sunny hours the paint kept outdoor surfaces 8 degree Fahrenheit cooler than the average surrounding temperature.

  • Now, further tests are being conducted to find the durability of the product. In future, such innovative products may help in reversing the global warming trend.

3. Indian scientists have developed a new high-yielding and pest-resistant variety of soybean.

See the source image

  • Pune based Agharkar Research Institute, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has developed the variety called ‘MACS 1407’ in collaboration with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

  • This variety was developed using the conventional cross breeding techniques and gives 39 quintals of soybean per hectare. Soybean is one of the major oil seed crops in the country besides being an economical source of protein for cattle feed.

  • In view of the ever increasing demand for edible oils in the country, this variety can prove to be helpful in meeting the targets the variety matures in 104 days and requires less water and fertilizer. It is also favourable for mechanical harvesting and can be grown in various states of northeast India.

4. NASA's Parker Solar Probe detected natural radio emissions from Venus: