Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Countering deepfakes, the most serious AI threat

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deepfakes

Mains level : Paper 3- Threats of the deepfakes

Deepfakes poses threaten the society at various level due to their disruptive potential. The article explains the threat and suggest the measures to deal with the threat. 

Understanding deepfakes

  • Deepfakes are the digital media (video, audio, and images) manipulated using Artificial Intelligence.
  • This synthetic media content is referred to as deepfakes.
  •  They make it possible to fabricate media — swap faces, lip-syncing, and puppeteer.
  • Access to commodity cloud computing, algorithms, and abundant data has created a perfect storm to democratise media creation and manipulation.
  • Synthetic media can create possibilities and opportunities for all people.
  •  But as with any new innovative technology, it can be weaponised to inflict harm.

Threat posed by deepfakes

  • Deepfakes, hyper-realistic digital falsification, can inflict damage to individuals, institutions, businesses and democracy.
  • Nation-state actors with geopolitical aspirations, ideological believers, violent extremists, and economically motivated enterprises can manipulate media narratives using deepfakes, with easy and unprecedented reach and scale.
  • Pornographic deepfakes can threaten, intimidate, and inflict psychological harm and reduce women to sexual objects.
  • Deepfakes can be deployed to extract money, confidential information, or exact favours from individuals.
  • Deepfakes can cause short- and long-term social harm and accelerate the already declining trust in news media.
  • Such an erosion can contribute to a culture of factual relativism, fraying the increasingly strained civil society fabric.

Undermining democracy

  • A deepfake can also aid in altering the democratic discourse and undermine trust in institutions and impair diplomacy.
  • False information about institutions, public policy, and politicians powered by a deepfake can be exploited to spin the story and manipulate belief.
  • A deepfake of a political candidate can sabotage their image and reputation.
  • Voters can be confused and elections can be disrupted.
  • A high-quality deepfake can inject compelling false information that can cast in doubt the voting process and election results.
  • Deepfakes contribute to factual relativism and enable authoritarian leaders to thrive.
  • Another concern is a liar’s dividend; an undesirable truth is dismissed as deepfake or fake news.

Solution to the problem

  • Media literacy for consumers and journalists is the most effective tool to combat disinformation and deepfakes.
  • Improving media literacy is a precursor to addressing the challenges presented by deepfakes.
  • Meaningful regulations with a collaborative discussion with the technology industry, civil society, and policymakers can facilitate disincentivising the creation and distribution of malicious deepfakes.
  • We also need easy-to-use and accessible technology solutions to detect deepfakes, authenticate media, and amplify authoritative sources.

Conclusion

Deepfakes can create possibilities for all people. However, as access to synthetic media technology increases, so does the risk of exploitation. To counter the menace of deepfakes, we all must take the responsibility to be a critical consumer of media on the Internet, think and pause before we share on social media, and be part of the solution to this infodemic.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Room Temperature Superconductivity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Not Much

A study has shown that a new material superconducts at 15 degrees Celsius but at extremely high pressure.

In India, we often get to hear about the transmission losses in DISCOMS. Such losses can be zeroed with the application of superconducting cables (which is practically impossible unless we find a normal working one). The phenomena, superconductivity, however, is not new to us, UPSC may end up asking some tricky statements in the prelims regarding it.

What is Superconductivity?

  • A superconductor is a material, such as a pure metal like aluminium or lead, that when cooled to ultra-low temperatures allows electricity to move through it with absolutely zero resistance.
  • Kamerlingh Onnes was the first scientist who figured out exactly how superconductor works in 1911.
  • Simply put, superconductivity occurs when two electrons bind together at low temperatures.
  • They form the building block of superconductors, the Cooper pair.
  • This holds true even for a potential superconductor like lead when it is above a certain temperature.

What is the new material?

  • A new material composed of carbon, hydrogen and sulphur superconducts at 15 degrees Celsius.
  • However, it needs ultrahigh pressure of about 2 million atmospheres to achieve this transition, putting off any thoughts of application to the future.
  • The pressure they needed was 267 Gigapascals (GPa), or 2.6 million atmospheres.
  • The pressure at the centre of the Earth is 360 GPa, so it is 75% of the pressure at the centre of the Earth.

What are Superconductors?

  • Superconductors are materials that address this problem by allowing energy to flow efficiently through them without generating unwanted heat.
  • They have great potential and many cost-effective applications.
  • They operate magnetically levitated trains, generate magnetic fields for MRI machines and recently have been used to build quantum computers, though a fully operating one does not yet exist.

Issues with superconductors

  • They have an essential problem when it comes to other practical applications: They operate at ultra-low temperatures.
  • There are no room-temperature superconductors. That “room-temperature” part is what scientists have been working on for more than a century.
  • The amount of energy needed to cool a material down to its superconducting state is too expensive for daily applications.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian IT industry must seize the opportunity of Chinese tech exit

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Opportunity of Indian IT industry

The article analyses the significance of the Indian ban on Chinese apps. The ban also presents Indian IT companies with unique opportunity.

Context

  • The current India-China border standoff has entered into cyberspace.

How China took lead in IT

  • The Chinese government censored and banned several popular Western websites and applications years ago.
  • In the intervening years the Chinese Internet market exploded and has grown to over 900 million users.
  • The Chinese government insulated Chinese entrepreneurs from Big Tech in Silicon Valley.
  • Home-grown apps at first were faithful reproductions of Silicon Valley, but soon morphed into distinctly Chinese applications tailored solely to the home market.
  • According to the 2016 White House report, the Chinese have leapfrogged even the U.S. in AI research.
  • In this case, the intellectual property being produced actually belongs to China and is not a faithful duplicate of someone else’s product or technology.
  • This has far-reaching implications.

Significance of India’s ban

  • India now has the lowest Internet data costs in the world.
  • In its attempt to dominate the rest of the world, the Chinese Internet industry desperately needs India’s 500-plus million netizens to continue to train AI algorithms they put together.
  • The ban on apps in India is not only a geopolitical move but also a strategic trade manoeuvre that can have a significant economic impact.
  • Ban on Chinese apps allows our home-grown IT talent to focus on the newly arrived Internet user.
  • However, India’s focus remains on exporting IT services while paying little attention to servicing our own nation’s tech market.
  • India spent the last two decades exporting technology services to developed countries in the West, the vacuum created as the Indian Internet grew has been filled by American Big Tech and by the Chinese.
  • After the removal of more than 118 Chinese apps, Indian techies have started trying to fill the holes.

Way forward

  • The primary Indian IT objective must shift from servicing others to providing for ourselves.
  • Focus should not be simply to replace what the exiting firms have so far been providing.
  • Focus should be on providing services and products of high quality that will be used by everyday Indians across the country.
  • The aim of providing netizens with the same services across diverse markets is overarching — regional barriers created by language exist within our own nation.
  • The fundamental focus of the new digital products should be to provide for hyper-regional necessities and preferences.
  • Hyper-local and hyper-regional services with great accessibility that are also portable across our linguistic diversity, are likely to succeed in creating one of the strongest Internet markets in the world.

Consider the question “What are factors responsible for the lack of innovation in the Indian IT industry? How the ban on Chinese apps provide the IT industry with the opportunity to fill the vacuum?”

Conclusion

Indian IT companies must seize the opportunity provided by the exit of Chinese IT companies and come up with products transcending regional barriers and allowing accessibility.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is Carbon-14 (C14) Battery?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : C-14, Carbon Dating

Mains level : Scientific management of nuclear waste and its disposal

A California-based company has made a self-charging battery, which can run for 28,000 years on a single charge, by trapping carbon-14 (C14) nuclear waste in artificial diamond-case.

Try this PYQ:

Q.The known forces of nature can be divided into four classes, viz. gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force. With reference to them, which one of the following statements is not correct?

(a) Gravity is the strongest of the four

(b) Electromagnetism act only on particles with an electric charge

(c) Weak nuclear force causes radioactivity

(d) Strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons inside the nuclear of an atom.

What is C14?

  • Carbon-14 (14C), or radiocarbon, is a radioactive isotope of carbon with an atomic nucleus containing 6 protons and 8 neutrons.
  • There are three naturally occurring isotopes of carbon on Earth: carbon-12, which makes up 99% of all carbon on Earth; carbon-13, which makes up 1%; and carbon-14, which occurs in trace amounts.
  • Its presence in organic materials is the basis of the radiocarbon dating method pioneered by Willard Libby and colleagues (1949) to date archaeological, geological and hydrogeological samples.

C14 battery

  • The battery works by generating electricity on its own from a shower of electrons as a result of radioactive decay scattered and deposited in the artificial diamond-case.
  • The battery can be used in electric vehicles, mobile phones, laptops, tablets, drones, watches, cameras, health monitors and even sensors.
  • It is also said to be extremely safe and tamper-proof as it is coated with a non-radioactive diamond which prevents radiation leaks.

Best example of nuke waste recycling

  • It is estimated that 33 million cubic metres of global nuclear waste will cost over $100 billion to manage and dispose of.
  • And a lot of this waste is graphite that is one of the higher risks of radioactive waste and one of the most expensive and problematic waste to store.

Its applications

  • The company says its battery can be used to powerhouses, and that any excess electricity generated can be sold to the grid.
  • As the new battery need not be replaced, it can be installed in hard to reach places like pacemakers and implants, where a regular change of battery is not possible.
  • Another area of use is space electronics. The battery is said to power space equipment in rockets.
  • It can power the electrical needs of space crafts, like providing power to cockpits and assisting launch into the upper atmosphere.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

AI integration will be at the core of the transition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AI

Mains level : Paper 3- AI and its applications

The article tracks the latest developments in the field of AI by the leading technology companies.

Integrating AI in the phone

  • Over the last few years, most mobile phone manufacturers have been content with design upgrades, apart from specs.
  • Samsung launched a device which has been able to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) in its phones.
  • In the case of S-Pen, Samsung demonstrated that it has been able to reduce latency between pen operation and what appears on the screen to 9 milliseconds using predictive analysis.
  • Latency is a major concern in technologies like smart cars.
  • Samsung also showcased active noise cancellation, which again uses prediction analysis to drown out ambient noises.
  • Apple’s virtual event also focused on higher integration and more uses of AI.
  • Siri has become even smarter and is increasingly being integrated with more services.
  • The camera function of Apple devices, for instance, pieces together a picture using best angles to create the perfect image.
  • Samsung and Apple now can monitor health more accurately using their smartwatches.

Future scope

  • This indicates how much further we are moving towards a future with more edge computing.
  • This computing will power technologies like a smart car.
  • Given the progress in IoT, there is a huge likelihood that those betting early on AI integration will reap the biggest rewards of the connected living market.

Consider the question “What is artificial intelligence? How it could transform the world of technology?”

Conclusion

Integration of AI in the devices we use in everyday life holds a promising future for us. India must encourage its development.


Source-

https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/ai-integration-will-be-at-the-core-of-the-transition-to-future-technologies-such-as-smarts-cars/2047309/

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What are Time Capsules?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Time capsules

Mains level : NA

Ahead of the laying of the foundation stone for a temple, claims and denials have emerged about plans to put in a time capsule, or ‘Kaal Patra’.

Do you know?

A rubidium standard or rubidium atomic clock is the most inexpensive, compact, and widely produced atomic clock, used to control the frequency of television stations, cell phone base stations, in test equipment, and global navigation satellite systems like GPS.

What is a Time Capsule?

  • It is a container of any size or shape, which accommodates documents, photos and artefacts typical of the current era and is buried underground, for future generations to unearth.
  • The time capsule requires special engineering so that the contents don’t decay, even if pulled out after a century.
  • Material such as aluminium and stainless steel are used for the encasing, and documents are often reproduced on acid-free paper.
  • While the term “time capsule” was coined in the 20th century, among the earliest examples of one dates back to 1777, found by historians inside the statue of Jesus Christ in Spain during its restoration.

There’s a global society:

International Time Capsule Society

  • The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS), based in the US and formed in 1990, is now defunct but continues estimating the number of time capsules in the world.
  • As per its database, there are “10,000-15,000 times capsules worldwide”.

Are there any time capsules in India?

  • There have been a number of prominent examples.
  • One time capsule, outside the Red Fort and placed underground in 1972 by then PM Indira Gandhi, was dug out by the subsequent government.
  • Other time capsules are at a school in Mumbai, IIT-Kanpur, LPU in Jalandhar, and Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.
  • The Red Fort time capsule was supposed to be dug out after 1,000 years.

Significance of time capsules

  • Historians often criticize the idea of being motivated.
  • This exercise is inevitably a subjective exercise, geared towards glorification not to construct the real picture.
  • All historians look at this time capsule exercise with suspicion.
  • It’s not a valid historical method — who decides what matter, what artefacts, written documents are going into it?

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

How to treat data as public good

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Non-personal data

Mains level : Paper 3- Issue of data sharing

This is the age of Big data. Even after anonymising it, we gain useful information using analytical tools. So, given its potential, there is a call for treating the public data as a public good. This article analyses the suggestion of Kris Gopalakrishnan panel in this regard.

Why data matter

  • By one brave count, the world generates over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.
  • A significant chunk of it is highly valuable.
  • With the increasing sophistication of tools designed to analyse it, the value of the data is increasing further.
  • This analysis of data can yield market patterns, traffic predictions, epidemic risks and much more.[Remember why Google shows you only particular ads.]
  • Data need not be either big or personal for it to be highly sought after.

Non-personal data: A public good

  • Would it not be better if at least some data were treated as a public good?
  • Treating it as a public good will allow its open use by startups, do-gooders and government bodies.
  • Dealing with such questions, a centre-appointed panel, headed by Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, submitted its draft report on the regulation of non-personal data in India.
  • “Non-personal data” is defined as that which is either devoid of people’s details or anonymized to prevent individual identification.

Proposals of Kris Gopalan panel

  • The panel has proposed a new data authority to regulate non-personal data.
  • It has also outlined the need of a framework that would require companies to share its databanks with others.
  • Sharing of databank will help the country catalyse business innovation, bolster India’s startup ecosystem, and help governments and local authorities frame data-enriched public policies. 

Challenges

  • What data a private entity can be forced to disclose must follow a commonly accepted set of principles.
  • Data authority demanding companies to share data painstakingly acquired often with large sums invested to acquire it won’t work.
  • Also, if sharing data blunts companies’ strategic edge over competitors, they would probably appeal against it in court.
  • If enterprises fear that their confidential learnings could be threatened by intrusive data authority, then the cause of innovation would actually be set back.

Way forward

  • A clear set of guidelines could be set down that specify what sort of data qualifies as a public good and must be kept open to all.
  • For other kinds of data, maybe a market mechanism could evolve that lets various parties bid for privately-held information.

Consider the question “There is a growing demand for treating the non-personal data as a public good. What are the benefits and challenges of treating the non-personal data as public good?

Conclusion

Given its potential, big data does deserve regulation. But it needs to be done with clarity.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explaining Lithium increase in the Universe

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Explaining the increase of Li in the the Universe

Mains level : Not much

In a study recently published in Nature Astronomy scientists from Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) along with their international collaborators have provided a robust observational evidence for the first time that Li production is common among low mass Sun-like stars during their He-core burning phase.

Importance of lithium in our life

  • Light inflammable, metal lithium (Li) has brought about transformation in modern communication devices and transportation.
  • A great deal of today’s technology is powered by lithium in its various shades [remember Li-ion battery!].
  • But where does the element come from?
  • The origin of much of the Li can be traced to a single event, the Big-Bang that happened about 13.7 Billion years ago, from which the present-day Universe was also born.

Why lithium was thought to be different?

  • Li content in the physical Universe has increased by about a factor of four over the life of the Universe.
  • However, the rest of the elements carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, nickel and so on which grew about a million times over the lifetime of the Universe.
  • Li, however, understood to be an exemption!
  • Current understanding is that lithium in stars like our Sun only gets destroyed over their lifetime.
  • As a matter of fact, the composition of all the elements in the Sun and the Earth is similar.
  • But, the measured content of Li in the Sun is a factor of 100 lower than that of the Earth, though both are known to have formed together.

So, what the new finding suggests?

  • This discovery challenges the long-held idea that stars only destroy lithium during their lifetime.
  • It implies that the Sun itself will manufacture lithium in the future.
  • This is not predicted by models, indicating that there is some physical process missing in stellar theory.
  • Further, the authors identified “He flash”.
  • “He flash” is an on-set of He-ignition at the star’s core via violent eruption at the end of the star’s core hydrogen-burning phase, as the source of Li production.
  • Our Sun will reach this phase in about 6-7 billion years.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Gold Nanoparticles and their applications

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gold Nanoparticles

Mains level : Applications of nanomaterials

Indian researchers have successfully synthesized gold nanoparticles (GNPs) using psychrotolerant Antarctic bacteria through a non-toxic, low-cost, and eco-friendly way.

Nanotechnology is a pathbreaking technology which can create many new materials and devices with a wide range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics etc.   GNPs are another distinct development.

What are Gold Nanoparticles?

  • Metallic NPs have been efficiently exploited for biomedical applications and among them, GNPs are found to be effective in biomedical research.
  • And NPs are those materials that are at least one dimension smaller than 100 nanometers.
  • NPs have a high surface-to-volume ratio and they can provide the tremendous driving force for diffusion, especially at elevated temperatures.
  • GNPs are melted at much lower temperatures (300 °C) than bulk gold (1064 °C).
  • NPs have been found to impart various desirable properties to different day-to-day products.
  • For example, GNPs are found to have greater solar radiation absorbing ability than the conventional bulk gold, which makes them a better candidate for use in the photovoltaic cell manufacturing industry.

Properties of GNP

1) Biomedical

  • Genotoxicity describes the property of a chemical agent that is capable of damaging the genetic information of DNA and thus causing the mutation of the cell, which can lead to cancer.
  • The study revealed the genotoxic effect of GNPs on a sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB).
  • These GNPs can be used as composite therapeutic agent clinical trials, especially in anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-diabetic, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

2) Optical

  • GNPs have unique optical properties too. For example, particles above 100 nm show blue or violet colour in the water, while the colour becomes wine red in 100 nm gold colloidal particles.
  • They can thus be used for therapeutic imaging.

3) Electronics

  • GNPs are also found to be useful in the electronics industry.
  • Scientists have constructed a transistor known as NOMFET (Nanoparticles Organic Memory Field-Effect Transistor) by embedding GNPs in a porous manganese oxide.
  • NOMFETs can mimic the feature of the human synapse known as plasticity or the variation of the speed and strength of the signal going from neuron to neuron.
  • These novel transistors can now facilitate better recreation of certain types of human cognitive processes, such as recognition and image processing and have their application in AI.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GPAI and its members

Mains level : GPAI

India joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as a founding member to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of AI.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Discuss India’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence (AI) unveiled by the NITI Aayog.

About GPAI

  • GPAI is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
  • It is the league of leading economies including India, USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Singapore.
  • GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat, to be hosted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centers of Expertise- one each in Montreal and Paris.
  • This is also the first initiative of its type for evolving better understanding of the challenges and opportunities around AI using the experience and diversity of participating countries.
  • In order to achieve this goal, the initiative will look to bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.

Aims and Objectives

  • In collaboration with partners and international organizations, GPAI will bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to collaborate to promote responsible evolution of AI.
  • It will also help evolve methodologies to show how AI can be leveraged to better respond to the present global crisis around COVID-19.

India and AI

  • It is pertinent to note that India has recently launched the National AI Strategy and National AI Portal.
  • It has also started leveraging AI across various sectors such as education, agriculture, healthcare, e-commerce, finance, telecommunications, etc. with inclusion and empowerment of human being approach by supplementing growth and development.
  • By joining GPAI as a founding member, India will actively participate in the global development of Artificial Intelligence, leveraging upon its experience around the use of digital technologies for inclusive growth.

Also read:

[op-ed snap] India takes the first step to building an AI vision

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Airborne Rescue Pod for Isolated Transportation (ARPIT)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ARPIT

Mains level : Not Much

The Indian Air Force has developed and inducted an Airborne Rescue Pod for Isolated Transportation (ARPIT).

This rescue pod ARPIT can be used as an example of self-sufficiency under the ambitious Atmanirbhar Abhiyan.

What is ARPIT?

  • ARPIT is a lightweight isolation system made from aviation certified material.
  • It has a transparent and durable cast Perspex for enhanced patient visibility which is larger, higher and wider than the existing models.
  • The isolation system caters for the suitable number of air exchanges, integration of medical monitoring instruments, and ventilation to an intubated patient.
  • In addition, it generates high constant negative pressure in the isolation chamber for prevention of infection risk to aircrew, ground crew and health care workers involved in air transportation.
  • It utilizes High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) H-13 class filters and supports invasive ventilation using Transport Ventilator.

It’s utility

  • This pod will be utilized for the evacuation of critical patients with infectious diseases including COVID-19 from high altitude area, isolated and remote places.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Electrolytic splitting of Water

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Electrolytic splitting of Water

Mains level : Hydrogen as a clean fuel

Scientists from The Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), have found out a low cost and efficient way to generate hydrogen from water using Molybdenum dioxide as a catalyst.

Practice question for mains:

Q. Hydrogen is the future of clean and sustainable energy. Discuss.

Electrolytic splitting of water

  • Electrolysis of water is the decomposition of water into oxygen and hydrogen gas due to the passage of an electric current.
  • This technique can be used to make hydrogen gas, the main component of hydrogen fuel, and breathable oxygen gas, or can mix the two into oxyhydrogen, which is also usable as fuel, though more volatile and dangerous.
  • It is a promising method to generate hydrogen but requires energy input that can be brought down in the presence of a catalyst.

Using Molybdenum Catalyst

  • The scientists have shown that Molybdenum dioxide (MoO2) nanomaterials annealed in hydrogen atmosphere can act as efficient catalysts to reduce the energy input to bring about water splitting into Hydrogen.
  • Molybdenum dioxide has the potential to replace the currently employed catalyst platinum, which is expensive and has limited resources.
  • MoO2 is a conducting metal oxide that is one of the low-cost catalysts with good efficiency and stability for hydrogen evolution.
  • The catalyst is highly stable for a longer duration of reaction with sustained hydrogen evolution from water.
  • About 80 % efficient conversion of electrical energy into hydrogen has been achieved using this catalyst.

Significance

  • Hydrogen is considered as the future of clean and sustainable energy as it can be generated from water and produces water on energy generation without any carbon footprint.
  • Hydrogen can be directly used as a fuel similar to natural gas or as input for fuel cells to generate electricity.
  • It is the future energy for a clean environment and an alternative to fossil fuels, underlining the necessity of low-cost catalysts for its production.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is Superconductivity?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Not Much

On a larger scale, electric grids, such as high power lines, lose over 5 per cent of their energy in the process of transmission.

In India, we often get to hear about the transmission losses in DISCOMS. Such losses can be zeroed with the application of superconducting cables (which is practically impossible unless we find a normal working one). The phenomena, superconductivity, however is not new to us, UPSC may end up asking some tricky statements in the prelims regarding it.

Heat losses

Waste heat is all around you. On a small scale, if your phone or laptop feels warm, that’s because some of the energy powering the device is being transformed into unwanted heat.

Where does this wasted heat come from?

  • These elementary particles of an atom move around and interact with other electrons and atoms.
  • Because they have an electric charge, as they move through a material — like metals, which can easily conduct electricity — they scatter off other atoms and generate heat.

Understanding Superconductivity

  • A superconductor is a material, such as a pure metal like aluminium or lead, that when cooled to ultra-low temperatures allows electricity to move through it with absolutely zero resistance.
  • Kamerlingh Onnes was the first scientist who figured out exactly how superconductor works in 1911.
  • Simply put, superconductivity occurs when two electrons bind together at low temperatures.
  • They form the building block of superconductors, the Cooper pair.
  • This holds true even for a potential superconductor like lead when it is above a certain temperature.

What are Superconductors?

  • Superconductors are materials that address this problem by allowing energy to flow efficiently through them without generating unwanted heat.
  • They have great potential and many cost-effective applications.
  • They operate magnetically levitated trains, generate magnetic fields for MRI machines and recently have been used to build quantum computers, though a fully operating one does not yet exist.

Issues with superconductors

  • They have an essential problem when it comes to other practical applications: They operate at ultra-low temperatures.
  • There are no room-temperature superconductors. That “room-temperature” part is what scientists have been working on for more than a century.
  • The amount of energy needed to cool a material down to its superconducting state is too expensive for daily applications.

Future scope

  • In a dramatic turn of events, a new kind of superconductor material was discovered in 1987 at IBM in Zurich, Switzerland.
  • The material was a kind of ceramic. These new ceramic superconductors were made of copper and oxygen mixed with other elements such as lanthanum, barium and bismuth.
  • They contradicted everything physicists thought they knew about making superconductors.
  • Since then, curiosity regarding the superconductors has been ever increasing.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

R&D: Path to self-reliant India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level : Paper 3- Importance of innovation for self-reliance.

What does it take to be self-reliant? (Hint: R&D!) This is the question this article tries to answer.  After independence, we had a good start in R&D. But what went wrong? What was the role played by globalisation? Did the globalisation deliver on its promise of technology transfer? And finally, what lies on the way forward for India? This article answers all such question.

What went wrong: historical perspective

  • India chose the path of self-reliance in state-run heavy industries and strategic sectors after independence.
  • In the decades following independence, this choice of self-reliance had placed India ahead of most developing countries.
  • In the 1970s and 80s, however, India did not modernise these industries to climb higher up the technological ladder.
  • The private sector, which had backed the state-run core sector approach in its Bombay Plan, stayed content with near-monopoly conditions in non-core sectors in a protected market.
  • Little effort was made to modernise light industries or develop contemporary consumer products.
  • India’s industrial ecosystem was thus characterised by low productivity, poor quality and low technology, and was globally uncompetitive.

What did India lose in the ‘lost decades’?

  • India completely missed out on the ‘third industrial revolution’.
  • Third industrial revolution comprised electronic goods, microprocessors, personal computers, mobile phones and decentralised manufacturing and global value chains during the so-called lost decade(s).
  • Today, India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market.
  • However, it does not make any of these phones itself.
  • India manufactures only a small fraction of solar photovoltaic cells and modules currently used, with ambitious future targets.

What happened to ‘self-reliance’ after India embraced globalisation?

  • At the turn of the millennium, when India embarked on liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
  • So, the very concept of self-reliance was rubbished.
  • This happened in the belief that it was like reinventing the things already invented and wasting money on it.
  • And when advanced technologies could simply be bought from anywhere at lower costs. 
  • Two related ideas have prevailed since then, and neither delivered the desired results.

So, what are these two basic ideas?

1. Unsuitability of PSUs in the globalised world

  • The first idea was that public sector undertakings (PSUs) are, by definition, inefficient and sluggish for the competitive globalised scenario.
  • No effort was made to engender either real autonomy or a transition to new technological directions.
  • Instead, PSUs with capability and scale were undermined or abandoned, along with many nascent research and development (R&D) efforts, for instance, in photovoltaics, semiconductors and advanced materials.

So, what was the result of this attitude towards PSUs?

  • The private sector displayed little interest in these heavy industries and showed no appetite for technology upgradation.
  • With entry of foreign corporations, most Indian private companies retreated into technology imports or collaborations.
  • Even today, most R&D in India is conducted by PSUs.
  • And much of the smaller but rising proportion of private sector R&D is by foreign corporations in information technology and biotechnology/pharma.
  • Conclusion: Given the disinclination of most of the private sector towards R&D and high-tech manufacturing, significant government reinvestment in PSUs and R&D is essential for self-reliance.

2. Foreign companies were expected to bring new technologies in India

  • The second idea was that inviting foreign direct investment and manufacturing by foreign majors would bring new technologies into India’s industrial ecosystem.
  • This was thought to obviate the need for indigenous efforts towards self-reliance.

So, what happened on the ground?

  • But mere setting up of manufacturing facilities in India is no guarantee of absorption of technologies.
  • There is no evidence from any sector that this has taken place or has even been attempted.
  • The fact is, foreign majors jealously guard commercially significant or strategic technologies in off-shore manufacturing bases.
  • Conclusion: The key problem of self-reliance is therefore neither external finance nor domestic off-shore manufacturing, but resolute indigenous endeavour including R&D.

Let’s look at experience of other Asian countries towards self-reliance

Three models emerge from Asian countries.

1. Focus on technology and industries

  •  Japan’s post-war success, was seen as a template by some countries to follow.
  • These include countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong
  • These countries took huge technological and industrial strides in the 1970s and 80s.
  • South Korea emerged as a global powerhouse in manufacturing, but also in indigenously developed technologies.
  • Taiwan developed technologies and manufacturing capacities in robotics and micro-processors.
  • While Singapore and Hong Kong adapted advanced technologies in niche areas.
  • These self-reliant capabilities were enabled, among other factors, by planned state investments in R&D including basic research (3-5% of GDP), technology and policy support to private corporations, infrastructure and, importantly, education and skill development (4-6% of GDP).

2. Focus on off-shore manufacturing and not on self-reliance

  • Countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have focused on off-shore manufacturing lower down the value chain and without the thrust on self-reliance.
  • This is useful for job creation but is an unsuitable model for a country of India’s size and aspirations.

3. China: Transition from low-end manufacturing to dominant role in supply chains

  • China is, of course, unique in scale and in its determination to become a superpower not just geopolitically but also in self-reliant S&T and industrial capability.
  • China advanced purposefully from low-end mass manufacturing to a dominant role in global supply chains.
  • It has now decided on shifting to advanced manufacturing.
  • It has set itself a target of becoming a world leader by 2035 in 5G, supercomputing, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, biotech/pharma and other technologies of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

Way forward for India

  • India may well have missed the bus in many of technologies in which the U.S., Europe and China have established perhaps insurmountable leads.
  • Yet, self-reliant capabilities in electric and fuel cell vehicles, electricity storage systems, solar cells and modules, aircraft including UAVs, AI, robotics and automation, biotech/pharma and others are well within reach.
  • Large-scale concerted endeavours would, however, be required, since self-reliance will not happen by itself.
  • State-funded R&D, including in basic research, by PSUs and research institutions and universities needs to be scaled-up significantly, well above the dismal 1% of GDP currently.
  • Upgraded and reoriented PSUs would also be crucial given their distinctive place in the ecosystem.
  • Private sector delivery-oriented R&D could also be supported, linked to meaningful participation in manufacturing at appropriate levels of the supply chain.
  • India’s meagre public expenditure on education needs to be substantially ramped up including in skill development.

Consider the question “The path to the self-reliance of any country goes through robust capabilities in the R&D. Comment”

Conclusion

Self-reliance would need a paradigm shift in our approach toward many things. First and foremost is the R&D. Potential of the PSUs has to be tapped to their fullest in the realms of R&D. The second area of focus should be education. These two areas are the key to achieve self-reliance and should be the focus of policymakers.


Back2Basics: Bombay Plan

  • The Bombay plan was a set of proposal of a small group of influential business leaders in Bombay for the development of the post-independence economy of India.
  • This plan was published in two parts or volume- first in 1944 and second in 1945.
  • The prime objectives of the plan were to achieve a balanced economy and to raise the standard of living of the masses of the population rapidly by doubling the present per capita income within a period of 15 years from the time the plan goes into operation.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Energy-efficient Photodetector for Security Application

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Photodetectors and their applications

Mains level : NA

Indian scientists have fabricated an economical and energy-efficient wafer-scale photodetector using gold – silicon interface, for security applications.

A basic question on the working principle of Photodetectors can be asked in the Prelims.

What are Photodetectors?

  • Photodetectors, also called photosensors, are sensors of light or other electromagnetic radiation.
  • A photodetector has a p–n (positive-negative) junction that converts light photons into the current.
  • The absorbed photons make electron-hole pairs in the depletion region.
  • Photodiodes and phototransistors are a few examples of photodetectors. Solar cells convert some of the light energy absorbed into electrical energy.
  • The material cost and the intricate fabrication processes involved in realizing high-performance detectors make them unaffordable for day to day applications.

Applications

  • Photodetectors are the heart of any optoelectronic circuit that can detect light.
  • They are employed for a wide variety of applications ranging from controlling automatic lighting in supermarkets to detecting radiation from the outer galaxy as well as security-related applications.
  • They range from simple devices that automatically open supermarket doors, to receivers on the TV remote controls.

What did Indian researchers achieve?

  • The scientists have fabricated gold (Au) – silicon (Si) interface, which showed high sensitivity towards light demonstrating the photodetection action.
  • The Au–Si interface was brought about by galvanic deposition, a technique for electroplating of metals, wherein water-based solutions (electrolytes) are used, which contain the metals to be deposited as ions.
  • In addition, a nanostructured Au film also was deposited on top of p-type silicide (having an excess of positive charges), which acts as a charge collector.

Benefits

  • Being a solution-based technique, the method is highly economical and enabled large-area fabrication without compromising the detector response.
  • The process is quick, taking only minutes to fabricate a detector of any arbitrary area and exhibited a rapid response of 40 microseconds.
  • This photodetector displayed long-term environmental stability.
  • The Indian invention provides a simple and cost-effective solution-based fabrication method for high-performance photodetector.
  • It could help detect weak scattered light as an indication of unwanted activity.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] HCARD robot to assist frontline COVID-19 healthcare warriors

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HCARD

Mains level : Technology assistance for COVID-19 containment

HCARD, a robot, to assist frontline COVID-19 healthcare warriors has been developed by a CSIR lab.

It is very unlikely to create a prelim question on HCARD. However, developments as such help in exemplifying the scientific developments which helped contain such highly contagious outbreaks.

What is HCARD?

  • The robotic device HCARD, an acronym for Hospital Care Assistive Robotic Device, can help frontline healthcare workers in maintaining physical distance from those infected by the coronavirus.
  • The device is equipped with various state-of-the-art technologies and works both in automatic as well as manual modes of navigation.
  • This robot can be controlled and monitored by a nursing booth with a control station having such features as navigation, drawer activation for providing medicines and food to patients, sample collection and audio-visual communication.
  • The cost of this device is less than Rs 5 lakh and the weight is less than 80 kilograms.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

The Curie Family and its Nobel legacy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Radioactivity

Mains level : NA

This newscard is inspired by an article published in the DTE which talks about a family which has received a total of four Nobel prizes, the highest won by a single-family.

Last year in 2019 CSP, there was a question on pure Biology about Hepatitis and its variants. With such news trending, we can expect a core chemistry or physics based question coupled with a slight Current Affairs blend.

The ‘Nobel’ family

  • On April 20, 1902, Marie and Pierre Curie successfully isolated radioactive radium salts from pitchblende, a mineral, in a laboratory in Paris, France.
  • They were inspired by French physicist Henri Becquerel’s 1896 experiment on phosphorescence or the phenomenon that allows certain objects to glow in the dark.
  • They were able to find traces of two radioactive elements—polonium (Element 84) and radium (Element 88).
  • Curie shared the 1903 Nobel with her fellow researcher Pierre Currie and Becquerel for their combined work on radioactivity.

Important facts

  • In 1903, Marie Curie received the Nobel Prize in Physics making her the world’s first woman to win the prize.
  • In 1911, she created history again by becoming the first woman to have won two Nobel awards.
  • The 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Marie after she managed to produce radium as a pure metal. This proved the new element’s existence beyond doubt.
  • However, this was not the last Nobel for the Curie family.
  • The 1935 Nobel in Chemistry went to Irène Curie and her husband and co-researcher Frédéric Joliot for their joint work on the artificial creation of new radioactive elements.
  • The Curies have received a total of four of Nobel prizes, the highest won by a single-family. They also have the unique distinction of having three Nobel-prize winning members in the family.

Birth of Radioactivity

  • While delivering a lecture at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden in 1911, Curie shared some critical details about “radioactive elements” and the phenomenon called “radioactivity”.
  • She also spoke about the chemical properties of radium, the new element that was about a million times more radioactive than uranium.
  • Radium in solid salts was about 5 million times more radioactive than an equal weight of uranium.

Back2Basics: Radioactivity

  • Radioactivity refers to the particles which are emitted from nuclei as a result of nuclear instability.
  • It is the process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by radiation.
  • The most common types of radiation are called alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, but there are several other varieties of radioactive decay.
  • Radioactive decay rates are normally stated in terms of their half-lives, and the half-life of a given nuclear species is related to its radiation risk.
  • Examining the amounts of decay products makes possible radioactive dating.

Its applications

  • Medical use: Many diseases such as cancer are cured by radiotherapy. Sterilization of medical instruments and food is another common application of radiation.
  • Scientific use: Alpha particles emitted from the radioisotopes are used for nuclear reactions.
  • Industrial use: Radioisotopes are used as fuel for atomic energy reactors. Also used in Carbon dating.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] ‘NanoBlitz 3D’ tool to map properties of nano-materials

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level :  NanoBlitz 3D

Mains level : NA

Indian scientists have developed an advanced tool for mapping nano-mechanical properties of materials like multi-phase alloys, composites, and multi-layered coatings.

Nanotechnology is a pathbreaking technology which can create many new materials and devices with a wide range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics etc.  NanoBlitz 3D is another distinct development. We can expect a prelims question asking what the NanoBlitz 3D is , with confusing options like 3d printing tool etc.

 NanoBlitz 3D

  • Scientists from Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) an autonomous institute under the Dept. of S&T have developed this tool.
  • It is an advanced tool for mapping nano-mechanical properties of materials like multi-phase alloys, composites, and multi-layered coatings.
  • The tool has been useful to yield excellent results on a wide range of material systems, including glass-fibre-reinforced polymer composites, dual-phase steels, softwood and shale.
  • An important aspect of this technique is its high-throughput, with just a few hours of testing required for generating more than 10,000 data points that can be processed using machine learning (ML) algorithms.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Ionospheric Electron Density (IED) and its applications

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IED

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), Mumbai, have developed a global model to predict the ionospheric electron density with larger data coverage—a crucial need for communication and navigation.

We can gauge these days that PIB is coming with ample news which is visibly important and are focused on basic GS concept. Ionospheric Electron Density is one such concept. Its significance for prelims cannot be denied.

Ionospheric Electron Density (IED)

  • The ionosphere exists between about 90 and 1000 km above the earth’s surface.
  • Radiation from the sun ionizes atoms and molecules here, liberating electrons from molecules and creating a space of free electron and ions.

Studying IED

  • The ionospheric variability is greatly influenced by both solar originated processes and the neutral atmosphere origin.
  • Scientists have tried to model the ionosphere using theoretical and empirical techniques; however, the accurate prediction of electron density is still a challenging task.
  • In recent years, Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are showing potential to handle more complex and non-linear problems.

What are Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs)?

  • ANNs are computing systems vaguely inspired by the biological neural networks that constitute animal brains.
  • Such systems “learn” to perform tasks by considering examples, generally without being programmed with task-specific rules.
  • For example, in image recognition, they might learn to identify images that contain cats by analyzing example images that have been manually labeled as “cat” or “no cat” and using the results to identify cats in other images.
  • They do this without any prior knowledge of cats, for example, that they have fur, tails, whiskers and cat-like faces.
  • Instead, they automatically generate identifying characteristics from the examples that they process.

Significance of IED

  • Due to the ability of ionized atmospheric gases to refract high frequency (HF, or shortwave) radio waves, the ionosphere can reflect radio waves directed into the sky back toward the Earth.
  • Radio waves directed at an angle into the sky can return to Earth beyond the horizon.
  • This technique, called “skip” or “skywave” propagation, has been used since the 1920s to communicate at international or intercontinental distances.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Virus outbreak can potentially spur the next quantum leap for computing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Qubit, superposition.

Mains level : Paper 3- What do you understand by quantum technology? What are its applications? How it is different from the classical computer technology?

The article suggests that the corona crisis would speed up research in the field of quantum computing. The tremendous speed offered by quantum computers will help us find a cure for diseases like Covid-19 in a much shorter duration. This article explains the limitations of classical computers, working of quantum technology, and how quantum computer overcomes these limitations.

Use of supercomputer to find the cure of Covid-19

  • The whole world is pressurized into quickly discovering a vaccine and a cure for covid-19.
  • IBM’s Summit, the world’s fastest supercomputer, was used for running numerous simulations and computations.
  • These simulations and computations help scientists find promising molecules to fight the pandemic.
  • The latest update says the Summit has been able to identify 77 candidate molecules that researchers can use in trials.
  • This was achieved in just two days, while, traditionally, it has taken months to make such progress.

Computing capacity as a limit on molecular discoveries

  • Today, faster molecular discoveries are limited by computing capacity.
  • Molecular discoveries are also limited by the need for scientists to write codes for harnessing the computing power.
  • It is no secret that classical computing power is plateauing (e. it is not growing anymore)
  • And till we have scalable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), scientists will have to write code for not only different scenarios but also for different computing platforms.
  • So, what we need today is more computing power.

The following points explain the limits of classical computers. Pay attention to the Moore’s law, and how it explains the development of semiconductor technologies and in turn computers as a whole.

What is the solution to the limits of classical computers?

  • Given that we have already neared the peak of classical computing, the solution probably is quantum computing.
  • Not just vaccines, quantum computing can accelerate many innovations, such as hyper-individualized medicines, 3-D printed organs, search engines for the physical world etc.
  • All innovations currently constrained by the size of transistors used in classical computing chips can be unleashed through quantum computing.
  • Moore’s law: In 1965, Gordon Moore had said the number of transistors that can be packed into a given unit of space will double about every two years.
  • Subsequently, in an interview in 2005, he himself admitted that this law can’t continue forever.
  • He had said: “It is the nature of exponential functions, they eventually hit a wall.”
  • Over the last 60 years, we reaped the benefits of Moore’s law in many ways.
  • For instance, compared to initial days of the Intel 4004, the modern 14nm processors deliver way bigger impact—3,500 times better performance and 90,000 times improved efficiency, at 1/60,000th the cost!
  • Yet, we are also seeing his 2005 statement coming true. All the experts agree that the ‘wall’ is very near.
  • So, what next? The answer again is probably the same—quantum computing.

Quantum technology is one of the emerging and revolutionary technologies, you should be aware of the terms and general principle which lies at the heart of such technology. So, terms like superposition, qubit, binary etc are important if you want to answer a questions related to this technology.

Quantum computing and its applications

  • It is no more a concept, there are working models available on the cloud.
  • How it works: Quantum computing uses the ability of sub-atomic particles to exist in multiple states simultaneously, until it is observed.
  • The concept of qubits: Unlike classical computers that can store information in just two values, that is 1 or 0, quantum computing uses qubits that can exist in any superposition of these values,
  • This superposition enables quantum computers to solve in seconds problems which a classical computer would take thousands of years to crack.
  • Applications: The application of this technology is enormous, and just to cite a few, it can help with the discovery of new molecules, optimize financial portfolios for different risk scenarios.
  • It can also crack RSA encryption keys, detect stealth aircraft, search massive databases in a split second and truly enable AI.

Investment in the development of technology

  • In the Union budget this year, the Indian government announced investments of ₹8,000 crores for developing quantum technologies and applications.
  • Globally, too, countries and organizations are rushing to develop this technology and have already invested enormous capital towards its research.

Conclusion

Historically, unprecedented crises have always created more innovations than routine challenges or systematic investments. Coincidentally, current times pose similar opportunities in disguise for the development of quantum technologies.


Back2Basics: Difference between bit and qubit

  • A binary digit, characterized as 0 and 1, is used to represent information in classical computers.
  • A binary digit can represent up to one bit of information, where a bit is the basic unit of information.
  • In classical computer technologies, a processed bit is implemented by one of two levels of low DC voltage.
  • And whilst switching from one of these two levels to the other, a so-called forbidden zone must be passed as fast as possible, as electrical voltage cannot change from one level to another instantaneously.
  • There are two possible outcomes for the measurement of a qubit—usually taken to have the value “0” and “1”, like a bit or binary digit.
  • However, whereas the state of a bit can only be either 0 or 1, the general state of a qubit according to quantum mechanics can be a coherent superposition of both.
  • Moreover, whereas a measurement of a classical bit would not disturb its state, a measurement of a qubit would destroy its coherence and irrevocably disturb the superposition state.
  • It is possible to fully encode one bit in one qubit.
  • However, a qubit can hold more information, e.g. up to two bits using superdense coding.
  • For a system of n components, a complete description of its state in classical physics requires only n bits, whereas in quantum physics it requires 2n−1 complex numbers.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Plasmonic Semiconductor Nanomaterials

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nanomaterials, Semiconductors

Mains level : Applications of nanomaterials

Researchers are exploring ways to develop plasmonic semiconductor nanomaterials for removal of toxic organic compounds from water by harvesting solar light.

Nanotechnology is a pathbreaking technology which can create many new materials and devices with a wide range of applications, such as in nanomedicine, nanoelectronics etc.  PSN is one such application. Topics like PSN are most likely to be asked in the competitive examinations.

Plasmonic Semiconductor Nanomaterials

  • PSN are metal-like materials with free electrons on the surface that oscillate collectively when hit by light.
  • It uses solar light to increase the photocatalytic efficiency to degrade pollutants as well as generate renewable Hydrogen.
  • These materials can easily adsorb toxic ions like arsenic and fluoride, which are often found in water in North East India and convert it to its not toxic forms when they are exposed to sunlight.
  • PSN can be used for hydrogen energy generation, a process which has shown high photon to hydrogen conversion efficiency under visible and near infra-red light.

What are Semiconductors?

  • Semiconductors are materials which have a conductivity between conductors (generally metals) and nonconductors or insulators (such as most ceramics).
  • Its resistance falls as its temperature rises; metals are the opposite.
  • They can be pure elements, such as silicon or germanium, or compounds such as gallium arsenide or cadmium selenide.

Back2Basics: Nanomaterials

  • Nanomaterials are materials of which a single unit small-sized (in at least one dimension) between 1 and 100 nm (the usual definition of nanoscale).
  • Materials with structure at the nanoscale often have unique optical, electronic, or mechanical properties.
  • They are created from the gas phase by producing a vapour of the product material using chemical or physical means.
  • Examples of nanomaterials include carbon nanotube, nanoparticles, metal rubber, quantum dots, nanopores and many more.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Making use of technology to trace Covid-19 cases

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aarogya Setu App.

Mains level : Paper 3- Using technology for tackling the Covid-19.

The article argues for the greater adoption of technology in tracing the Covid-19. Taking a cue from the success of JAM and UPI, recently launched app Aarogya Setu could also be the next game-changer in the fight against the pandemic. However, there are several challenges that are also discussed here.

Success story of domestic digital platforms

  • The success of two domestic digital payment platforms offers us an opportunity to show how the tracing of COVID-19 cases can be done at scale and with greater speed.
  • The JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) trinity for DBTs (Direct Benefit Transfers) and UPI (Unified Payments Interface) have made India a technology leader in money transfers.
  • The JAM has lent efficiency to the transfer of funds to the needy.
  • It was drafted into action recently to channel payments to the more vulnerable who need help in dealing with the adverse economic consequences of the lockdown.
  • The UPI is emerging as a transaction vehicle of choice for all retail payments.
  • In March, 148 banks were on the UPI platform, helping process over 120 crore transactions worth over Rs 2 lakh crore.

The success story of the UPI and JAM is important from the UPSC point of view. Riding on the success of these two, the Aarogya Setu could also become the third and help in the fight against the epidemic. So, we should be aware of the basics of its working and problems the app could face.

How the Aarogya Setu works?

  • Widespread adoption is required: The success of India’s Aarogya Setu mobile application will depend on its widespread adoption.
  • Based on bluetooth technology: The app relies on bluetooth technology to map and deconstruct the contact history of individuals who may have come in contact with potential carriers of the coronavirus.
  • Exchange of information between apps: If two individuals are at the same place at the same time, their apps can exchange information-up to a maximum distance of about 15 feet.
  • Exchange of the above information is without the server knowing anything about it.
  • The app notifies users and authorities of individuals who are at risk.
  • Privacy safeguards: Some privacy safeguards have been put in place to ensure that individuals do not share personally identifiable information with each other but only with authorities — that too, in select cases.
  • A confidence-building measure would be to release the code for public scrutiny with the aim of further bolstering privacy standards.

What are the possible challenges in the success of Aarogya Setu?

  • The distribution of the detection framework necessitates a rethink, beyond an app.
  • Issues with app download in India: Nandan Nilekani has underlined that app downloads in India are perhaps the most expensive compared to any other developed or fast-developing nation.
  • Despite the falling cost of data, Indian users consider several factors before downloading an app such as required storage space, the potential impact on battery and data usage.
  • Given India’s open internet, several publishers from across industries and geographies are vying for smartphone real estate.
  • Challenge involved: In such a situation, drawing attention to particular use-cases i.e. Aarogya Setu-howsoever urgent-is challenging.

Following are the suggestions to overcome the shortcoming of the Aarogya Setu. Though they are for Aarogya Setu, we can apply these in other situations in which mobile technology bases app is used by the government in the larger public interest such as rescue operation or warnings in case of disaster.

So, what could be the alternate strategy?

  • The alternative strategy involves using the reach of the other famous apps (for ex. Paytm) to do what we want to do i.e. tracing by delinking.
  • Delinking involves separating the technology we want to use for tracing (the backend) from the channels (the front end).
  • A fine-tuned backend can be pushed to, and used by, publishers (other apps) who already have the reach.
  • Similarity with UPI: This is akin to the UPI being used by several banks and technology firms for payment.
  • The government did build its frontend in the form of the BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) app but mostly for signalling purposes.
  • In the current context, the government can consider using its own app for tracing and for additional use-cases such as passes and approvals for movement when the lockdown is gradually eased out.
  • It could even host other health-related features.
  • Expanding its ambit and making it a conduit like JAM will likely increase the incentive for people to embrace it.

Limitations of using GPS and Bluetooth for tracing in India

  • Another area where improvisations are called for is the tooling for tracking.
  • While reports have indicated that the developers are using bluetooth for tracing and are also capturing GPS coordinates, both users and device manufacturers limit their usage of these technologies in favour of other optimisations.
  • Users are concerned with both data and battery usage while device manufacturers kill background jobs even if the publishers have sought and secured permissions from users.
  • These tendencies are pronounced on Android, the dominant mobile operating system in India.
  • What are the other options? In such a scenario, developers ought to think about using other techniques.
  • For instance, using cell tower data and WiFi identifiers to bolster tracing efforts.
  • This is especially important in a context where only a third of our population has smartphones and even fewer people have devices with bluetooth capability.
  • Even the recently announced Google-Apple partnership may not have meaningful results in this setting.

Conclusion

With the potential ramifications of COVID-19’s spread in India and across the globe, the nation’s recent history of technological successes and a government committed to agile governance, the pandemic presents an opportunity for the country to show its people and the world how technology is a force of good.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Covid-19: Software vendors focus on big data, AI despite fall in IT spending

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Leveraging AI and Big data for dealing with Covid-19, and how the IT industry could turn the Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity?

The article discusses how COVID-19 has prompted the software companies to focus on technologies that are still in demand. The IT companies have started to focus on ways to leverage the potential of AI and the Big data to deal with the pandemic.

Impact on IT companies and how they are planning to cope with it?

  • Fall in spending: Spending on information technology (IT) globally is expected to shrink by 3-4% by the end of 2020.
  • Impact: That would have a severe impact on hardware and slowdown in the software and service businesses.
  • How companies are planning to deal with the situation? Software vendors such as IBM, SAP Software Solutions and Microsoft Corporation plan to make use of emerging technologies to become more relevant to their customers.
  • IBM has created an AI platformWatson Assistant for Citizens’ on its public cloud.
  • The platform helps citizens understand and respond to common questions about covid-19, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
  • While the ongoing pandemic is having a dreadful impact on companies at scale, matured ones are taking a pause and rethinking their analytics approach.
  • Using data analysis to prepare contingency plan: Data science teams are being called into action to crunch petabytes of data and build best business models on trusted data for decision-makers to quickly prepare contingency plans.
  • This is where we are seeing enterprises using AI, machine learning, and natural language processing to mine the data and build predictive or prescriptive models in IBM Cloud Pack for Data.

UPSC could ask question connecting the use of IT and its potential to deal with the pandemics. And it could also be other way round you can cite the example of use of IT in the health sector.

Adoption of the AI by various sectors

  • The government and public service agencies as well as healthcare and research companies urgently need AI solutions and analytics as they are in a race to find a treatment for the deadly disease.
  • Other industries with high end-user touch-points like banks, insurance, retail, etc. are also in urgent need to use AI/ML-driven analytics and cognitive technologies to automate their communications, streamline predictions, decision making, etc.

AI and Big data could be a game-changer across the various sectors, health being one of them. As among the buzzwords in technologie today UPSC could ask about AI and Big data.

Covid-19 as an opportunity for the IT industry

  • The covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for IT vendors to build and improve on their capabilities on AI and big data.
  • Leveraging AI: They are also keeping an eye on emerging uses cases in AI for disease detection, tracking, and prevention.
  • Relatively smaller companies are also launching dedicated AI-based apps to assist people amid the covid-19 crisis.
  • Eka Software Solutions recently released ‘COVID-19 Risk Monitoring’, it help customers quickly gain visibility in supply chain risks by showing a company’s contract position across countries with reported cases of the virus.
  • Based on company data, the app instantly visualises contracts at risk and provides businesses with the ability to identify alternate suppliers to maintain business continuity.

Conclusion

As the epidemic is far from being tamed, various sectors are likely to feel the existential crisis and IT could be one of them. But they can also turn this crisis into an opportunity by leveraging the AI and Big data in tackling the epidemic at various levels.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Laser Surface Micro-texturing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Laser surface micro-texturing

Mains level : NA

International Advanced Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) an autonomous R&D Centre of Dept. of Science and Technology has developed ultrafast laser surface texturing technology, which can improve the fuel efficiency of internal combustion engines.

Laser surface micro-texturing

  • This technology offers precise control of the size, shape and density of micro-surface texture features. This has gained momentum as a way to control friction and wear.
  • In this technology, a pulsating laser beam creates micro-dimples or grooves on the surface of materials in a very controlled manner.
  • Such textures can trap wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.
  • The texture surfaces were created on automotive internal combustion engine components, piston rings and cylinder liners using 100 fs pulse duration laser.
  • The micro dimples of 10-20 μm diameter and about 5-10 μm deep which have been created with laser beams had a regular pattern.

Benefits of micro-texturing

  • The created textures were tested in an engine test rig under different speeds and temperatures of coolant and lubrication oil, and it was observed that there was a 16% reduction in the lube oil consumption with the use of texture on the piston rings.
  • The 10-hour lube oil consumption test shows that the blowby substantially reduced with textured rings.
  • Fabrication of a pattern of micro dimples or grooves on the surface of materials results in a change in surface topography which generates additional hydrodynamic pressure, thereby increasing the load-carrying capacity of the surfaces.
  • Hence these become useful for trapping wear debris when operating under dry sliding conditions and sometimes provide effects like enhancing oil supply (lubricant reservoir) which can lower friction coefficients and may enable reduced wear rate.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Supercomputers

Mains level : Applications of Supercomputers

The Union Ministry of Science & Technology has informed about the progress of the National Supercomputing Mission.

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  • NSM is a proposed plan by GoI to create a cluster of seventy supercomputers connecting various academic and research institutions across India.
  • In April 2015 the government approved the NSM with a total outlay of Rs.4500 crore for a period of 7 years.
  • The mission was set up to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increasing computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.
  • Currently there are four supercomputers from India in Top 500 list of supercomputers in the world.

Aims and objectives

  • The target of the mission was set to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
  • This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.

IWhat is a Supercomputer?

  • A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer.
  • The performance of a supercomputer is commonly measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS).
  • Since 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform over a hundred quadrillion FLOPS (petaFLOPS).
  • Since November 2017, all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems.

Why do we need supercomputers?

  • Developed and almost-developed countries have begun ensuring high investments in supercomputers to boost their economies and tackle new social problems.
  • These high-performance computers can simulate the real world, by processing massive amounts of data, making cars and planes safer, and more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly.
  • They also aid in the extraction of new sources of oil and gas, development of alternative energy sources, and advancement in medical sciences.
  • Supercomputers have also helped weather forecasters to accurately predict severe storms, enable better mitigation planning and warning systems.
  • They are also used by financial services, manufacturing and internet companies and infrastructure systems like water-supply networks, energy grids, and transportation.
  • Future applications of artificial intelligence (AI) also depend on supercomputing.
  • Due to the potential of this technology, countries like the US, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia have created national-level supercomputing strategies and are investing substantially in these programmes.

When did India initiate its efforts to build supercomputers?

  • India’s supercomputer programme initiated in the late 1980s, when the United States ceased the export of a Cray Supercomputer due to technology embargos.
  • This resulted in India setting up C-DAC in 1988, which in 1991, unveiled the prototype of PARAM 800, benchmarked at 5 Gflops. This supercomputer was the second-fastest in the world at that time.
  • Since June 2018, the USA’s Summit is the fastest supercomputer in the world, taking away this position from China.
  • As of January 2018, Pratyush and Mihir are the fastest supercomputers in India with a maximum speed of Peta Flops.

What are the phases of the National Supercomputing Mission?

Phase I:

  • In the first phase of the NSM, parts of the supercomputers are imported and assembled in India.
  • A total of 6 supercomputers are to be installed in this phase.
  • The first supercomputer that was assembled indigenously is called Param Shivay. It was installed in IIT (BHU) located in Varanasi.
  • Similar systems, Param Shakti (IIT Kharagpur) and Param Brahma (IISER, Pune) were also later installed within the country.
  • The rest will be installed at IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies (JNIAS).

Phase II:

  • The supercomputers that are installed so far are about 60% indigenous.
  • The 11 systems that are going to be installed in the next phase will have processors designed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and will have a cumulative capacity of 10 petaflops.
  • These new systems are to be constructed more cost-effectively than the previous ones.
  • One of the 11 proposed supercomputers will be installed
  • at C-DAC exclusively for small and medium enterprises so that they can train employees as well as work on supercomputers at a very low cost.

Phase III:

  • The third phase aims to build fully indigenous supercomputers.
  • The government had also approved a project to develop a cryogenic cooling system that rapidly dispels the heat generated by a computing chip. This will be jointly built together by IIT-Bombay and C-DAC.

What are the advantages of the National Supercomputing Mission?

  • The National Supercomputing Mission can ensure accessibility to supercomputers at an affordable rate to the scientific community and medium and small enterprises.
  • It can exponentially enhance the quality and quantity of R&D and higher education in the areas of science and technology.
  • It can solve the current and future challenges that are plaguing the country.
  • Currently, the world’s top supercomputers are mostly under the control of advanced nations like the US, Japan, China and the European Union. This Mission has the potential to bring India into this select league of such nations.
  • These supercomputers can be used in the areas of climate modelling, weather predictions, computational biology, atomic energy simulations, defence, disaster simulation, astrophysics etc.
  • These computers have played a crucial role in scientific and technological advancements in numerous fields.
  • Unlike other computers, these high-performance machines can crunch the most complex of data at a speed, which is millions of times faster than a desktop PC.
  • This mission, aiming to provide supercomputing facilities to about 60-70 institutions across the nation and thousands of active researchers, academicians, is moving fast towards creating a computer infrastructure within the country.
  • This mission can also enhance the country’s capacity to develop the next generation of supercomputer experts.

How do other countries make use of supercomputers?

China:

  • Jiangsu Province has a supercomputer called “Sunway TaihuLight”.
  • This supercomputer performs a wide range of tasks, including climate science, weather forecasting and earth-system modelling to help ships avoid rough seas, improve farmers’ yields and ensure the safety of offshore drilling.
  • TaihuLight has already led to an increase in profits and a reduction in expenses that justify its cost ($270 million).

United States:

  • In the US, supercomputers are radically transforming the healthcare system.
  • The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has used supercomputers to create a far more detailed model of the Hepatitis-C virus, a major cause of the liver disease that costs $9 billion in healthcare costs in the US alone.
  • Using supercomputers, the researchers have now developed a model that comprehensively simulates heart down to the cellular level and can lead to a substantial reduction in heart diseases.

These are some of the very few cases of how supercomputers have enhanced breakthroughs in various fields.

How do supercomputers help fight coronavirus?

  • Earlier, the US had established COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium that will bring together industry, academic institutions, and federal laboratories to try to identify or create candidate compounds that might prevent or treat coronavirus infection.
  • One of the members of the consortium, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, aimed to look into compounds that are already available in the market that might combat COVID-19.
  • For this purpose, the world’s fastest supercomputer “Summit” was used.
  • Like other viruses, the novel coronavirus uses a spike protein to inject cells.
  • Using Summit with an algorithm to investigate which drugs could bind to the protein and prevent the virus from doing its duty, the researchers have a list of 77 drugs that show promise.
  • Starting with 8,000 compounds, Summit has shortened the time of the experiment exponentially, ruling out the vast majority of possible medications before settling on 77 drugs, which are ranked based on how effective they are likely to be at halting the virus in the human body.

Way forward

  • It is evident that supercomputers would become a vital part of our lives as it can provide solutions to the current and future problems and India, one of the most populous nations in the world, must ensure that it also has access to this technology for the welfare of its people.
  • Supercomputers, as they operate at such incredible speeds, will encounter numerous barriers like network and interconnectivity hardware that previous generations of designers did not have to deal with.
  • The cooling system is also one of the major design constraints.
  • Hence, India must give a high emphasis on innovation to tackle these challenges.
  • India must also give high emphasis to the application rather than the technology itself.
  • Supercomputing research also requires fundamental research of the next stages of computing like quantum computing that are still in the theoretical stage.
  • Bureaucratic red-tapism must be circumvented and scientists and researchers must be allowed to take bold and radical steps without fear of reprisal.
  • The government must also invest in necessary physical and digital infrastructure.
  • It must also address the challenges of:
  • Limited funding and delayed release of funds
  • The increasing need for imports for necessary hardware components to build supercomputers

Conclusion:

  • Supercomputers are strategically important for India as it can help the country to become a knowledge-driven economy.
  • This technology also can support cutting edge research that can benefit the economy, society, businesses, environment, etc.
  • Thus, enhancing investments, improving flexibility for research and providing other necessary infrastructures must be ensured for it to grow.
  • Without this technology, India risks being surpassed on the global stage by other nations and will consequently miss the huge benefits that come from having this strategically important technology at the disposal of the country’s best and brightest minds

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Picking up the quantum technology baton

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NM-QTA

Mains level : Paper 3- Research on Quantum technology and its applications in India.

Context

With the Budget announcement providing direction for the development in quantum technology, the stakeholders need to roll-out the national mission quickly.

Pushing India into second quantum revolution

  • Budgetary allocation for NM-QTA: In the Budget 2020 speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a welcome announcement for Indian science — over the next five years she proposed spending ₹8,000 crores (~ $1.2 billion) on a National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.
  • This promises to catapult India into the midst of the second quantum revolution, a major scientific effort that is being pursued by the United States, Europe, China and others.

Timeline of the development of Quantum Mechanics

  • Science to describe nature on atomic-scale: Quantum mechanics was developed in the early 20th century to describe nature in the small — at the scale of atoms and elementary particles.
  • Foundation for understanding: For over a century it has provided the foundations of our understanding of the physical world, including the interaction of light and matter.
    • It also led to ubiquitous inventions such as lasers and semiconductor transistors.
    • Despite a century of research, the quantum world still remains mysterious and far removed from our experiences based on everyday life.
  • Second revolution: A second revolution is currently underway with the goal of putting our growing understanding of these mysteries to use by actually controlling nature and harnessing the benefits of the weird and wondrous properties of quantum mechanics.
  • Challenge of experimental realisation: One of the most striking of these is the tremendous computing power of quantum computers, whose actual experimental realisation is one of the great challenges of our times.
  • Quantum supremacy: The announcement by Google, in October 2019, where they claimed to have demonstrated the so-called “quantum supremacy”, is one of the first steps towards this goal.

Applications and challenges

  • Applications: Besides computing, exploring the quantum world promises other dramatic applications including the creation of novel materials, enhanced metrology, secure communication, to name just a few.
    • Some of these are already around the corner.
    • Application in communication: China recently demonstrated secure quantum communication links between terrestrial stations and satellites.
    • Applications in cryptography: Computer scientists are working towards deploying schemes for post-quantum cryptography — clever schemes by which existing computers can keep communication secure even against quantum computers of the future.
    • Exploring fundamental questions: Beyond these applications, some of the deepest foundational questions in physics and computer science are being driven by quantum information science. This includes subjects such as quantum gravity and black holes.
  • The need for collaboration: Pursuing these challenges will require unprecedented collaboration between physicists (both experimentalists and theorists), computer scientists, material scientists and engineers.
  • Challenges on the experimental front: On the experimental front, the challenge lies in harnessing the weird and wonderful properties of quantum superposition and entanglement in a highly controlled manner by building a system composed of carefully designed building blocks called quantum bits or qubits.
    • These qubits tend to be very fragile and lose their “quantumness” if not controlled properly, and a careful choice of materials, design and engineering is required to get them to work.
  • Challenges on the theoretical front: On the theoretical front lies the challenge of creating the algorithms and applications for quantum computers.
    • These projects will also place new demands on classical control hardware as well as software platforms.

Where India stands

  • India late in starting work on technology: Globally, research in this area is about two decades old, but in India, serious experimental work has been underway for only about five years, and in a handful of locations.
  • What are the constraints on Indian progress in this field? So far we have been plagued by a lack of sufficient resources, high-quality manpower, timeliness and flexibility.
    • Resource and quality manpower problem: The new announcement in the Budget would greatly help fix the resource problem but high-quality manpower is in global demand.
    • In a fast-moving field like this, timeliness is everything — delayed funding by even one year is an enormous hit.
  • A previous programme called Quantum Enabled Science and Technology has just been fully rolled out, more than two years after the call for proposals.
  • Laudable announcement: One has to laud the government’s announcement of this new mission on a massive scale and on a par with similar programmes announced recently by the United States and Europe.

Limits and way forward

  • But there are some limits that come from how the government must do business with public funds.
  • Role of the private sector: Here, private funding, both via industry and philanthropy, can play an outsized role even with much smaller amounts.
  • For example, unrestricted funds that can be used to attract and retain high-quality manpower and to build international networks — all at short notice — can and will make an enormous difference to the success of this enterprise.
  • Private participation is the effective way: This is the most effective way (as China and Singapore discovered) to catch up scientifically with the international community, while quickly creating a vibrant intellectual environment to help attract top researchers.
  • Connection with industry: Further, connections with the Indian industry from the start would also help quantum technologies become commercialised successfully, allowing the Indian industry to benefit from the quantum revolution.
  • We must encourage industrial houses and strategic philanthropists to take an interest and reach out to Indian institutions with an existing presence in this emerging field.
  • For example, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), home to India’s first superconducting quantum computing lab, would be delighted to engage.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Friction-reducing Nanocomposite Coatings

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nano-composites and its applications

Mains level : Not Much

A group of scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI) have developed a process for size-selective deposition of nanocomposite coatings which can reduce friction of these dynamic systems.

What are Nanocomposites?

  • Nanocomposite coatings are formed by mixing two or more dissimilar materials at nanoscale to improve the physical, chemical and physicochemical properties of the new materials.
  • The scientists have found that nickel tungsten-based coatings with infusion of particular sized Silicon Carbide (SiC) submicron particles using a pulsed electroplating can provide an excellent combination of wear and corrosion resistance.

Applications

  • Many aerospace, defence, automobile, space devices need to reduce friction, wear, and tear to enhance the life of components.
  • Lubricating these dynamic systems add to the cost, complexity, and weight of these systems.
  • The coating could help in reducing the friction of such devices.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Quantum coin or ‘qubit’ and Entanglement Theory

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Qubit, Quantum Entanglement

Mains level : Quantum Computing and its applications

Researchers from Raman Research Institute (RRI), an autonomous institution under the Dept. of Science & Technology, have devised a new test for fairness of quantum coin or ‘qubit’ using entanglement theory. The Qubit is the basic unit of information in a quantum computer.

Entanglement Theory

  • It is a special type of correlation that exists in the quantum world with no classical counterpart.
  • The researchers from RRI made use of this quantum resource to arrive at a test for fairness of a quantum coin (a qubit).
  • Their strategy, which makes use of entanglement, enables better discrimination between quantum states. Such advantage is valuable in quantum sensors.
  • This work is a significant contribution to the domain of quantum state discrimination, which is an essential aspect of quantum information science.
  • It brings out the crucial role of entanglement in improving our ability to discriminate quantum states.
  • In this work the researchers concretely implemented the theoretical idea on the simulation facility of the IBM quantum computer.

Quantum coins

  • By repeated trials, one can determine the fairness of a classical coin with a confidence which grows with the number of trials.
  • A quantum coin can be in a superposition of heads and tails.
  • Given a string of qubits representing a series of trials, one can measure them individually and determine the state with a certain confidence.
  • The team has shown that there is an improved strategy which measures the qubits after entangling them, which leads to a greater confidence.

Significance

  • This is a significant contribution to quantum state discrimination, an essential aspect of quantum information science which is expected to influence quantum sensing.
  • The domain of Quantum Information and Quantum Computing Technology is a growing area of research which is expected to influence Data Processing, which in turn, plays a central role in our lives in this Information Age.
  • For instance, bank transactions, online shopping and so on crucially depend on the efficiency of information transfer.
  • Thus the recent work on quantum state discrimination is expected to be valuable in people’s lives in the current era.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC)

Mains level : Read the attached story

Scientists at International Advanced Research for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad have developed Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cells (PEMFC).

Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells

  • Proton-exchange membrane fuel cells, also known as polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells (PEMFC) are a type of fuel cell being developed mainly for transport applications, as well as for stationary fuel-cell applications and portable fuel-cell applications.
  • Their distinguishing features include lower temperature/pressure ranges (50 to 100 °C) and a special proton-conducting polymer electrolyte membrane.
  • PEMFCs generate electricity and operate on the opposite principle to PEM electrolysis, which consumes electricity.
  • They are a leading candidate to replace the aging alkaline fuel-cell technology, which was used in the Space Shuttle.

Working

 

  • The PEMFC uses a water-based, acidic polymer membrane as its electrolyte, with platinum-based electrodes.
  • The protons pass through the membrane to the cathode side of the cell while the electrons travel in an external circuit, generating the electrical output of the cell.

Applications in disaster management

  • Emergency Operation Centres (EOC) backed with 10 kW systems is being planned as a natural disaster management measure.
  • Tamil Nadu is generally affected by five to six cyclones every year, of which two to three are severe and is followed by frequent power cuts.
  • ARCI is now planning to set up a PEMFC system for Tamil Nadu to operate the systems like early warning systems, VHF set, IP phone, BSNL Ethernet and office equipment like scanner, computers, printers, phone, FAX and normal requirements like lighting and fan.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Media Access Control (MAC) Binding

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Media Access Control (MAC) Binding

Mains level : Internet shutdown as an infringement of FR

After seven months, the use of social media was allowed in Jammu and Kashmir with an order laying down the latest rules for the use of the Internet in the UT.  Among various conditions, the order says Internet connectivity will be made available “with mac-binding”.

What is Mac-binding?

  • Every device has a Media Access Control (MAC) address, a hardware identification number that is unique to it. While accessing the Internet, every device is assigned an IP address.
  • Mac-binding essentially means binding together the MAC and IP addresses, so that all requests from that IP address are served only by the computer having that particular MAC address.
  • In effect, it means that if the IP address or the MAC address changes, the device can no longer access the Internet.
  • Also, monitoring authorities can trace the specific system from which a particular online activity was carried out.

Permitted connections

  • The Internet can be accessed on all postpaid devices, and those using Local Area Networks (LAN).
  • While the postpaid SIM card holders shall continue to be provided access to the Internet, these services shall not be made available on prepaid SIM cards unless verified as per the norms applicable for postpaid connections.
  • Apart from this, special access terminals provided by the government will continue to run.
  • It is further directed that the access/communication facilities provided by the government, viz. e-terminals/Internet kiosks apart from special arrangements for tourists, students, traders etc shall continue.

Only 2G permitted

  • Internet speed in J&K is still restricted to 2G.
  • This means very slow services — pictures will take a long time to be sent or downloaded, videos will be nearly impossible to share, and there will be a long loading time for most websites.
  • It also means that although in theory, the “whitelist system” — where people could only access some websites pre-approved by the government — has been removed, some sites designed for a 4G Internet experience will hardly work.

Have curbs been lifted?

  • Not exactly. The latest order is to remain in force till March 17 unless modified earlier.
  • The government has been relaxing Internet and phone usage in the UTs in phases.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is the ‘Raman effect’?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Spectroscopy, Raman Effect

Mains level : Applications of Raman Effect

 

 

Yesterday, February 28th was celebrated as National Science Day. In 1986, the Govt. of India designated this Day, to commemorate the announcement of the discovery of the “Raman effect”.

CV Raman

  • Raman conducted his Nobel-prize winning research at IACS, Calcutta.
  • While he was educated entirely in India, Raman travelled to London for the first time in 1921, where his reputation in the study of optics and acoustics was known to physicists such as JJ Thomson and Lord Rutherford.
  • The Raman Effect won scientist Sir CV Raman the Nobel Prize for physics in 1930.
  • It was also designated as an International Historic Chemical Landmark jointly by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS).
  • His speciality was the study of vibrations and sounds of stringed instruments such as the Indian veena and tambura, and Indian percussion instruments such as the tabla and mridangam.

The Raman Effect

  • In 1928, Raman discovered that when a stream of light passes through a liquid, a fraction of the light scattered by the liquid is of a different colour.
  • While Raman was returning from London in a 15-day voyage, he started thinking about the colour of the deep blue Mediterranean.
  • He wasn’t convinced by the explanation that the colour of the sea was blue due to the reflection of the sky.
  • As the ship docked in Bombay, he sent a letter to the editor of the journal Nature, in which he penned down his thoughts on this.
  • Subsequently, Raman was able to show that the blue colour of the water was due to the scattering of the sunlight by water molecules.
  • By this time he was obsessed with the phenomenon of light scattering.

Observing the effect

  • The Raman Effect is when the change in the energy of the light is affected by the vibrations of the molecule or material under observation, leading to a change in its wavelength.
  • Significantly, it notes that the Raman effect is “very weak” — this is because when the object in question is small (smaller than a few nanometres), the light will pass through it undisturbed.
  • But a few times in a billion, light waves may interact with the particle. This could also explain why it was not discovered before.
  • In general, when light interacts with an object, it can either be reflected, refracted or transmitted.
  • One of the things that scientists look at when light is scattered is if the particle it interacts with is able to change its energy.

Applications

  • Raman spectroscopy is used in many varied fields – in fact, any application where non-destructive, microscopic, chemical analysis and imaging is required.
  • Whether the goal is qualitative or quantitative data, Raman analysis can provide key information easily and quickly.
  • It can be used to rapidly characterize the chemical composition and structure of a sample, whether solid, liquid, gas, gel, slurry or powder.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Responsible AI for Social Empowerment (RAISE) 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RAISE 20202

Mains level : Creating a roadmap to harness AI

 

 

The Govt. has announced the mega event, RAISE 2020- ‘Responsible AI for Social Empowerment 2020,’ to be held in April in New Delhi.

RAISE 2020

  • RAISE 2020 is a first of its kind, a global meeting of minds on Artificial Intelligence to drive India’s vision and roadmap for social empowerment, inclusion and transformation through responsible AI.
  • It is India’s first Artificial Intelligence summit to be organized by the Government in partnership with Industry & Academia.
  • The summit will be a global meeting of minds to exchange ideas and charter a course to use AI for social empowerment, inclusion and transformation in key areas like Healthcare, Agriculture, Education and Smart Mobility amongst other sectors.
  • It will facilitate an exchange of ideas to further create a mass awareness about the need to ethically develop and practice AI in the digital era.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The hype over hypersonics

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avangard-HGV

Mains level : Paper 3- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle, whether India go for developing it- and challenges to Indian security.

Context

Russia announced that its new hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV), Avangard, had been made operational.

What HGV is and where the US and China stand

  • What is HGV and what is it capable of?
    • Speed over 5 Mach: A hypersonic delivery system is essentially a ballistic or cruise missile that can fly for long distances and at speeds higher than 5 Mach at lower altitudes.
    • Invulnerable to interception: This allows it to evade interception from current Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD).
    • High manoeuvrability: It can also execute a high degree of manoeuvres.
    • Avangard-Developed by Russia: Russia claims that this HGV can fly at over 20 times the speed of sound.
    • Invulnerable to interception: and is capable of such manoeuvring as to be invulnerable to interception by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary.
  • China and the U.S. are also close on the heels: The U.S. has moved from the research to the development stage.
    • Where China stands: China demonstrated the DF-17, a medium-range missile with the HGV, at the military parade in October 2019.
  • What were the reasons for the development: The U.S. walked out of anti-ballistic missile treaty in 2002, prompted by the U.S. exit from the treaty and fear of the U.S. anti-ballistic missile defence system.

How would hypersonics complicate the security concerns?

  • First complication-Increase in the possibility of miscalculation: These missiles are being added to the military capabilities of countries that possess nuclear weapons.
    • For these nations, the concern is always an attack on nuclear assets to degrade retaliation
    • Destination ambiguities: Another layer of complication is added by the fact that these missiles bring in warhead and destination ambiguities.
    • Increasing tendency to assume worst: In both cases, when an adversary’s early warning detects such missiles headed in its direction, but cannot be sure whether they are conventional or nuclear-armed, nor ascertain the target they are headed towards, the tendency would be to assume the worst.
    • For an adversary that faces a country with a BMD but itself has a small nuclear arsenal, it would fear that even conventionally armed hypersonic missiles could destroy a portion of its nuclear assets.
    • The tendency to shift to trigger-ready postures: The tendency could then be to shift to more trigger-ready postures such as launch on warning or launch under attack to ostensibly enhance deterrence.
    • Risk of miscalculation: But such shifts would also bring risks of misperception and miscalculation in moments of crisis.
  • Second complication-Offence defence spiral: According to reports, the U.S. has begun finding ways of either strengthening its BMD or looking for countermeasures to defeat hypersonics, besides having an arsenal of its own of the same kind.
    • Possibility of arms race: The stage appears set for an arms race instability given that the three major players in this game have the financial wherewithal and technological capability to play along.
    • This looks particularly imminent in the absence of any strategic dialogue or arms control.
  • Third complication-Possibility of the arms race into outer space: A third implication would be to take offence-defence developments into outer space.
    • Sensors are already placed into space: Counter-measures to hypersonics have been envisaged through the placement of sensors and interceptors in outer space.
    • While none of this is going to be weaponisation of outer space would, nevertheless, be a distinct possibility once hypersonic inductions become the norm.

Conclusion

The induction of this technology would likely prove to be a transitory advantage eventually leading nations into a strategic trap. India needs to make a cool-headed assessment of its own deterrence requirements and choose its pathways wisely.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Frame rules to govern how devices identify us

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Face recognition technique, its uses and related issue.

Context

Facial recognition technology is set to become an integral part of the law enforcement toolkit, but we should regulate this technology before it pervades our public spaces.

What are the issues with the use of facial recognition?

  • Enormous possibilities for law enforcement agencies:
    • Detectives have been using facial recognition to solve crimes for almost as long as the camera has been in existence.
    • Use of AI for facial recognition: It is but a logical extension of the modern crime solver’s toolkit to use artificial intelligence (AI) on the most identifiable physical feature of people, their face.
    • Screening faces within hours: An image captured at the scene of a crime can now be screened against photographs of entire populations for a match within a matter of hours.
  • Uneasiness with being watched: The idea of being watched by devices linked to vast databases far out of sight makes liberal societies uneasy.
  • Invasion of privacy:  The intrusion that is causing alarm, however, has nothing to do with the technology itself, and everything to do with the all-pervasive surveillance it enables.

Should there be no rules governing it?

  • Issue of accuracy: How accurately faces are identified by machines is a major point of concern. Deployed in law enforcement, false matches could possibly result in a miscarriage of justice.
    • Judicial scrutiny: Even a low rate of error could mean evidence faces judicial rejection. It is in the judiciary’s interest, all the same, to let technology aid police-work.
  • Racial bias: First up for addressal is the criticism that facial recognition is still not smart enough to read emotions or work equally well for all racial groups.
    • With iterative use, it will improve.
  • Mala fide use: Since such tools can be put to mala fide use as-rogue drones equipped with the technology, for example, should never be in a position to carry out an assassination.
    • Nor should an unauthorized agent be able to spy on or stalk anyone.
    • Caution in the developed countries:  Apart from California, the European Union has also decided to exercise some caution before exposing people to it.
  • Privacy as fundamental rights in India: India, which has recently accepted privacy as a fundamental right, would do well to tilt the Western way on this.

Conclusion

  • We need regulations that restrict the use of facial recognition to the minimum required to serve justice and ease commercial operations. For the latter, customer consent should be mandatory.
  • There will be some overlaps. Its use at an aerobridge to board an aircraft, for example, could serve the interests of both state security and the airline, but data-sharing could risk leakage.

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Xenobot

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Xenobot

Mains level : Utility of stem cells in bio-robotics

Scientists in the US have created the world’s first “living machines” — tiny robots built from the cells of the African clawed frog that can move around on their own.

Xenobot

  • Scientists have developed living robots from frogs stem cells.
  • They have named this millimetre-wide robots “xenobots” — after the species of aquatic frog found across sub-Saharan Africa from Nigeria and Sudan to South Africa, Xenopus laevis.
  • Scientists have repurposed living cells scraped from frog embryos and assembled them into entirely new life-forms.
  • The xenobots can move toward a target, perhaps pick up a payload (like a medicine that needs to be carried to a specific place inside a patient) — and heal themselves after being cut.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Virtual human’ NEON

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NEON

Mains level : Applications of AI

NEONs are being called the world’s first artificial humans. They look and behave like real humans, and could develop memories and emotions — though from behind a 4K display.

NEON

  • Star Labs is headed by India-born scientist Pranav Mistry who underlines that what was showcased at CES was the product of just four months’ work.
  • The company says NEONs are computationally created virtual humans — the word derives from NEO (new) + humaN.
  • For now, the virtual humans can show emotions when manually controlled by their creators.
  • But the idea is for NEONs to become intelligent enough to be fully autonomous, showing emotions, learning skills, creating memories, and being intelligent on their own.
  • Star Labs thinks they can be “friends, collaborators, and companions”, but all that is a few years away.

How does it work?

There are two core technologies behind his virtual humans.

  • First, there is the proprietary CORE R3 technology that drives the “reality, real time and responsiveness” behind NEONs.
  • It is the front-end reality engine that is able to give you that real expression.
  • The company claims CORE R3 “leapfrogs in the domains of Behavioral Neural Networks, Evolutionary Generative Intelligence and Computational Reality”, and is “extensively trained” on how humans look, behave and interact.
  • But in the end, it is like a rendition engine, converting the mathematical models to look like actual humans.
  • The next stage will be SPECTRA, which will complement CORE R3 with the “spectrum of intelligence, learning, emotions and memory”.
  • But SPECTRA is still in development, and is not expected before NEONWORLD 2020 later this year.

How could NEONs be used?

  • NEONs are the interface for technologies and services.
  • They could answer queries at a bank, welcome you at a restaurant, or read out the breaking news on television at an unearthly hour.
  • This form of virtual assistance would be more effective, for example, while teaching languages, as NEONs will be capable of understanding and sympathizing.

How are they different from Virtual Assistants?

  • Virtual Assistants now learn from all the data they are plugged into. NEONs will be limited to what they know and learn.
  • Their leaning could potentially be limited to the person they are catering to, and maybe her friends — but not the entire Internet.
  • They will not be an interface for you to request a song, rather they will be a friend to speak to and share experiences with.
  • Currently, its developer doesn’t want NEONs to have collective memory, or to share data among themselves.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed of the day] The age of ubiquitous drones and the challenges overhead

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Drones, applications and security threats.

Context

Increasing the use of drones in warfare and other areas has brought into focus the potential the use of drones hold and the other issues related to its misuse.

Recent events featuring drones

  • A drone was used by the U.S. to fire the missile at Qassem Soleimani to assassinate him.
  • A few days before that, less-lethal drones monitored crowds of student protesters rocking India.

A potential area of use of drones

  • Military and Policing: Drones are largely used for military or policing purposes, but they also have other uses.
  • Recreation and Sports: They are used for recreation and sports. The Chinese company DJI dominates this space.
  • Logistics: Logistics is another use, with Amazon developing last-mile drone delivery.
  • At scale, this delivery model can save money, energy and time.
  • Domino’s extended this logic to deliver its first pizza by drone in New Zealand and is experimenting with scaling this model up in many markets.
  • Botswana has had some successful trials where drones have delivered blood and life-saving drugs to villages out in the wilderness.
  • Agriculture: A startup called Terraview uses drones with advanced image processing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to increase the productivity of vineyards.
  • A drone can be used to measure the amount of grain that’s piled up after harvest.
  • Mining Output: Tata Steel has used drones quite effectively to measure mining output.
  • Access the inaccessible places: Drones can go where people cannot.
  • So, inspection and repair at remote wind farms on an island, or pipelines in the remote tundra, or equipment in a rainforest can be done more cheaply and precisely.
  • Drone surveillance is now widely used by the insurance industry in the aftermath of floods or pest inspections.
  • They can provide organizations a 360-degree view of the status of any construction project and its assets.
  • Explosive detection and defusing: In many places, it is just safer to send a drone, such as while using explosives in deep mines or defusing suspected bombs.
  • Wildlife protection and survey: drones are used to survey wildlife and detect poaching in the jungles of Africa.

Drones as commodity

  • Drones will soon become a hardware commodity, much like personal computers.
  • It will be the software loaded on it that will be the real force-multiplier.
  • Industry 4.0 revolution: Business like “drones-as-a-service” will emerge, dramatically reducing the time taken for tasks and serving as a vital tool in the Industry 4.0 revolution.

A potent tool for Swarm-attack by military

  • Perhaps the most fascinating developments will occur where drones originated, in
  • Drones will mutate into swarms, where multiple, intelligent, small drones act as one vast network, much like a swarm of birds or locusts.
  • Advanced militaries have drone swarms under trial that could revolutionize future conflicts.
  • These swarms could overwhelm enemy sensors with sheer numbers and precisely target enemy soldiers and assets using data fed into them.
  • They will be difficult to shoot down as there will be hundreds of small flying objects rather than one big ballistic missile.
  • The swarm will use real-time ground data to organize itself and operate in concert to achieve its goal.

Issues with drones

  • It will be us humans who will decide whether we use drones for beneficial or malevolent ends.
  • National Security Issues: Drones have demonstrated the potentials for their threat to the security of a country. Drones are operated remotely and can strike where it want it to strike. Raising serious security issues.
  • Terrorism: Drones have been used by various terrorist organisations like ISIS in Syria and Iraq to hit their targets.
  • Aviation safety: Drones flying too close to commercial aircraft has called for regulations.
  • Privacy: Drones have been used by the paparazzi to take the images of individuals breaching their privacy.

Conclusion

Drones can indeed be a fantastic tool for good projects, from helping save the planet to identifying and nabbing criminals, and preventing the loss of human life. However, for that, we will have to change the DNA that they were born with, as lethal weapons of war. Otherwise, they will remain anonymous killers, wreaking death and destruction as they hover innocuously above.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Lithium-Sulfur Battery

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lithium-Sulfur Battery

Mains level : Application of Li-S batteries in EVs

Researchers from Australia have claimed that they have developed the world’s most efficient lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery, capable of powering a smartphone for five continuous days. With this equivalence, an electric car would be able to drive a distance of over 1,000 km in one charge.

What are Lithium-Sulfur Batteries?

  • Researchers who have developed this new Li-S battery claim it has an “ultra-high capacity” and has better performance and less environmental impact.
  • This means that they may be able to outperform the Li-ion batteries by more than four times.
  • With Li-ion batteries, some disadvantages include their susceptibility to overheating and their being prone to damage at high voltages.
  • Such batteries also start losing their capacity over time — for instance, a laptop battery in use for a few years does not function as well as a new one.

Construction

While the materials used in the Li-S batteries are not different from those in Li-ion batteries, the researchers have reconfigured the design of the sulfur cathodes (a type of electrical conductor through which electrons move) to accommodate higher stress without a drop in overall capacity.

Advantages of the Li-S batteries

  • Li-S batteries are generally considered to be the successors of the Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries because of their lower cost of production, energy efficiency and improved safety.
  • Their cost of production is lower because sulfur is abundantly available.
  • Even so, there have been some difficulties when it comes to commercialising these batteries, mainly due to their short life cycle and poor instantaneous power capabilities.

Why is this development important?

  • As the market share of electric vehicles (EV) is increasing and people are becoming more aware and conscious of global warming and climate change.
  • There is a need for development in terms of the kind of batteries used in these vehicles.
  • The growth of the EV market is linked to the development of batteries that are cost-effective, more efficient and leave a smaller environmental burden.
  • Today, most EV use Li-ion batteries, but are slowly reaching their theoretical limits of being able to provide roughly up to 300-watt hour per kilogram of energy.
  • Thus arises the need for batteries that can store more energy to run these cars, and Li-S batteries are considered to be a good alternative.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Russia’s Avangard Missile

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Avangard and other ICBMs

Mains level : Not Much

  • Russia’s military deployed a new intercontinental weapon, the Avangard hypersonic missile system that can fly 27 times the speed of sound.
  • This will be the Russian military’s first Avangard hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • This feat is highly significant and comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.

Avangard Hypersonic Missile

  • Previously referred to as Project 4202, the Avangard hypersonic missile system is a reentry body carried atop an existing ballistic missile, which has the capability to manoeuvre.
  • The missiles have a range of over 6,000 km, weigh approximately 2,000 kg and can withstand temperatures of over 2000 degree celsius.
  • It’s manoeuvring capability makes it difficult to predict its trajectory and gives it the ability to protect itself from the air and ballistic missile defences by delivering nuclear warheads to targets, for instance, in Europe and the US.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Carbon Dots

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon Dots

Mains level : Applications of Carbon Dots

In an extraordinary waste-to-wealth feat, researchers from Assam have used the commonly found invasive plant water hyacinth to produce carbon nanoparticles.

Carbon Dots

  • The researchers harvested water hyacinth leaves, removed the chlorophyll, dried and powdered it.
  • The sieved powder underwent several treatments including heating at 150 degree Celsius to convert it to carbon dots.
  • When a nanoparticle is less than 10 nanometres call it a dot or nanodot.

Features of these dots

  • These carbon dots were able to give a green fluorescence under UV light.
  • These extremely tiny (less than 10 nanometres) particles can be used for detecting a commonly used herbicide — pretilachlor.
  • The nanoparticles were found to be selective and sensitive for the detection of the herbicide.
  • Some teams are exploring if its fibre can be used to make furniture.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] New System for Measurement of Weight

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kibble Balance, Kilogram and its definiton

Mains level : Not Much


The prototype of one kilogram (NPK-57) is now available in India and placed at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi. The new definition of kilogram which has come into effect from May 2019 and few countries have developed the system of realization of unit of mass ‘kg’.

How much is a kilogram?

  • Over the centuries, it has been defined and redefined, with a standard in place since 1889.
  • Called Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum-iridium is locked up in a jar at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  • For nearly 130 years, the mass of this cylinder has been the international standard for the kilogram.

Redefining what constitutes 1 Kg

  • Representatives from 57 countries will vote in Versailles, France, to redefine SI, or the International System of Units.
  • The kilogram’s definition will be based on a concept of physics called the Planck constant.
  • Reports worldwide suggest that the new definition is set to be voted in.

Using a Kibble Balance

  • Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant (h).
  • The advantages of Kibble balance would be that the NPK need not to be sent to BIPM for calibrations and the accuracy and stability of Kibble balance is very high.
  • This is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hyperloop

Mains level : High speed connectivity in India: Prospects and Challenges


The new coalition government in Maharashtra is set to discuss the progress of ambitious Mumbai-Pune Hyperloop One.

What is Hyperloop?

  • It is a next-generation travel system that uses pods or capsules travelling at high speeds through low-pressure tubes erected on columns or tunneled underground using magnetic levitation.

How does it work?

  • The system is fully autonomous and sealed, so no driver-related error is anticipated.
  • In a sealed environment with almost no air resistance, the pods are expected to reach very high speeds.
  • The top speed could reach over 700 mph or 1,125 km/h.
  • This speed is more than two and a half times the top speed of the world’s fastest train, the Shanghai Maglev (267 mph or 430 km/h), and some 200 mph faster than the cruising speed of a commercial jetliner (460-575 mph/740-925 km/h).

What was the Branson plan?

  • Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One proposed a hyperloop between Mumbai and Pune, which would reduce the travel time between the two cities to just 25 minutes from the existing three hours.
  • It would link central Pune, Navi Mumbai International Airport, and Mumbai. It was pitched as a plan with potential to transport 26 million people and make 159 million passenger trips per year.
  • The route would be 100 per cent electric, which means a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions up to 86,000 tonnes over 30 years.
  • The project involves construction across a length of 117.5 km; an initial testing track of 11.8 km was to be constructed in the first phase from Pune’s Hinjewadi.

What did the Maharashtra government do to take forward the proposal?

  • It was categorised as a “public infrastructure project”, and received Cabinet clearance to speed up land acquisition for the testing track.
  • The Pune Metropolitan Region Development Authority was assigned the task of overseeing the implementation of the first phase.
  • The government also decided to use the “Swiss challenge” method for the bidding of the project.
  • That means the first bidder would be challenged by other global bidders, and in order to stay in the game, would have to match those bids.
  • The method is normally used for unsolicited bids for public infrastructure projects.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Universal Product Code (UPC) or Barcode

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Barcode QR Code

Mains level : Applications of Barcode


Yesterday, engineer-scientist George Laurer died in North Carolina, USA, at age 94. He was the co-developer of the Universal Product Code (UPC), or barcode, in 1973.

What is Barcode?

  • A barcode is a method of representing data in a visual, machine-readable form. Initially, barcodes represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines.
  • These barcodes, now commonly referred to as linear or one-dimensional, can be scanned by special optical scanners, called barcode readers.

How the idea took shape

  • Barcode was the brainchild of Woodland; Laurer is credited with bringing the idea to fruition.
  • It was in the 1950s that Woodland thought about developing a system based on barcode symbology, called Bulls-Eye Barcode, which would describe a product and its price in a code readable by a machine.
  • Initially, Woodland took inspiration from the Morse Code, the well-known character-encoding scheme in telecommunications defined by dots and dashes.
  • Woodland’s idea seemed workable but he was unable to develop the system as the cost of laser and computing technology was extremely high in the 1950s.
  • Two decades later, in the 1970s, Laurer, who was then working for IBM, put Woodland’s idea to work, armed with less expensive laser and computing technology.
  • Laurer found that a rectangle system, which we see on most barcodes today, would be more workable than Bulls-Eye, which used a series of concentric circles that looked complicated.

Transformation brought about

  • Today, shoppers simply pick up a product at a store or a mall, and pay the bill as determined by a scan of the barcode.
  • Barcodes can be found in hundreds and thousands of products for identification and scanning, and allow retailers to identify prices instantly.
  • They also allow for easy check-outs and fewer pricing errors, and let retailers keep better account of their inventory.
  • The barcode also changed the balance of power in the retail industry.

Back2Basics

QR Code

  • The Quick Response (QR) code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan.
  • In practice, QR codes often contain data for a locator, identifier, or tracker that points to a website or application.
  • A QR code uses four standardized encoding modes (numeric, alphanumeric, byte/binary, and kanji) to store data efficiently; extensions may also be used.
  • The main advantage of a QR code is its versatility. QR codes can be used for anything and everything.
  • It became due to its fast readability and greater storage capacity compared to standard UPC barcodes.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

“Contract for the Web”

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WWW

Mains level : Global measures for Internet governance


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has announced a “Contract for the Web” — aimed at saving the future of his invention, which is now almost an essential condition for human existence.

The Contract for the Web

  • Berners-Lee announced plans for this “Contract” nearly a year ago, and the World Wide Web Foundation, a non-profit he has founded, worked on it.
  • The idea is to create a global plan of action for all stakeholders to together commit to building a “better” Web.
  • The Contract consists of nine principles — three each for governments, private companies, and individuals and civil society to endorse — with 76 clauses each.
  • The plan of action is that governments who are looking to regulate in the digital era, can use the contract as a roadmap to lay out their policies and laws going forward.
  • Citizen action is an important part of the Contract, and the organisation hopes citizens would hold governments and companies accountable for violations of its terms.

Who has created this Contract?

  • Representatives from over 80 organisations, including governments, companies, civil society activists, and academics.
  • The goal was to create a standard policy for a Web that benefits all. The nine principles emerged after a series of discussions over almost a year.

Principles of the Contract

  1. Governments will “Ensure everyone can connect to the Internet”, “Keep all of the Internet available, all of the time”, and “Respect and protect people’s fundamental online privacy and data rights”.
  2. Companies will “Make the Internet affordable and accessible to everyone”, “Respect and protect people’s privacy and personal data to build online trust”, and “Develop technologies that support the best in humanity and challenge the worst”.
  3. Citizens will “Be creators and collaborators on the Web”, “Build strong communities that respect civil discourse and human dignity”, and “Fight for the Web” so that it “remains open and a global public resource for people everywhere, now and in the future”.

Legal check

  • The ‘Contract for the Web’ is not a legal document, or a United Nations document — though the organisation is in talks with the UN.
  • The companies that do not implement the Contract would be delisted from it — which may not be the strongest deterrent.
  • It cannot currently bend governments or companies — even those that are on board — to its will.

Why such a contract?

Currently there’s no real accepted standard of best practices for even designing user interfaces, to make sure that people actually understand what they’re consenting to, what information is being collected.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AIP system

Mains level : Indigenization of defense production

  • DRDO is a step closer to boosting endurance of submarines with the indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System.
  • It has successfully tested the operation of the indigenous land-based prototype.

Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) System

  • Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is any marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen (by surfacing).
  • AIP is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion.
  • Most such systems generate electricity which in turn drives an electric motor for propulsion or recharges the boat’s batteries.
  • AIP can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.
  • It enables conventional submarines to remain submerged for longer duration.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: Edge Computing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Edge Computing

Mains level : Applications of Edge Computing


  • Cloud computing — by which remote servers hosted on the Internet store and process data, rather than local servers or personal computers — is ready to move to the next level i.e. ‘Edge Computing’.

Cloud Computing

  • Cloud computing is the on-demand availability of computer system resources, especially data storage and computing power, without direct active management by the user.
  • The term is generally used to describe data centres available to many users over the Internet.

Why need an upgrade?

  • Amazon, Microsoft, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google — the technology giants that provide cloud computing infrastructure to major corporates and governments.
  • They want to leverage 5G wireless technology and artificial intelligence to enable faster response times, lower latency (ability to process very high volumes of data with minimal delay), and simplified maintenance in computing.
  • This is where Edge Computing comes in — which many see as an extension to the cloud, but which is, in fact, different in several basic ways.
  • By 2025 companies will generate and process more than 75% of their data outside of traditional centralised data centres — that is, at the “edge” of the cloud.

So, what is Edge Computing?

  • Edge computing enables data to be analysed, processed and transferred at the edge of a network.
  • The idea is to analyse data locally, closer to where it is stored, in real-time without latency, rather than send it far away to a centralised data centre.
  • So whether you are streaming a video or accessing a library of video games in the cloud, edge computing allows for quicker data processing and content delivery.

How is edge computing different from cloud computing?

  • The basic difference between edge computing and cloud computing lies in the place where the data processing takes place.
  • At the moment, the existing Internet of Things (IoT) systems performs all of their computations in the cloud using data centres.
  • Edge computing, on the other hand, essentially manages the massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices by storing and processing data locally.
  • That data doesn’t need to be sent over a network as soon as it processed; only important data is sent — therefore, an edge computing network reduces the amount of data that travels over the network.

And how soon can edge computing becomes part of our lives?

  • Experts believe the true potential of edge computing will become apparent when 5G networks go mainstream in a year from now.
  • Users will be able to enjoy consistent connectivity without even realizing it.
  • Nvidia, one of the biggest players in the design and manufacture of graphics and AI acceleration hardware, has just announced its EGX edge computing platform.
  • This will help telecom operators adopt 5G networks capable of supporting edge workloads.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Dirac metals: New class of quantum materials for clean energy technology

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dirac Metals

Mains level : Applications of Dirac materials


  • Researchers from IIT Bombay have discovered special properties in a class of materials called “semi-Dirac metals” that have been recently talked about in the scientific literature.

What are Dirac metals?

  • Normal metals like gold and silver are good conductors of electricity.
  • A key aspect that decides the quality of conduction is the way energy depends on the momentum of electrons.
  • Dirac metals differ from normal metals in that the energy depends linearly on the momentum. This difference is responsible for their unique properties.
  • Semi-Dirac metals behave like Dirac metals in one direction and like normal metals in the perpendicular directions (since their microscopic structure is different along the two directions).
  • Within any material, charge carriers, such as electrons, acquire an effective mass which is different from their bare mass depending on the nature of the material.
  • The effective mass and the number of states available for the electron to occupy when it is excited by an electric field, for example, determine the conductivity and other such properties.
  • This is also true of a semi-Dirac metal. In particular, the effective mass becomes zero for conduction along a special direction.

Significance

  • Examples of semi-Dirac metals are systems such as TiO2/V2O3 nanostructures (Oxides of Titanium and Vanadium).
  • Through calculations, the researchers have shown that such materials would be transparent to light of a given frequency and polarization when it is incident along a particular direction.
  • The material would be opaque to the same light when it falls on it from a different direction.
  • There are many known applications for transparent conducting films – the common example being touch screens used in mobiles.
  • Optical conductivity is a measure of the opacity offered by the material to the passage of light through it.
  • The research shows a very high optical conductivity of semi-Dirac materials for electromagnetic waves [light waves] of a specific frequency and specific polarization.

Applications

  • The researchers show theoretically that semi-Dirac materials can display such thermoelectric properties.
  • The study of thermoelectrics dwells on the heat-to electricity conversion efficiency, for which there has been recent and tremendous interest due to the advent of nanomaterials and quantum materials.
  • Thermoelectricity is a clean energy technology that uses waste heat to produce electricity typically in low power applications.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: What is Quantum Supremacy, claimed by Google?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Supremacy

Mains level : Quantum Computing and its applications


  • Google announced that it has achieved a breakthrough called quantum supremacy in computing.
  • Scientists have developed an experimental processor that took just 200 seconds, to complete a calculation that would have taken a classical computer 10,000 years.

Quantum supremacy

  • It refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime.
  • This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.
  • The phrase “quantum supremacy” was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology in a speech.
  • According to reports, the quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that the world’s fastest supercomputer Summit would have taken 10,000 years to accomplish.

What is quantum computing?

  • Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.
  • Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

How is Quantum computer different from a traditional computer?

  • What differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
  • Quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object’s state before it is measured – instead of just 1s or 0s – which means they have the potential to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers.
  • Classical computers carry out logical operations using the definite position of a physical state.
  • These are usually binary, meaning its operations are based on one of two positions. A single state – such as on or off, up or down, 1 or 0 – is called a bit.
  • In quantum computing, operations instead use the quantum state of an object to produce what’s known as a qubit.
  • These states are the undefined properties of an object before they’ve been detected, such as the spin of an electron or the polarisation of a photon.

 What makes a quantum computer so powerful?

  • In their research paper published in the journal Nature, scientists have announced that their Sycamore computer has solved a problem that is considered intractable for classical computers.
  • This was achieved by developing architecture of what is known as “qubits”.
  • “Qubits” is short for “quantum bits”, which are to quantum computers what bits are to traditional computers.
  • The more the number of qubits, the higher the amount of information, which increases exponentially compared to the information stored in the same number of bits.

What exactly has Google achieved?

  • From the development of a single superconducting qubit, the researchers proceeded to systems including architecture of 54 qubits with Sycamore.
  • One of these did not perform, the University of California, Santa Barbara said in a statement.
  • This architecture led to the 53 qubits being entangled into a superposition state.
  • Preparing this superposition state was accomplished in a matter of microseconds.
  • The researchers then sampled from this distribution by measuring the qubits a million times in 200 seconds.
  • The equivalent task for a state-of-the-art classical supercomputer would take approximately 10,000 years, they wrote in their paper.

Why does it matter?

  • First, it is important to know that scientists are still a long way from developing a quantum computer.
  • What they have achieved is the development of an architecture of qubits, and the demonstration of its computing capabilities.
  • In the long term, scientists are always looking to improve on what they have already achieved.
  • If and when created, a quantum computer could revolutionise science research and technological advances.
  • It could boost areas like artificial intelligence, lead to new energy sources and even to new drug therapies.

Issues with QC

  • On the other hand, there may also be issues of national security.
  • They could also override the encryption that protects our computers and the data we use online.
  • Because of that, the governments of the United States and China consider quantum computing a national priority.
  • As some scientists work on quantum computers, others are devising security techniques that could thwart their code-breaking abilities.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

WiS and WiBS

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : WIS, WIBS

Mains level : Applications of Lithium ion battery

  • The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has developed a Lithium-ion battery that will not catch fire.

WiS and WiBS

  • Lithium-ion batteries are vulnerable to fire and explosion, which often happens without warning.
  • This is because they are built with flammable and combustible materials.
  • The researchers has announced the discovery of a new class of “water-in-salt” and “water-in-bisalt” electrolytes—referred to as WiS and WiBS.
  • The new class of electrolytes, when incorporated in a polymer matrix, reduces water activity and elevates the battery’s energy capabilities and life cycle.
  • This rids it of the flammable, toxic, and highly reactive solvents present in current Li-ion batteries. It’s a safe, powerful alternative.

Why it matters

  • Li-ion batteries have emerged as the energy storage vehicle of choice for portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid storage.
  • These safety advancements, the university release, mark a significant step forward in transforming the way Li-ion batteries are manufactured and used in electronic devices.
  • Li-ion batteries are already a constant presence in our daily lives, from our phones to our cars, and continuing to improve their safety is paramount to further advancing energy storage technology.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Microbial fuel cells

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Microbial fuel cells

Mains level : Microbial fuel cells and its applications


  • The London Zoo has used plants to power camera traps and sensors in the wild. This they achieved by installing microbial fuel cells in Pete, a fern.

Microbial fuel cells

  • They are devices that use bacteria as the catalysts to oxidize organic and inorganic matter and generate current.
  • Electrons produced by the bacteria are transferred to the negative terminal and flow to the positive terminal.
  • Plants naturally deposit biomaterial as they grow which in turn feeds the natural bacteria present in the soil.
  • This creates energy that can be harnessed by fuel cells and used to power a wide range of vital conservation tools remotely, including sensors, monitoring platforms and camera traps.

Benefits over other power sources

  • Among conventional power sources, batteries must be replaced while solar panels rely on a source of sunlight.
  • On the other hand, plants can survive in the shade, naturally moving into position to maximise the potential of absorbing sunlight.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Elastocaloric effect

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Elastocaloric effect

Mains level : Elastocaloric effect and its applications


Elastocaloric effect

  • When rubbers bands are twisted and untwisted, it produces a cooling effect.
  • This is called the “elastocaloric” effect, and researchers have suggested that it can be used in a very relevant context today.
  • Researchers have found that the elastocaloric effect, if harnessed, may be able to do away with the need of fluid refrigerants used in fridges and air-conditioners.
  • These fluids are susceptible to leakages, and can contribute to global warming.

How it works?

  • In the elastocaloric effect, the transfer of heat works much the same way as when fluid refrigerants are compressed and expanded.
  • When a rubber band is stretched, it absorbs heat from its environment, and when it is released, it gradually cools down.
  • In order to figure out how the twisting mechanism might be able to enable a fridge, the researchers compared the cooling power of rubber fibres, nylon and polyethylene fishing lines and nickel-titanium wires.
  • They observed high cooling from twist changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibres.

Efficiency

  • The level of efficiency of the heat exchange in rubber bands “is comparable to that of standard refrigerants and twice as high as stretching the same materials without twisting”.
  • To demonstrate this setup, the researchers developed a fridge the size of a ballpoint pen cartridge that was able to bring down the temperature of a small volume of water by 8°C in a few seconds.
  • They suggested that their findings may lead to the development of greener, higher-efficiency and low-cost cooling technology.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Nobel Prize in Chemistry: for Lithium ion battery

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lithium ion battery

Mains level : Significance of Li-ion batteries in FAME schemes


  • This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognizes the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power most of the portable devices that we use, such as mobile phones and more recently the e-vehicles.
  • The prize has been given jointly to Stanley Whittingham, John B Goodenough and Akira Yoshino.

Li-Ion battery

  • Whittingham developed the first functional lithium-ion battery in 1976, Goodenough brought in a major improvement in 1980, while Yoshino made the first practical-use lithium-ion battery in 1985.
  • Commercially manufactured lithium-ion batteries, based on what Yoshino had developed, made their first appearance in 1991.

Working

  • Batteries convert chemical energy into electricity.
  • A battery comprises two electrodes, a positive cathode and a negative anode, which is separated by a liquid chemical, called electrolyte, which is capable of carrying charged particles.
  • The two electrodes are connected through an electrical circuit.
  • When the circuit is on, electrons travel from the negative anode towards the positive cathode, thus generating electric current, while positively charged ions move through the electrolyte.

Why Li-Ion battery is the best?

  • Researchers have continued to look for other materials to make more efficient batteries, but so far none of these has succeeded in outperforming lithium-ion battery’s high capacity and voltage.
  • The lithium-ion battery itself has, however, gone several modifications and improvements so that it is much more environment friendly than when it was first developed.

How it is different from conventional batteries?

  • Single-use batteries stop working once a balance is established between the electrical charges.
  • In rechargeable batteries, an external power supply reverses the flow of electric charges, so that the battery can be used again.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] High Temperature Fuel Cell System

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Fuel Cells

Mains level : Fuel cell technology and its uses


  • The President of India unveiled the first Indigenous High Temperature Fuel Cell System developed by CSIR.

What is Fuel Cell?

  • A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions.
  • Fuel cells are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction.
  • Whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from metals and their ions or oxides that are commonly already present in the battery, except in flow batteries.
  • Fuel cells can produce electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.

High Temperature Fuel Cell System

  • The Fuel Cells developed are based on High Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (HTPEM) Technology.
  • The 5.0 kW fuel cell system generates power in a green manner using methanol / bio-methane, with heat and water as bi-products for further use.
  • It has greater than 70% efficiency, which otherwise may not be possible by other energy sources.

Utility of the cell

  • It is most suitable for distributed stationary power applications like; for small offices, commercial units, data centers etc.; where highly reliable power is essential with simultaneous requirement for air-conditioning.
  • This system will also meet the requirement of efficient, clean and reliable backup power generator for telecom towers, remote locations and strategic applications as well.
  • This development would replace Diesel Generating (DG) sets and help reduce India’s dependence on crude oil.

Why fuel cell?

  • In the field of clean energy, Fuel Cell distributed power generation systems are emerging as promising alternative to grid power.
  • The developed technology is world class and the development has placed India in the league of developed nations which are in possession of such a knowledgebase.
  • The Fuel Cells fit well in India’s mission of replacing diesel with green and alternate fuels.
  • The development of this technology is indigenous and carries immense national importance in terms of non-grid energy security.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Quantum Supremacy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Supremacy

Mains level : Quantum Computing


  • A draft research paper claimed Google researchers have achieved a long-ought-after goal in physics called “quantum supremacy”.

Quantum supremacy

  • It refers to a quantum computer solving a problem that cannot be expected of a classical computer in a normal lifetime.
  • This relates to the speed at which a quantum computer performs.
  • The phrase “quantum supremacy” was coined in 2011 by John Preskill, Professor of Theoretical Physics at the California Institute of Technology in a speech.
  • According to reports the quantum processor took 200 seconds to perform a calculation that the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit, would have taken 10,000 years to accomplish.
  • The draft paper is believed to be an early version of a paper that has been submitted to a scientific journal.

What is quantum computing?

  • Quantum computing takes advantage of the strange ability of subatomic particles to exist in more than one state at any time.
  • Due to the way the tiniest of particles behave, operations can be done much more quickly and use less energy than classical computers.

How is Quantum computer different from a traditional computer?

  • What differentiates a quantum computer from a traditional computer is the way the two store information.
  • Quantum computers perform calculations based on the probability of an object’s state before it is measured – instead of just 1s or 0s – which means they have the potential to process exponentially more data compared to classical computers.
  • Classical computers carry out logical operations using the definite position of a physical state.
  • These are usually binary, meaning its operations are based on one of two positions. A single state – such as on or off, up or down, 1 or 0 – is called a bit.
  • In quantum computing, operations instead use the quantum state of an object to produce what’s known as a qubit.
  • These states are the undefined properties of an object before they’ve been detected, such as the spin of an electron or the polarisation of a photon.

Back2Basics

Quantum Mechanics

  • Quantum mechanics (QM) is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles.
  • It is the body of scientific laws that describe the wacky behavior of photons, electrons and the other particles that make up the universe.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Ready to reveal secrets from the right side of the moon

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2

CONTEXT

On 7 September, when the Vikram Lander ejects the Pragyan Rover to roll out and analyse the lunar terrain, India is the world’s first country to land on the moon’s highly uneven south pole. 

Background

    • It is labeled as “India’s Sputnik moment”, for its big leap forward for Indian science.
    • Such missions require decades of scientific effort, government planning, and adequate allocation of resources.

Importance of the event

    • It shows the ability to orbit a solar-system object.
    • It shall demonstrate the capability to land on the surface and carry out scientifically valuable exploratory missions around landing points through robotic rovers.
    • Data from the eight scientific payloads would make precise measurements of the chemical and mineral composition of the moon, map the topography of the lunar surface to intensify a search for the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules.
    • Exploring the south pole area will significantly improve our understanding of the moon as it contains an undisturbed historical record of the inner solar system environment.

Background of Chandrayaan

  • India had conducted an exhaustive study over 1999 to 2003 to chart out its future space missions. 
  • The study led to the decision of India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1.
  • The decision was influenced by two factors: 
      • satellite-building and launch vehicle capabilities of ISRO and the interest of India’s scientific community
      • opportunity to upgrade our technological capabilities in areas such as control, guidance and navigation, deep-space communications, and other fields
  • Chandrayaan-1 satisfactorily fulfilled its mission objectives.
      • It discovered the possible existence of water in the exosphere and on the surface as well as sub-surface of the moon
      • mapped the mineralogical and chemical properties of the lunar regolith, atmosphere and ionosphere
      • studied aspects of solar radiation interaction with the moon

Indian space mission today

    • India’s launch vehicle program has matured; As of 2018, India had launched 237 satellites for 28 different countries.
    • Using these technologies, India has also built a series of sophisticated satellites for applications such as remote sensing, communication, broadcasting and navigation and for scientific missions
    • In this background, Chandrayaan 2, involving far higher level of technology, more detailed scientific measurements and increase in complexity was approved.

What it holds for the future

    • India hopes to play its rightful role in such future ventures which could be mostly international
    • The use of the moon as a take-off point to reach other locations in the solar system is also recognized as an attractive strategy
    • The preliminary experience gained from Chandrayaan 2 could be very valuable from technical and scientific points of view.
    • Near-Earth orbital missions, geosynchronous missions, near-Earth human spaceflight missions, robotic lunar and planetary exploration involving many solar system objects will be well within India’s reach in the next decade
    • The mission is a boost for India to conceive even more complex undertakings to nearby and distant planets and other bodies of the solar system like Gaganyaan.

Challenges remain

    • The allocation of resources to research and development in India is the lowest among BRICS nations. In 2014-15, India spent only about 0.69% of GDP on R&D, while Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa spent 1.24%, 1.19%, 2.05%, and 0.75%, respectively.
    • Also, the level of spending on R&D as a fraction of GDP has remained stagnant for the past two decades.

CONCLUSION

The success of the Chandrayaan 2 mission should draw the attention of our policymakers to increase the country’s level of support to science.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

CSIR to certify air quality monitoring sensors

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CSIR, NPL

Mains level : Not Much

  • The Union Environment Ministry has tasked the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory (NPL) with certifying air quality monitoring instruments.
  • CSIR-NPL will develop necessary infrastructure, management system, testing and certification facilities conforming to international standards.

Why such move?

  • This is in anticipation of a rising demand by States — against the backdrop of the National Clean Air Campaign — for low cost air quality monitoring instruments.
  • The Centre in January launched a programme to reduce particulate matter (PM) pollution by 20%-30% in at least 102 cities by 2024.
  • An edifice of this initiative is to have a vast monitoring network of sensors that can capture the rapid fluctuations of pollutants, necessary to ascertain how these gases and particles affected health.
  • Currently, the machines employed by State and Central Pollution Control Boards (SPCB and CPCB) are imported and can cost up to ₹1 crore to install and about ₹50 lakh to maintain over five years.
  • Several new sensors, which are far cheaper, are likely in the future, and it would be useful to have a creditable agency that can rate the quality of these devices.
  • Still several monitoring units were poorly calibrated, that is, over time, they were susceptible to erroneous readings.

About CSIR

  • The CSIR was established by the Government of India in September of 1942 as an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India.
  • Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.

CSIR NPL

  • The CSIR-NPL , situated in New Delhi, is the measurement standards laboratory of India.
  • It maintains standards of SI units in India and calibrates the national standards of weights and measures.
  • Each modernized country, including India has a National Metrological Institute (NMI), which maintains the standards of measurements. This responsibility has been given to the NPL.
  • The NPL maintains standard units of measurement such as Metre, Kg, Seconds, Ampere, Kelvin, Candela, Mole and Radiation.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

RoboBee X-Wing

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RoboBee X-Wing

Mains level : Applications of Nanotechnology


RoboBee X-Wing

  • The Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory in Cambridge has claimed to have made possible the “lightest insect-scale aerial vehicle so far to have achieved sustained, untethered flight.
  • The robot can sustain a flight for less than a second. It is essentially a flying machine, which can flap its wings 120 times a second and is half the size of a paperclip.
  • Initially, the researchers called this lightest centimetre-sized vehicle, “RoboBee”, but with the current advancement which makes it possible for RoboBee to fly untethered, its name has been upgraded to “RoboBee X-Wing”.

Working

  • The robot weighs 259 mg and uses 110-120 milliwatts of power using solar energy, matching the “thrust efficiency” of similarly sized insects such as bees.
  • Much like aircraft, the robot is heavier than the air it displaces — a concept referred to as “heavier-than-air flight”.
  • However, when objects become smaller, achieving a heavier-than-air flight becomes more complicated.

Why make insect like robot?

  • Studying the mechanisms that insects use to flap their wings and navigate in the air is a matter of interest to biologists.
  • Flapping-wing robots can help in addressing questions related to the evolution of flight, the mechanical basis of natural selection and environmental monitoring.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Deep Ocean Mission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deep Ocean Mission

Mains level : India's quest for ocean bed resources

  • The Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) to explore the deepest recesses of the ocean has finally got the green signal from the government.

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

  • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
  • The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO.
  • Underwater robotics and ‘manned’ submersibles are key components of the Mission which will help India harness various living and non-living (water, mineral and energy) resources from the seabed and deep water.
  • The tasks that will be undertaken over this period include deep-sea mining, survey, energy exploration and the offshore-based desalination.
  • These technological developments are funded under an umbrella scheme of the government – called Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART).

Objective of the mission

  • A major thrust of the mission will be looking for metals and minerals.
  • It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of Polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
  • These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.

Exploring our EEZs

  • Exclusive Economic Zones (EZs) are boundaries prescribed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which give rights to a state regarding the exploration and use of marine resources.
  • India’s EEZs spreads over 2.2 million sq. km. and in the deep sea lies unexplored and unutilized.
  • India has been allotted a site of 75,000 sq. km. in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Ramanujan Machine

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ramanujan Machine

Mains level : Utility of the machine/algorithm

  • Scientists from Israel have developed a concept they have named the Ramanujan Machine, after the Indian mathematician.

Ramanujan Machine

  • It is not really a machine but an algorithm, and performs a very unconventional function.
  • With most computer programs, humans input a problem and expect the algorithm to work out a solution.
  • With the Ramanujan Machine, it works the other way round.
  • Feed in a constant, say the well-know pi, and the algorithm will come up with a equation involving an infinite series whose value, it will propose, is exactly pi.

Why named after Ramanujan?

  • The algorithm reflects the way Srinivasa Ramanujan worked during his brief life (1887-1920).
  • With very little formal training, he engaged with the most celebrated mathematicians of the time, particularly during his stay in England (1914-19), where he eventually became a Fellow of the Royal Society and earned a research degree from Cambridge.
  • Throughout his life, Ramanujan came up with novel equations and identities —including equations leading to the value of pi— and it was usually left to formally trained mathematicians to prove these.

What’s the point?

  • Conjectures (assumptions) are a major step in the process of making new discoveries in any branch of science, particularly mathematics.
  • Equations defining the fundamental mathematical constants, including pi, are invariably elegant.
  • New assumptions in mathematics, however have been scarce and sporadic, the researchers note in their paper, which is currently on a pre-print server.
  • The idea is to enhance and accelerate the process of discovery.

How good is it?

  • The paper gives examples for previously unknown equations produced by the algorithm, including for values of the constants pi (=3.142) and e (=2.7182).
  • The Ramanujan Machine proposed these conjecture formulas by matching numerical values, without providing proofs.
  • It has to be remembered that these are infinite series, and a human can only enter a finite number of terms to test the value of the series.
  • The question is, therefore, whether the series will fail after a point. The researchers feel this is unlikely, because they tested hundreds of digits.
  • Until proven, it remains a conjecture. By the same token, until proven wrong, a conjecture remains one.

Where to find it

  • The researchers have set up a website, ramanujanmachine.com.
  • Users can suggest proofs for algorithms or propose new algorithms, which will be named after them.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Black Gold

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Black Gold

Mains level : Special features of the new material

  • Using gold nanoparticles Indian scientists have developed a new material called “black gold”, which can potentially be used for applications ranging from solar energy harvesting to desalinating seawater, according to a study.

Black Gold

  • To develop the material, the team from Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) rearranged size and gaps between gold nanoparticles.
  • It has unique properties such as capacity to absorb light and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • Gold does not have these properties therefore ‘black gold’ is being called a new material.
  • In appearance it is black, hence the name ‘black gold’, according to the findings published in Chemical Science
  • The researchers varied inter-particle distance between gold nanoparticles using a cycle-by-cycle growth approach by optimizing the nucleation-growth step.
  • They used dendritic fibrous nanosilica, whose fibers were used as the deposition site for gold nanoparticles.

Features of Black Gold

  • One of the most fascinating properties of the new material is its ability to absorb the entire visible and near-infrared region of solar light.
  • It does so because of inter-particle plasmonic coupling as well as heterogeneity in nanoparticles size.
  • Black gold could also act as a catalyst and could convert CO2 into methane at atmospheric pressure and temperature using solar energy.
  • If we develop an artificial tree with leaves made out of back gold, it can perform artificial photosynthesis, capturing carbon dioxide and converting it into fuel and other useful chemicals.
  • The efficiency of conversion of CO2 into fuel, at present, is low but researchers believe it could be improved in future.
  • The material can be used as a nano-heater to covert seawater into potable water with good efficiency, the researchers said.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Explained: Superconductivity

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Superconductors and their future uses

  • About a year ago, two scientists from IISc Bangalore had observed superconductivity at room temperature, in a new composite material made of gold and silver.
  • If the claimed discovery is confirmed, it could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in physics in this century so far.

Silver embedded gold matrix

  • The material that exhibited superconductivity is in the form of nanosized films and pellets made of silver nanoparticles embedded in a gold matrix.
  • Interestingly, silver and gold independently do not exhibit superconductivity.

What is Superconductivity?

  • Electricity is essentially the movement of free electrons in a conducting material like copper.
  • While the movement of electrons is in one particular direction, it is random and haphazard.
  • They frequently collide with one another, and with other particles in the material, thus offering resistance to the flow of current.
  • The picture is similar to one of messy traffic in a congested urban area. In the process, a lot of electrical energy is lost as heat. Resistance is a measurable quantity, which varies with the material.
  • Superconductivity is a state in which a material shows absolutely zero electrical resistance.
  • While resistance is a property that restricts the flow of electricity, superconductivity allows unhindered flow.
  • It is a phenomenon that, so far, has been possible only at extremely low temperatures, in the range of 100°C below zero.

A phenomenon of zero resistance

  • The search for a material that exhibits superconductivity at room temperature, or at least manageable low temperatures, has been going on for decades, without success.
  • In a superconducting state, however, the material offers no resistance at all.
  • All the electrons align themselves in a particular direction, and move without any obstruction in a “coherent” manner.
  • It is akin to vehicles moving in an orderly fashion on a superhighway.
  • Because of zero resistance, superconducting materials can save huge amounts of energy, and be used to make highly efficient electrical appliances.

Why is superconductivity difficult to achieve?

  • The problem is that superconductivity, ever since it was first discovered in 1911, has only been observed at very low temperatures, somewhere close to what is called absolute zero (0°K or -273.15°C).
  • In recent years, scientists have been able to find superconductive materials at temperatures that are higher than absolute zero.
  • But in most cases, these temperatures are still below -100°C and the pressures required are extreme.
  • Creating such extreme conditions of temperature and pressure is a difficult task.
  • Therefore, the applications of superconducting materials have remained limited as of now.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Mendeleev and his periodic table of elements

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Modern Periodic Table

Mains level : Not Much


  • This newscard is supplementary to an must-read article published in the The Hindu

The Modern Periodic Table

  • The periodic table is an arrangement of all the elements known to man in accordance with their increasing atomic number and recurring chemical properties.
  • They are assorted in a tabular arrangement wherein a row is a period and a column is a group.
  • Until 1863, the world was aware of only 56 known elements.
  • The rate of scientific progress was such that every year, a new element was being discovered.
  • It was during this time that Mendeleev came up with the idea of the Periodic Table.
  • He published the Periodic Table in his book– The Relation between the Properties and Atomic Weights of the Elements.
  • Mendeleev said that he arrived at the idea in his dream, where he saw all chemical elements falling into place on a table according to their chemical properties.
  • Mendeleev had found a definitive pattern following which, each element could be placed according to their atomic weight.
  • He had also predicted the qualities of the ‘missing’ (yet to be discovered) elements and gave them Sanskrit names.

Its Evolution

  • The noble gases including helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and radon (Rn) were added to the table between 1895 and 1901.
  • Likewise, additions have been made to the periodic table as new elements have been discovered in the last hundred years
  • In 1914, English physicist Henry Gwyn-Jeffries Moseley found out that each atomic nucleus can be assigned a number, according to the number of protons in that atom.
  • This changed the way the periodic table worked. The table was redesigned according to the atomic number of elements rather than their atomic weight
  • Rare-earth elements, including the elements in the Lanthanide series, were included in the atomic table in the late 19th century.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Full circle: on the change in kilogram’s definition

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Planck's Constant

Mains level : How changes have taken place over the time in defining standard metrics

CONTEXT

As of May 20, the kilogram joined a bunch of other units — second, metre, ampere, kelvin, mole and candela — that will no longer be compared with physical objects as standards of reference.

Background

  • The change comes after nearly 130 years: in 1889 a platinum-iridium cylinder was used to define how much mass one kilogram represented.
  • Now, a more abstract definition of the kilogram has been adopted in terms of fundamental constants, namely, the Planck’s constant h, and the metre and second which already have been defined in terms of universal constants such as the speed of light.
  • With this redefinition, the range of universality of the measurement has been extended in an unprecedented way.

New Method

  • Earlier, if a mass had to be verified to match with a standard kilogram, it would be placed on one of the pans of a common balance, while the prototype would have to be placed in the other pan — and mass would be measured against mass.
  • Now, by using a Kibble balance, which balances mass against electromagnetic force, to measure the mass of an unknown piece, the very methodology of verification has been altered.
  • The constants involved are known precisely and are universal numbers. Hence, whether the mass is measured on earth or, say, on the moon, it can be determined with precision.

 

History of standards

  • This is the culmination of a series of historical changes, which are also described by Richard S. Davis et al in their 2016 article in the journal Metrologia.
  • Originally the definition of mass was in terms of what was then thought of as a universal physical constant.
  • In 1791, 1 kg was defined as the mass of one litre of distilled water at its melting point. Thus, the density of water was the physical constant on which this definition hinged.
  • In 1799, the kilogram came to be defined using a cylinder of platinum – the first time an artefact was used for this purpose.
  • But it was also defined as equivalent to the mass of one litre of distilled water at atmospheric pressure and at about 4 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which water has the maximum density.
  • This was done away with in 1889 when the community adopted the International Prototype of the Kilogram — a cylinder made of an alloy that’s 90% platinum and 10% iridium.
  • The reference to the ‘physical constant’, i.e. mass of one litre of water, was abandoned.

Planck’s Constant

  • Now, as a culmination of this historical process, we come back full circle and find that the kilogram is defined again in terms of a fundamental physical constant — the Planck’s constant.
  • Planck’s constant is a robust number to match. Not until the art of travelling at relativistic speeds, close to the speed of light, is mastered, will we have to redefine these abstract definitions. Until then, it looks like metrologists are on a stable berth.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Working of the AWG

Mains level: Utility of the AWG in light of depleting water resources


News

  • A Navratna PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG).
  • It can be used to provide drinking water in community centres and public places.

Atmospheric Water Generator

  1. The AWG is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, a start-up company based in Hyderabad.
  2. It employs a novel technology to extract water from the humidity present in the atmosphere and purify it.
  3. It uses heat exchange for condensing the atmospheric moisture to produce pure, safe and clean potable water.
  4. It comes with a Mineralization Unit, which is used to add minerals which are required to make the water potable.
  5. The AWG is configurable in static and mobile (vehicular) versions and is available in 30 litres/day, 100 litres/day, 500 litres/day and 1,000 litres/day capacities.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The potential that quantum internet holds

Image result for quantum computing

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Quantum computing and internet

Mains level: Potential uses of quantum internet and how it is better than traditional internet


Context

Present computing theory

  1. All of today’s computing takes its root from the world of “bits”, where a transistor bit, which lies at the heart of any computing chip, can only be in one of two electrical states: on or off
  2. When on, the bit takes on a value of “1” and when off, it takes on a value of “0”, constraining the bit to only one of two (binary) values
  3. All tasks performed by a computer-like device, whether a simple calculator or a sophisticated computer, are constrained by this binary rule
  4. Eight bits make up what is called a “byte”
  5. Today, our computing is based on increasing the number of bytes into kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and so on
  6. All computing advances we have had thus far, including artificially intelligent programmes, and driverless cars are ultimately reduced to the binary world of the bit

Advent of quantum computing

  1. Classical internet is constrained by a binary thought process
  2. With quantum computing, information is held in “qubits” that can exist in two states at the same time
  3. A qubit can store a “0” and “1” simultaneously
  4. If you build two qubits, they can hold four values at once—11, 10, 01, and 00
  5. Adding on more qubits can greatly increase the computing capability of such a machine

Towards quantum internet

  1. The logical extension of quantum computing is a quantum internet, where computers don’t just compute in isolation, they also communicate with one another
  2. Scientists are now working on how a quantum internet might work
  3. To accomplish this, they are beginning by providing a vision of fundamentally new technology protocols to enable network communications between any two quantum computing machines on Earth
  4. They say that such a quantum internet will—in synergy with the “classical” internet that we have today—connect quantum computers in order to achieve unparalleled capabilities that are impossible today
  5. Several major applications for the quantum internet have already been identified, including secure communication, secure identification, achieving efficient agreement on distributed data, as well as secure access to remote quantum computers in the cloud

Advantages of the quantum internet

  1. The ability of a quantum internet to transmit “qubits” that are fundamentally different than classical “1” and “0” bits is what is paramount
  2. Qubits also cannot be copied, and any attempt to do so can be detected
  3. This makes qubits well suited for security applications

Way forward

  1. The transmission of qubits require radical new concepts and technology, requiring concerted efforts in physics, computer science, and engineering to succeed
  2. Although it is hard to predict what the exact components of a future quantum internet will be, it is likely that we will see the birth of the first multi-node quantum networks in the next few years

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] World’s standard definition of kilogram now redefined

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Kilogram and Weighing system, Planck’s constant

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

Redefining Kilogram

  1. CGPM is the highest international body of the world for accurate and precise measurements and comprises of 60 countries including India and 42 Associate Members.
  2. The 26th meeting of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) was held during November 13-16 2018 at Palais des Congréss, Versailles, France.
  3. In the meeting, the members have voted for the redefinition of 130 years old “Le grand K – the SI unit of kg” in terms of the fundamental Planck’s constant (h).
  4. The new definitions will come into force on 20 May 2019.

How will this take place?

  1. The International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the main executive body of CGPM has the responsibility of defining the International System of Units (SI).
  2. This revision of the SI is the culmination of many years of intensive scientific cooperation between the National Metrology Institutes (The national Physical Laboratory for India) and the BIPM.
  3. The dissemination of SI units for the welfare of society and industries in the country is the responsibility of Legal Metrology, Department of Consumer Affairs, GoI.

International prototype of kilogram (IPK)

  1. The International prototype of kilogram (IPK) is kept at the BIPM, Paris and serves as the international standard of kilogram.
  2. It is made of 90% platinum and 10% iridium and is a cylinder of 39 mm diameter and 39 mm height.
  3. Replicas of the IPK are made of the same material and used at BIPM as reference or working standards and national prototype of kilogram (NPK), kept at different National Metrology Institutes (NMIs).
  4. NPK-57, kept at CSIR- National Physical Laboratory, is sent periodically to BIPM for calibration.
  5. NPK further is being utilized through transfer standards of mass to provide unbroken chain of traceability for dissemination of mass through Legal Metrology to the user industries, calibration laboratories etc.
  6. The precise and accurate measurements help country in the production of international quality products and help commerce through elimination of the technical barrier to trade.

Using a Kibble Balance

  1. Kibble balance is a self-calibrating electromechanical balance and provides the measurements of mass, traceable in terms of electrical parameters and provides linkage of macroscopic mass to the Planck constant (h).
  2. NPL-UK, NIST-USA,NRC- Canada, PTB-Germany etc. have successfully developed Kibble balance for 1 kg with an uncertainty of measurement in order of 10-8.
  3. The advantages of Kibble balance would be that the NPK need not to be sent to BIPM for calibrations and the accuracy and stability of Kibble balance is very high.
  4. This is very important where low weights with high accuracies are essential, for example in pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies.

Making a truly Universal System

  1. After the kilogram’s definition is changed officially- on 20th May, 2019, also known as World Metrology Day- most people will never notice the difference.
  2. It would not change baking ingredients on a kitchen scale, or even have an effect on the tons of goods shipped globally every day.
  3. For astronomers calculating the movements of stars and galaxies or for pharmacologists trying to define doses of medications sown to the molecule, the new standard of measurement could change the way they work.
  4. The metric system was intended to be rational, universal set of units “for all people, for all time”.
  5. The SI unit will finally be truly universal system, free of any human artifacts.

Supplement this newscard with:

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure it

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure it

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Kilogram and Weighing system, Planck’s constant

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

How much is a kilogram?

  1. Over the centuries, it has been defined and redefined, with a standard in place since 1889.
  2. Called Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum-iridium is locked up in a jar at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  3. For nearly 130 years, the mass of this cylinder has been the international standard for the kilogram.

Redefining what constitutes 1 Kg

  1. Representatives from 57 countries will vote in Versailles, France, to redefine SI, or the International System of Units.
  2. The kilogram’s definition will be based on a concept of physics called the Planck constant.
  3. Reports worldwide suggest that the new definition is set to be voted in.

Why redefine the fundamental units?

  1. Scientists want to create a measurement system that is based entirely on unchanging fundamental properties of nature.
  2. Le Grand K, the “international prototype kilogram”, is the last physical object used to define an SI unit.
  3. It is far from unchanging as it gets dusty and is affected by the atmosphere, and when cleaned, it is vulnerable to change.
  4. The Planck constant, on the other hand, is just that, a constant, if a complex one — it is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency.
  5. It is described in a unit that has the kilogram built into it.

The kilogram comes next

  1. The Planck constant, which it is based on, is usually measured in joule seconds, but this can also be expressed as kilogram square metres per second.
  2. We know what a second and a metre is from the other definitions.
  3. So by adding these measurements, along with an exact knowledge of Planck’s constant, we can get a new, very precise definition of the kilogram.

New Concepts coming to Picture

  1. Since 1967, the ‘second’ has been defined as the time it takes for a certain amount of energy to be released as radiation from atoms of Caesium-133.
  2. This became the basis of all measures of time, and is used in atomic clocks. Once the second was defined, the metre fell into place.
  3. This was based on another universal constant: the speed of light.
  4. Today, the metre is defined as the the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second (which is already defined).

Importance of Redefining

  1. The redefinition of certain aspects really helps science.
  2. Indeed, the new definition of the ‘second’ helped ease communication across the world via technologies like GPS and the Internet.
  3. This is evident from the failure of rubidium atomic clocks onboard IRNSS, the Indian version of GPS.

Back2Basics

Time Measurement standards

  1. The second was initially based on the length of a day of 24 hours; in 1956, the standard was set to a fraction of the solar year.
  2. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that the more complex definitions began to be adoptedThe Indian measurement of time, for instance, is widely recognised as the oldest in the world.
  3. It was only in 1875, with the creation of BIPM, that measurement began to be standardised internationally.
  4. A treaty called Metre Convention was signed among 60 countries, leading to international standards.
  5. The BIPM reports to the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), to which India became a signatory in 1957. The SI system was adopted in 1960.

Fundamental Units

  1. There are seven fundamental units.
  2. Every other unit of measurement can be derived from one or more of these seven units: the unit for speed, for instance, factors in the units for distance and time.
  3. While four of the fundamental units, including the kilogram, are on the way to being redefined, the other three are already based on unchanging properties of nature.
  4. These are the second (time), the metre (distance), and the candela (luminous intensity, a measure for light’s brightness).

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

World’s fastest man-made spinning object developed

A nanodumbbell levitated by an optical tweezer in vacuum can vibrate or spin, depending on the polarization of the incoming laser.

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the finding

Mains level: Quantum mechanics and its applications


Fastest rotor

  1. Scientists have developed the fastest man-made rotor in the world, which they believe will help them study quantum mechanics
  2. At more than 60 billion revolutions per minute, this machine is more than 100,000 times faster than a high-speed dental drill

Working of the rotor

  1. The team synthesised a tiny dumbbell from silica and levitated it in a high vacuum using a laser
  2. The laser can work in a straight line or in a circle – when it is linear, the dumbbell vibrates, and when it is circular, the dumbbell spins
  3. A spinning dumbbell functions as a rotor, and a vibrating dumbbell functions like an instrument for measuring tiny forces and torques, known as a torsion balance

Applications of the rotor

  1. These devices were used to discover things like the gravitational constant and density of Earth
  2. As they become more advanced, they will be able to study things like quantum mechanics and the properties of the vacuum
  3. By observing this tiny dumbbell spin faster than anything before it, scientists may also be able to learn things about vacuum friction and gravity
  4. There are a lot of virtual particles which may stay for a short time and then disappear and these can be studied better by sensitive torsion balance

Quantum Mechanics

  1. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Pigment in Goa mushroom may help fight cancer

Termitomyces mushrooms

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pigment discovered and its uses

Mains level: Science research being carried out in India


World’s first sulphur-rich edible melanin

  1. The mycological laboratory of the Department of Botany, Goa University has reported the discovery of a new pigment from local wild mushrooms
  2. The new sulphur-rich melanin biopigment is obtained from local Roen alamis (wild variety of Goan mushrooms that grows on termite hills) or Termitomyces species

About the research

  1. This discovery shows the chemical nature of the brown or black colour that is seen in these wild edible mushrooms
  2. The problem had eluded the scientific community from 40 countries for the past 100 years
  3. The scientist claim it to be the world’s first sulphur-rich edible melanin. Its structure is similar to black pigment found in human hair

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Growth in the machine

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Applications of AI

Mains level: This editorial talks about the “still emerging” AI technology which has so unique advantages for India compared to other countries. This raises attention for India to harness AI for boosting growth.


 Context

Getting the ‘Developed’ tag

  1. India has perhaps now only a limited window of a decade to get into the developed country tag or stay perpetually in the emerging group of economies.
  2. To get to the developed country status, this is one factor that has to change dramatically.
  3. This begs the question: How do we get India’s productivity to spike in 10 years?

India is trailing behind US and China in AI

  1. AI — the simulation of human intelligence and learning by machines — has been talked about by many as the productivity booster we have all been waiting for.
  2. While India is expected to be a player, it is far from being among the leading actors in AI.
  3. According to PwC, of the $15.7 trillion increase in global GDP in 2030 attributable to AI, $7 trillion will be in China, $3.7 trillion will be in the US and Canada.
  4. Accenture pegs the number for India to be below 1 trillion in 2035.Without question, the race for AI dominance is between the US and China.

AI-relevant advantages unique to India.

Three are particularly worth noting and give me reason for hope. It is hard to find another country ready with these many deep value-creating AI applications.

(A) Versatile platform:

  • With a billion-plus people populating the unique-ID system, Aadhaar, and the India Stack of digitally enabled offerings built on top of Aadhaar, the country has a platform for growth unlike any other in the world.
  • It can, in principle, catalyse innovative applications, nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem and generate a massive amount of data that can train algorithms and help develop more intelligence — the “I” in AI.
  • To be sure, there are plenty of challenges to overcome: Getting the right participants, stakeholders and talent base to come together, providing capital and ensuring privacy, security and usability of the data.

(B) Key actors:

  • The good news is that India has an early start here.
  • The global AI majors are active in India and view it as one of the world’s most promising digital growth markets. This puts India in a clear third place behind the US and China and ahead of Europe.
  • Europe’s more stringent data protection rules and regulations and slowing digital momentum will further constrain the interests of innovative companies.
  • With economies of scale working in India’s favour, this could create a virtuous cycle of private sector AI investment and innovation activity.

(C) Abundant applications:

  • The technology can address long-standing societal and human development problems of the kind that abound in India.
  • Think of tackling dengue and Chikungunya, two of the more formidable mosquito-borne public health crises. It is essential to get data on its incidence early and predict its path.
  • Project Premonition, for example, an AI project of Microsoft, uses mosquitoes themselves as data collection devices.
  • AI can be used for myriad other purposes stretching across farming, transport, infrastructure, education and crime prevention — all productivity-boosting and job-creating applications ready and waiting across India.

India moving Forward on AI

  1. The budget for Digital India was doubled; the IT ministry has formed four AI committees; the government’s think tank, the Niti Aayog, is tasked with coordination across AI initiatives.
  2. The Niti Aayog, for its part, has just announced an AI partnership with Google and has released a white paper, National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
  3. If done right, it can spike productivity, save lives and produce new livelihoods — jobs that the country’s youth desperately need.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Central task force on AI recommends setting up of N-AIM

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial Intelligence (AI), National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM)

Mains level: Using technology for mass benefit in various sectors


National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM)

  1. A central task force on Artificial Intelligence (AI) has suggested creating a National Artificial Intelligence Mission (N-AIM)
  2. It will serve as a nodal agency for coordinating AI related activities in the country

Defining AI

  1. Artificial Intelligence is the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programmes

About the mission

  1. The mission shall involve itself in core activities, coordination of AI-related projects of national importance and establish Centers of Excellence
  2. The core activities include funding establishment of a network among Academia, services industry, product industry, startups and Government ministries, besides helping studies to identify concrete projects in each domain of focus

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Can hashgraph succeed blockchain as the technology of choice for cryptocurrencies?

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Hashgraph, Blockchain, Byzantine agreement

Mains level: New technological developments and their effects


News

Alternative for blockchain technology

  1. Blockchain, the underlying technology of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, could be on its way out
  2. Hashgraph, a data structure based on Swirlds algorithm could replace blockchain

About Hashgraph

  1. Hashgraph was developed by Leemon Baird in 2016
  2. Hashgraph offers “consensus time-stamping” while retaining the functionality of blockchain
  3. Unlike blockchain, which is a data structure organized into a series of interconnected blocks, hashgraph comprises of a chain of events
  4. A block consists of a timestamp, the transactions pertaining to it, the hash of the block, and its predecessor

Hash functions

  1. In mathematics, a hash function is one that maps data of arbitrary size into a fixed size
  2. For instance, a hash function can take data comprising of say, n characters and return its hash value which may be say, 256 characters
  3. To retrieve the original data which comprises of n characters, processors will have to consult a data structure called the hash table pertaining to that function
  4. In hashgraphs, data is organized into events, with each instance containing the transactions associated with its timestamp, and the hash of both the parent events that created it

Pros and cons of hashgraph

  1. Fairness
  • In blockchain, the order of transactions is dependent on the order in which miners process information and add to the block
  • It is vulnerable to forking and delay depending on the whims of miners who can manipulate the order in which transactions are added to the block
  • However, since hashgraph is based on consensus, it is faster and the ordering of transactions is chronological depending on the timestamp

2. Speed

  • Hashgraphs are limited only by bandwidth
  • All member nodes are connected to the network and the distributed ledger is updated simultaneously

3. Byzantine

  • This term means that no single member can hold up the community from reaching a consensus
  • It also prohibits consensus from being disturbed
  • The biggest advantage that hashgraph has over blockchain is that it guarantees Byzantine agreement

4. Non-permissioned

  • Both blockchain and hashgraph are open source, but only blockchain is open system
  • A non-permissioned system is one where only trusted members can participate

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian company among finalists in ‘water from air’ competition

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: XPRIZE, water from air technology

Mains level: Innovations to solve big challenges being faced across world


Technology to create water from the air

  1. Indian startup Uravu that has developed a technology to create water from the air is among the five finalists in a global competition
  2. The Hyderabad-based company will compete with four other companies in the final round of the Water Abundance XPRIZE

About the competition

  1. Los Angeles-based XPRIZE, which designs incentive competitions to solve humanity’s big challenges, is running the water abundance prize with the support of the Tata Group and Australian Aid
  2. The two-year competition is to create a device that extracts a minimum of 2,000 liters of water per day from the air using 100% renewable energy
  3. This should be done at a cost of no more than two cents per liter

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

A new state of matter created

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rydberg polarons, Bose-Einstein Condensation

Mains level: Developments related to atomic science


“Rydberg polarons”

  1. An international team of physicists have successfully created a “giant atom” and filled it with ordinary atoms
  2. They have created a new state of matter termed “Rydberg polarons”
  3. These atoms are held together by a weak bond and are created at very cold temperatures

How was the new polaron created?

  1. It uses ideas from two different fields: Bose-Einstein Condensation and Rydberg atoms
  2. A BEC (Bose-Einstein Condensate) is a liquid-like state of matter that occurs at very low temperatures
  3. A BEC can be perturbed to create excitations which are akin to ripples on a lake
  4. Electrons in an atom move in orbits around the nucleus
  5. A ‘Rydberg atom’ is an atom in which an electron has been kicked out to a very large orbit

Experiment methodology

  1. In this work, the authors used laser light on a BEC of strontium atoms so that it impinges on one strontium atom at a time
  2. This excites an electron into a large orbit, forming a Rydberg atom
  3. This orbit is large enough to encircle many other strontium atoms inside it
  4. As the electron moves around many strontium atoms, it generates ripples of the BEC
  5. The Rydberg atom becomes inextricably mixed with these ripples and forms a new super-atom called a ‘Rydberg polaron’

What will be the use of these Rydberg polarons?

  1. Some theories of dark matter postulate that it is a cosmic Bose-Einstein Condensate, perhaps composed of an as-yet-unknown type of particle
  2. This experiment can suggest ways to detect it

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

National Virtual Library of India: C-DAC spearheads massive virtual library project

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: National Virtual Library of India, National Mission on Libraries, National Knowledge Commission, Treasure Trove

Mains level: India’s cultural heritage and its preservation


National Virtual Library of India (NVLI)

  1. The National Virtual Library of India (NVLI) will be an online platform covering fields, ranging from arts, music, dance, culture, theatre, science and technology to education, archaeology, literature, museums, cartography maps, e-papers, and manuscripts, among others
  2. This programme is a part of the National Mission on Libraries initiated by the National Knowledge Commission under the Ministry of Culture

Development of portal

  1. The project is being spearheaded by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC)
  2. Other partnering institutions for this project include IIT-Mumbai, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Raja Ram Mohan Roy Library Foundation, Kolkata, and Kalyani University, West Bengal

Largest in the world

  1. Once formally launched, this could be one of the world’s largest virtual libraries where information on such diverse subjects are available
  2. Currently, Australia operates a similar facility named Treasure Trove

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] How AI can help the Indian Armed Forces

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial Intelligence, Project Maven

Mains level: Deploying new technologies in military


Context

Controversies surrounding autonomous weapons

  1. The idea of military Artificial Intelligence (AI) immediately brings to mind the notion of autonomous weapon systems or “killer robots”
  2. These are machines that can independently target and kill humans
  3. The possible presence of such systems on battlefields has sparked a welcome international debate on the legality and morality of using these weapon systems

Usage of AI in military

  1. Like most technologies, AI has a number of non-lethal uses for militaries across the world
  2. It can be very useful for Indian military too

Potential uses of AI in Indian scenario

There are three areas where AI can be readily deployed without much controversy or effort

  1. Logistics and supply chain management
  • Substantial work has already been done in deploying AI for logistics and supply chain management in the civilian sector
  • An efficient logistics system lies at the heart of any well-functioning military
  • This is especially complicated for the Indian Armed Forces given the diverse environments and conditions they operate in

2. Cyber-operations

  • Cyber warfare has become faster, more sophisticated and more dangerous
  • It becomes necessary to develop both offensive and defensive cyber-war capabilities both to protect the military’s own assets and communication links and to attack similar assets of opposing militaries
  • Specifically trained AI systems could actually prove to be far more efficient and effective than humans for such tasks

3. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)

  • This has already been put into practice by various countries, including the US, and, possibly, China
  • Using AI for ISR tasks can take two different forms
  • The first is the use of AI in unmanned vehicles and systems, whether on air, land or on and underwater
  • Such “intelligent” unmanned systems could be used for patrolling in harsh terrains and weather conditions, providing harbor protection, and allowing the deploying force to scout the battlefield or conflict zone with no danger to human soldiers
  • The second use is for data analysis and interpretation
  • An AI system could, for instance, be trained to pick out predetermined suspicious behavior from the video footage of a surveillance drone, and thereby identify potential targets
  • This fact has led the US to develop and deploy an experimental system called Project Maven, which analyses video footage from drones to identify potential threats in the US’ fight against the Islamic State (IS)

Way forward

  1. The incorporation of these AI systems in the functioning of the Indian military could potentially lead to a long-term reduction in costs while improving its technological capabilities
  2. Integration of AI technologies needs to be done if the Indian military is to prepare itself for warfare in the 21st century

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

British bank RBS hires “digital human” Cora on probation

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Digital human, Cora, chatbots

Mains level: Use of digital tools in banking


Using digital human for customer service

  1. A life-like avatar called Cora is being put through her paces by Royal Bank of Scotland
  2. It is helping customers with basic queries and giving its digital banking drive a more human face

About Cora

  1. It can have a two-way verbal conversation with customers via computers, tablets or mobile phones and learn from mistakes
  2. The digital teller answers simple questions on getting a mortgage or what to do if a customer loses their card
  3. It could even be used to train members of staff

Experiment and way forward

  1. The RBS experiment is the latest by an industry trying to adapt to changing customer behavior, rapid technological change and the threat posed by new entrants
  2. Initiatives range from now-commonplace chatbots or installing tablets in branches to bolder forays into the future, such as robot door staff
  3. Cora could free up human colleagues to deal with more complex issues

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indigenous light transport aircraft ‘Saras’ design to be finalised by June-July: Minister

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the SARAS

Mains level: Importance of the project. The project can be seen as a part of Make in India in Defence Sector.


News

Finalization of the Design

  1. According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, the design of the country’s indigenous light transport aircraft Saras(in its production version) will be finalised in the next 3-4 months
  2. The production version will be certified initially for military use and subsequently for civilian usage

Induction into the Indian Air Force

  1. The Indian Air Force will induct the first 15 aircraft after production starts in a period of three years

Why important?

  1.  Saras will be priced around `40-45 crore as against `60-70 crore for imported planes
  2. The plane promises to be operable in high and hot airfields and even semi-prepared airfields

Production

  1. HAL has been identified as the production agency for the military version of Saras, while the production of civil version is likely to be handed over to private industry
  2. Companies like Mahindra, Reliance and Tata have been talking to the government about the civil production of the Saras, but the decision is likely to be taken once the design is finalised

Back2basics

Saras

  1. The NAL Saras is the first Indian multi-purpose civilian aircraft in the light transport aircraft category as designed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)
  2. In January 2016, it was reported that the project has been cancelled
  3. But in February 2017, the project has been revived

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Digital India: IT ministry sets up four committees to encourage AI research

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Artificial Intelligence, Digital India initiative, Digital Locker

Mains level: Rising use of AI in various fields and various aspects related to it


Emphasis on promotion of artificial intelligence (AI)

  1. The IT ministry plans to graduate to the second phase of Digital India programme‘s rollout with emphasis on promotion of artificial intelligence (AI) and electronic manufacturing
  2. The ministry has set up four committees to encourage research related to AI

About the committees

  1. These committees will research and work on development of citizen-centric use cases; data platform; skilling, re-skilling, research and development; and legal regulatory, ethical and cyber-security
  2. They will be headed by directors of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Nasscom and eminent researchers

Digital India campaign

  1. It was launched in July 2015 to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically through improved online infrastructure
  2. Digital Locker, e-education, e-health, e-sign and national scholarship portal also come under this initiative

Back2Basics

Artificial Intelligence

  1. Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans
  2. The term “artificial intelligence” is applied when a machine mimics “cognitive” functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as “learning” and “problem solving”
  3. The traditional problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception, explainability and the ability to move and manipulate objects
  4. General intelligence is among the field’s long-term goals
  5. High-profile examples of AI include autonomous vehicles (such as drones and self-driving cars), medical diagnosis, creating art (such as poetry), proving mathematical theorems, playing games (such as Chess or Go), search engines (such as Google search), online assistants (such as Siri), image recognition in photographs, spam filtering, prediction of judicial decisions and targeting online advertisements

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[oped snap] Big discoveries have small origins

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Importance of small-scale science research and some funding issues related to it.


News

Research and development expenditure in India

  1. The Economic Survey 2018 calls for doubling research and development expenditure from its current level of about Rs. 1 lakh crore, amounting to 0.8% of the GDP
  2. Even if instantly doubled through a miraculous diktat, it would still lag behind China, Israel, Japan and the U.S., each spending more than 2% of their GDP on research

Critical issue: small-scale science research

  1. The other critical part is ‘diminishing funds for exploratory small-scale science research’
  2. But it escapes attention due to the debate based on comparative GDP figures
    Consider the fine print in this year’s Budget
  3. Of the Rs. 27,910 crore allotted to science ministries, Rs. 900 crore(or 3.22%), is earmarked for basic science projects to be disbursed as competitive research grants
  4. While in the US, the National Institutes of Health, alone disbursed $25 billion as research grants in 2017, representing 36% of the country’s non-defence science budget
  5. The U.K.’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council distributes nearly 10% of the research budget as grants
  6. Clearly, India’s provision for competitive research grants needs upward revision

Why is small-scale science research important?

  1. (1) In 2012, the discovery of Higgs boson hit the world’s headlines
  2. The Higgs boson had its humble origins in seminal theoretical works of several scientists, including Peter Higgs, working independently
  3. (2) Even the $100 billion enterprise Google began as an innovative mathematical idea of Larry Page and Sergey Brin
  4. Which was funded by modest grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), at Stanford University
  5. (3) The global market for Raman spectrometers is about $1.2 billion
  6. In 1928, C.V. Raman spent about Rs. 200 on his laboratory-built spectrometer that heralded the era of Raman spectroscopy as an analytical tool and also brought to India its first science Nobel prize
  7. (4) Through the 1960s, Vikram Sarabhai was experimenting with simple sounding rockets that ultimately grew into the ISRO of today
  8. And many more such examples

What should be done?

  1. Enhanced competitive research grants for the IITs, the IISER, and universities will help address the needs of a larger pool of scientific talent outside national labs
  2. This will bring in returns by way of publications, patents and innovations that can meet immediate needs
  3. The Economic Survey offers a glimmer of hope

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

India launches high performance computer system Mihir

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: HPC Mihir

Mains level: India’s rising supercomputing capabilities and schemes related to it


Initiative to improve India’s weather forecasting

  1. The ministry of earth science (MoES) launched a high-performance computer (HPC) system named Mihir
  2. It will help in improving India’s weather forecasting

India’s ranking to rise

  1. The HPC will be India’s largest in terms of peak capacity and performance
  2. It will propel the country’s ranking from the 368th position to the top 30 in list of HPC facilities across the world
  3. India will now also be ranked 4th, after Japan, UK and US for dedicated HPC resources for weather/climate community

What will this HPC help in?

  1. Prediction of cyclones with more accuracy and lead time
  2. Improve ocean state forecasts including marine water quality forecasts
  3. Tsunami forecasts with greater lead time
  4. Air quality forecasts for various cities and climate projections

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Why were prime numbers in the news recently?

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Prime numbers, GIMPS, cryptography

Mains level: Mathematical findings in news and their applications


Largest known prime number

  1. Last week, a very big number — over 23 million digits long — became the “largest known prime number”
  2. The number was discovered using a software called GIMPS, which allows volunteers to search for Mersenne prime numbers

What are prime numbers and why are they important?

  1. A prime number is a number that can only be divided by itself and by 1
  2. For example 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and so on
  3. Prime numbers are the very atoms of arithmetic
  4. Mastering these building blocks offers the hope of discovering new ways through the vast complexities of the mathematical world

Why is the new number called a Mersenne prime number?

  1. A Mersenne prime is a prime number of the form 2n-1
  2. For example, 7 = 23-1 and is a prime, so it is a Mersenne prime
  3. On the other hand, 11 is a prime, but it is not of the form 2n-1. So it is not a Mersenne prime
  4. Not all numbers of the form 2n-1 are primes either. For example, 24-1 = 15 is not a prime

Applications of prime numbers

  1. One of the major applications of primality testing (testing whether a number is prime) is in cryptography
  2. Cryptography is the study of secret messaging and involves sharing information via secret codes
  3. This is based on the following principle: multiplying two numbers is easy, factoring a number is hard
  4. For cryptographic applications, we need a number N that is a product of two primes p and q (N = pq)
  5. It is very difficult to find p and q just by knowing the value of N which is public
  6. Our credit cards, cell phones, all depend on cryptography

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What are bosons and how did they get their name?

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Higgs boson, Fermions, Bosons, Planck’s law of radiation, quantum statistics, Bose-Einstein Statistics

Mains level: Contribution of India to modern science


Context

  1. This year marks  the 125th birthday of the famous physicist Satyendra Nath Bose
  2. Bose’s name was very much in the news when CERN discovered the Higgs boson a few years back
  3. Many reports pointed out and celebrated the fact that that the word “boson” in “Higgs boson” had been coined from Bose’s surname

Difference between matter and field quanta

  1. The relation between matter particles and field quanta is simple — Matter particles interact with each other by exchanging the appropriate field quanta
  2. Electron, proton, neutron, neutrino are matter particles
  3. The photon is a quantum, or tiny bundle, of the electromagnetic field
  4. Matter particles such as electrons, protons etc obey what is known as the Fermi-Dirac statistics and hence are known as ‘Fermions
  5. Field quanta, for instance, obey what is called Bose-Einstein Statistics and are collectively called ‘Bosons
  6. There is the Higgs boson which gives mass to particles like protons and neutrons. There are the W and Z bosons associated with the weak force and the neutrinos

Why call them bosons?

  1. It was Bose who actually figured out (in the specific case of photons) how a group of identical photons would behave
  2. He was interested in reproducing, mathematically, Planck’s law of radiation using only quantum mechanical ideas
  3. He employed a technique in this calculation that laid the foundation of quantum statistics
  4. He then sent his paper to Albert Einstein who recognized the value of his calculation
  5. Bose himself did not realize the enormous breakthrough he had made, Einstein did, and he took Bose’s work much further
  6. This paper turned out to a seminal one and the technique used by Bose goes under the name of Bose-Einstein Statistics and the particles such as photons that obey these statistics are called bosons

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

New form of matter ‘excitonium’ discovered

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Excitonium, bosons

Mains level: Discovery and its details can be asked in Mains


Scientists prove the existence of new form of matter

  1. Existence of Excitonium – which was first theorized almost 50 years ago, has been proved by scientists
  2. This has been done by studying non-doped crystals of a transition metal— dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2)

About Excitonium

  1. Excitonium exhibits macroscopic quantum phenomena, like a superconductor
  2. It is made up of excitons, particles that are formed in a very strange quantum mechanical pairing

How is exciton formed?

  1. When an electron, seated at the edge of the crowded-with-electrons valence band in a semiconductor, gets excited and jumps over the energy gap to the otherwise empty conduction band, it leaves behind a “hole” in the valence band
  2. That hole behaves as though it were a particle with positive charge, and it attracts the escaped electron
  3. When the escaped electron with its negative charge, pairs up with the hole, the two remarkably form a composite particle, a boson – an exciton

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

‘Petro’: Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro announces launch of oil-backed cryptocurrency

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Petro, bitcoin

Mains level: Rise of cryptocurrencies and its effects


News

Venezuela will create a cryptocurrency

  1. In order to circumvent US-led financial sanctions, Venezuelan President announced the launch of the “petro” backed by oil reserves
  2. This will also help shore up a collapsed economy
  3. It will be backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves

Advantages

  1. The petro would help Venezuela advance in issues of monetary sovereignty,
  2. To make financial transactions and
  3. Overcome the financial blockade

Why this move?

  1. The real currency, the bolivar, is in freefall, and the country is sorely lacking in basic needs like food and medicine
  2. Washington has levied sanctions against Venezuelan officials, PDVSA executives and the country’s debt issuance
  3. This pivot away from the U.S. dollar comes after the recent spectacular rise of bitcoin, which has been fueled by signs that the digital currency is slowly gaining traction in the mainstream investment world

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The AI battlefield

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: This is a first-of-its-kind meet of the UN, on issues related to AI.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about Artificial intelligence and concerns related to it

UN group of experts on machine autonomy

  1. A United Nations group of experts in Geneva kicks off the first formal inter-governmental discussion on what machine autonomy means for the laws of armed conflict
  2. And the future of international security
  3. There are 125 state parties in the convention

Norms acceptable in the warfare

  1. The norms around what is considered acceptable in warfare have also evolved in response to new technologies
  2. Since the 19th century, those norms have been codified in international humanitarian law, which is more or less universally accepted as regulating armed conflict among civilised nations
  3. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are throwing up a new challenge to these norms

Concerns related to the AI

  1. Reality might not have yet caught up with popular culture depictions of “killer robots” and “conscious synths” demanding their rightful place in society
  2. Indeed, such depictions can be a distraction from the complex challenges that do exist
  3. But many technology leaders are worried about autonomous systems taking life-and-death decisions without “meaningful human supervision or control”
  4. The American tech billionaire Elon Musk and over 100 others recently signed a letter warning that the weaponisation of AI-based technologies risks opening a Pandora’s box

Other concerns related to the AI

  1. These are not the only concerns about AI
  2. Technologists and ethicists are also grappling with other questions
  3. Such as legal liability when autonomous vehicles share the streets with pedestrians, predictive analytics subverting due process, and the algorithmic entrenchment of human biases

Important question infront of the UN expert group

  1. How, then, to deliver on the promise of AI while protecting the hard-won tenets of international humanitarian law and respecting the legitimate security and commercial interests of states and industry?
  2. This is the question we will be grappling with this week in Geneva

Importance of the UN solving such kind of issues

  1. In an era of diffusion of power and mistrust among the major powers, multilateral inter-governmental forums remain the only way to extend norms across the globe
  2. For bad or for worse, governments still decide matters of war and peace. And the UN still offers a neutral venue to bring different points of view together

The way forward

  1. The discussions in Geneva are an opportunity to test a new approach, one we might call ‘distributed technology governance’
  2. This means the multilateral system’s search for durable international norms needs to integrate national regulatory approaches and industry self-regulation.
  3. Each level in this chain of subsidiarity — international humanitarian law, national regulations, and industry self-regulation — needs to move in full cognition of the other two
  4. We need to find ways for them to enjoy their respective sovereignty, while working in unison to deliver what the international community expects

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] How technology can deliver freedom from male calf

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Q.) “There can be nothing worse for dairy farmers than their cows or buffaloes delivering male calves.” Examine the usefulness of Sex Semen Technology in this context.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic concepts behind sex semen technology

Mains level: This technology can be very useful for Indian farmers. It will make animal husbandry less stressful.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about a new technology capable of producing only female calf offspring

New Technology

  1. Technology is in the form of ‘sexed semen’ having 90%-plus sperms carrying the X-chromosome, and capable of producing only female offspring
  2. The aim is to deliver freedom from male calves
  3. How: by ensuring that cows are inseminated by semen containing only X-chromosome-bearing sperms

How it works?

  1. A bull’s/cow’s sperm has 30 chromosomes, including one which is either an X- or a Y-chromosome whose genes code for sex
  2. When a sperm and egg unite, and the sperm carries the X-chromosome, the resultant offspring is female (XX)
  3. And, when a Y-chromosome-bearing sperm fertilises an egg, the result is a male calf (XY)

Objective of this technology

  1. Sexed semen technology is about preselecting the sex of offspring by sorting or separating the X-sperms from Y-sperms
  2. The aim is to deliver freedom from male calves, by ensuring that cows are inseminated by semen containing only X-chromosome-bearing sperms

Accuracy

  1. Sperm-sorting technology is claimed to be 93% accurate
  2. Thus, if a cow is inseminated using such sexed semen, there is a 93% chance that the calf produced will be female
  3. But with ordinary semen used in artificial insemination (AI), probability is 50-50

Issues with Male Calves

  1. If a cow after insemination and 9-10 months of pregnancy produces a male calf, the loser is the farmer
  2. As, farmer will have to rear an animal that’s not going to yield him either milk or an income

Issues with Sexed Semen Technology

  1.  For AI using conventional semen frozen in 0.25-ml vials (‘straws’), is just over Rs 50 per insemination dose
  2. And the comparable cost of sexed semen to the farmer is anywhere between Rs 1,200 and Rs 2,600 per straw

Two reasons behind high prices of using Sexed Semen Technology

  1. The first is the virtual monopoly 
  2. Sexed semen is produced from raw ejaculate, largely using ST’s proprietary sperm-sorting technology
  3. Second, the sexed semen currently being used by farmers is entirely imported
  4. Moreover, Semen imports are subject to cumbersome procedures entailing approvals from both at the centre and state levels

The way forward

  1. But with all its drawbacks, this is a technology still evolving and destined for improvement
  2. Sexed semen’s usefulness is obvious, particularly in a country where even male calves cannot be sent freely to the slaughterhouse

Back2basics

Concept behind Sex Chromosomes 

  1. Sex chromosome, either of a pair of chromosomes that determine whether an individual is male or female
  2. The sex chromosomes of human beings and other mammals are designated by scientists as X and Y
  3. In humans the sex chromosomes comprise one pair of the total of 23 pairs of chromosomes
  4. The other 22 pairs of chromosomes are called autosomes.
  5. Individuals having two X chromosomes (XX) are female; individuals having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are male
  6. The X chromosome resembles a large autosomal chromosome with a long and a short arm
  7. The Y chromosome has one long arm and a very short second arm
  8. This path to maleness or femaleness originates at the moment of meiosis, when a cell divides to produce gametes, or sex cells having half the normal number of chromosomes
  9. During meiosis the male XY sex-chromosome pair separates and passes on an X or a Y to separate gametes; the result is that one-half of the gametes (sperm) that are formed contains the X chromosome and the other half contains the Y chromosome
  10. The female has two X chromosomes, and all female egg cells normally carry a single X
  11. The eggs fertilized by X-bearing sperm become females (XX), whereas those fertilized by Y-bearing sperm become males (XY)

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Beauty and the regulatory beast

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Q.) ‘The fight today is more about which of the threats rate higher for Mankind: Artificial Intelligence (AI) or gene editing?’ Critically examine.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR technique

Mains level: Article explains valid concerns related to Designer Babies. These kind of topics are important for Mains paper.


News

Context

  1. The article is related to the topic of Designer Babies and concerns related to it

What are designer Babies?

  1. A baby whose genetic make-up has been selected in order to eradicate a particular defect, or to ensure that a particular gene is present
  2. Technique Used: It can be done by editing our genes by bacterial DNA scissors called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)

More about the CRISPR technique

  1. CRISPR/Cas9 has been tested across an array of domains, such as human health (gene-based therapy) and agro biotech (pest-resistant crops)
  2. In fact, trials for gene-based therapies are already under way
  3. And scientists has successfully edited genetic mutations that code for disorders such as
    (1) hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a functional impairment of the heart) and
    (2) retinitis pigmentosa (a degenerative disorder of the eye)

How can this techniques be tested?

  1. Most drug regulatory regimes insist that drug makers submit clinical trial data to establish that their drugs are safe and effective
  2. Gene therapies and the defect-free babies that flow forth ought to be subject to a similar regulatory standard

Concerns

  1. Genetic changes and alterations take years to show their exact results and side effects can take even more time to reveal
  2. Even after best testing of standard drugs, the most voluminous of safety data still does not ensure that the drug is safe
  3. There are plenty of instances of adverse effects reported well after the drug has been cleared by the regulatory bodies
  4. If we are to wait for the perfect safety data, that wait may well be forever
  5. Important Question:  how long must these trials last?

What should be done to minimize the risks related to these techniques?
We could begin by establishing certain Baseline Principles
 

  1. First, We should go for a more rigorous regulatory standard (safety/efficacy data, etc.)
  2. Second, all data relating to safety and efficacy of these new technologies ought to be put out in the public domain

The way forward

  1. We need to encourage more transparency and openness in trial results
  2. And open up this trial data to the wider public, and to scientists and doctors
  3. By this, we can effectively counter the dangers related to designer babies

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

AI smartphone system can spot fake products

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the AI

Mains level: E-Commerce is becoming more and more famous these days. This system can help it grow more.


News

System to spot fake products

  1. Recently, a team of Indian-origin researchers in the U.S  has developed a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm
  2. It allows smartphones to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit versions of the same product
  3. Why is this system important: Some reports indicate that counterfeit trafficking represents 7% of the world’s trade today 

How it works?

  1. It provides a solution to easily distinguish
    (1) authentic versions of the product created by the original manufacturer and
    (2) fake versions of the product made by counterfeiters
  2. It does so by deploying a dataset of three million images across various objects and materials such as fabrics, leather, pills, electronics, toys and shoes

 

 

 

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

In a scientific first, disease gene ‘edited’ in human embryos

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR “gene editing”

Mains level: These kind of new scientific researchs on DNA are important for UPSC


News

Repairing of Gene

  1. Scientists in the United States have repaired a disease-causing mutation in the DNA of early-stage human embryos
  2. Why Important: This is an important step in Engineering babies free of inherited disorders
  3. The team successfully uses the CRISPR “gene editing” tool in viable embryos
  4. This research is hailed by experts around the world

Back2basics

  1. Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short, repetitive base sequences
  2. These play a key role in a bacterial defence system, and form the basis of a genome editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 that allows permanent modification of genes within organisms

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Detecting possibilities

Note4students:

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of LIGO Project

Mains level: LIGO is one of the most important scientific projects which are currently working. Therefore, it is an
important topic for Mains Paper 3.


Context:

The Article is about the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO)

Why in News?

  1. LIGO detectors have picked up signals of yet another merger of two black holes
  2. These black holes are 3 light years away

Why is this important?

  1. It will help in (1) gravitational wave astronomy, (2) detection of new heavenly bodies and (3) gaining a better understanding of that most elusive (difficult to understand) of theories — Einstein’s general theory of
    relativity, and the fundamental force of gravitation

India’s Contribution: Indians have made a significant contribution to this, with nearly 67 Indians from 13 institutions across the country taking part in the theory and experiment

Existing detectors are not sufficient:

  1. The two existing detectors are not sufficient to locate exactly where in the sky the signals are coming from
  2. However, if the LIGO-India project start working (by 2024, as planned), then these problems will be solved

Challenges associated with the LIGO-India:

  1. LIGO-India will start off as a complex organism, the many constituents of which will evolve simultaneously in
    different parts of the country
  2. Assembling the parts to form a mature scientific enterprise, a first for India, will be an enormous
    challenge

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Nanoparticles to treat eye infection

Note4students:

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights

The newscard has important information on how the nanoparticles are being used to treat eye infection.

Following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Make note of what is keratitis, and what are its causes. You may not
be asked a direct question but expect a well worded, confusing one Mains Level: Note

Mains Level: Note own the way nanoparticles can be used for the treatment. Could be a one liner in a mains question based on uses of nanoparticles


Context:

  1. Scientists at the Hyderabad-based CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) have
    developed a novel way to treat fungal keratitis

What is Keratitis?

  1. Keratitis is the inflammation of the eyeIt starts with redness and itching and might eventually lead to
    blindness

Cause of infection: 

  1. Keratitis can be caused by both bacteria and fungi
  2. Fungi attach themselves to the cornea and release enzymes that break down the corneal proteins for their nutritional requirements
  3. In the process the cornea also gets inflamed

What are the effects of this disease?

  1. Corneal damage causes wound and scar formation leading to severe visual impairment
  2. It is estimated that about 30% of keratitis cases in India lead to blindness

Difficult treatment and the way out:

  1. Treating keratitis infection is a challenge because it is difficult to maintain a therapeutic dose at the corneal
    surface for long periods as blinking and tear formation washes off the drug
  2. A two-member team led by Dr. Ch. Mohan Rao of CCMB is addressing this challenge
  3. It has developed protein-based nanoparticles that encapsulate the drug

Back2basics:

Nanoparticles:

  1. A nanoparticle (or nanopowder or nanocluster or nanocrystal) is a microscopic particle with at least one
    dimension less than 100 nm
  2. Nanoparticle research is currently an area of intense scientific research
  3. This is because of a wide variety of potential applications in biomedical, optical, and electronic fields
  4. Nanoparticles are of great scientific interest as they are a bridge between bulk materials and atomic or molecular structures
  5. Size-dependent properties are observed such as quantum confinement in semiconductor particles, surface
    pleonasm resonance in some metal particles and super para magnetism in magnetic materials

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The neutrino opportunity

Note4students:

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology | Science and Technology- Achievements of Indians in science and technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

The op-ed is about a major science development- Neutrino.

Following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Remember the basics of INO project for Prelims Mains Level:

Mains Level: Note down the importance, criticsm and public apprehensions of science projects. For a country of young minds, we should generate sufficient public support for high technology and science projects.


Context:

  1. India’s wait to join the elite club of countries undertaking neutrino research suffered a procedural delay
  2. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the India-based
    Neutrino Observatory (INO)
  3. It was ordered it to file a fresh application for clearance

INO project:

  1. The proposed INO project primarily aims to study atmospheric neutrinos in a 1,300-m deep cavern in the
    Bodi West Hills in Theni district, Tamil Nadu
  2. If completed, the INO would house the largest magnet in the world
  3. It will be four times more massive than the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN’s Compact
    Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector’s magnet

Neutrinos:

  1. Neutrinos are tiny particles. They are almost massless. They travel at near light speeds.
  2. They are born from violent astrophysical events such as exploding stars and gamma ray bursts
  3. Therefore, they are abundant in the universe and can move as easily through matter as we move through air
  4. They are notoriously difficult to track down. If you hold your hand towards the sunlight for one second, about a
    billion neutrinos from the sun will pass through it
  5. This is because they are the by-products of nuclear fusion in the sun

Aim of the INO project:

  1. It aims to use to understand some of the unsolved mysteries of the universe Setback of delayed project
  2. The suspension of INO’s environmental clearance is a setback
  3. The scientific community hopes these procedural lapses will be addressed in an earnest and time-bound manner

Criticism of INO Project:

  1. The explosives used in construction are a threat to the highly sensitive ecology of the Western Ghats
  2. The relevant radiation safety studies for carrying out the long baseline neutrino experiment in the second phase of INO have not been done
  3. There are further allegations that neutrinos are radioactive particles
  4. The INO will double up the storage of nuclear waste

The better side of the story:

  1. The proposed excavation is planned to be carried out by a controlled blast, limiting the impact of vibrations with the help of computer simulations
  2. Additionally, building the INO involves constructing an underground lab accessed by a 2 km-long horizontal access tunnel, resembling a road tunnel
  3. Such tunnels have been built extensively in India and the relevant studies show that the environmental impact
    (mainly dust and noise in the initial phase) have been managed

Back2basics:

Neutrino

  1. A neutrino is a fermion (an elementary particle with halfinteger spin) that interacts only via the weak subatomic force and gravity
  2. The mass of the neutrino is much smaller than that of the other known elementary particles
  3. The neutrino is so named because it is electrically neutral and because its rest mass is so small (-ino) that it was
    originally thought to be zero
  4. The weak force has a very short range, gravity is extremely weak on the subatomic scale, and neutrinos, as
    leptons, do not participate in the strong interaction
  5. Thus, neutrinos typically pass through normal matter unimpeded and undetected

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What is Antrix?

  1. Antrix Corporation Limited will be completing 25 years next year in marketing niche products and services from India’s satellites and launch vehicles
  2. It is a mini ratna under the Department of Space/ISRO
  3. The turnover of Antrix for 2015-16 was Rs.1,920 crore. About 70-75% of this comes from the satcom (satellite communications) business

Note4students:

Antrix keeps coming in the news from time to time. Students tend to ignore such things, but they are important from a prelims perspective.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Bullish investors back Team Indus moon shot

  1. Three major investors in the stock market have picked up a stake in Team Indus
  2. Team Indus is a start-up that plans to send India’s first privately-funded spacecraft to the moon next year
  3. The start-up is the only Indian aspirant and among the four from across the world that plan to send spacecraft to soft-land on the moon before December 2017
  4. It will deploy a rover on the moon and send back lunar pictures
  5. Last year, it won a $1 million milestone prize from Google Lunar X Prize for completing the viable concept of its moon lander
  6. The final prize amount stands at $ 30 million
  7. The company is poised to start building its 600-kg-plus moon lander. It plans to launch it on a hired PSLV rocket of ISRO

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

India begins to drill into the Antarctic ice

  1. What: An Indo-Norwegian project to understand the response of Antarctic ice shelves to the global warming has begun
  2. Where: In the less-studied areas of East Antarctica, especially the Dronning Maud Land (DML)
  3. DML is characterised by loosely-connected ice shelves along the 2000-km-long coast
  4. Who: The National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, is one of the co-leaders of the team for 2016-17 field campaign
  5. Maitri, India’s Antarctic research station, will serve as the logistic support base
  6. The scientific programme isjointly funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences, India and the Research Council, Norway

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] CSIR’s Initiatives for enabling the Indian Leather Industry

  1. What’s new? Waterless chrome tanning technology is a first of its kind technology to reduce chromium pollution load
  2. Chromium is the most sought after tanning agent
  3. CSIR – CLRI’s “Waterless tanning technology” is a game changer and it reduces the use of water in tanning.
  4. CSIR-CLRI is a recognised Centre for testing of restricted substances, finished leather certification
  5. Central Leather Research Institute: Technologies for bio-processing of leather, zero waste water discharge, value added materials from leather and indigenous chemicals for processing, are some of the highlighting features of this institute

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Scientists produce electricity from water without using energy

  1. Team: Scientists at Delhi’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have developed a novel way of producing electricity from water at room temperature
  2. Advantage of method: The new method does not use any power or chemicals
  3. Nanoporous magnesium ferrite was used to split water into hydronium (H3O) and hydroxide (OH) ions
  4. Additionally, silver and zinc were used as electrodes to make a cell that produces electricity

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Kolkata celebrates botany legend Janaki Ammal

  1. Event: Exhibition celebrating the contribution of E.K. Janaki Ammal
  2. Her achievements: She organised the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) 60 years ago
  3. One of the first women scientists to receive the Padma Shri way back in 1977. Her example is important since India is focusing on educating girls
  4. She is credited with putting sweetness in our sugarcane varieties, speaking against the hydro-electric project in Kerala’s Silent Valley
  5. She also did a phenomenal study of chromosomes of thousands of species of flowering plants titled The Chromosome Atlas of Cultivated Plants, co-authored with biologist C.D. Darlington

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The ethics of our AI-enabled future

  1. Theme: Ethical implications of future advancement in artificial intelligence.
  2. Concerns of data privacy: For consumer AI to offer the ease of use, it must offer as close a facsimile of having a conversation with another person as possible.
  3. That requires two components: sophisticated algorithms and vast amounts of data. And that includes every scrap of personal data possible raising the concerns of data privacy.
  4. Other ethical questions posed: The trade-off between protecting users’ data and governments’ demand for access to user data for legal purposes; as seen recently in case of Apple.
  5. Also, the use of artificial intelligence in future can pose a wide range of ethical questions. Imagine, for instance, a bank using AI to recommend or screen loan applicants, and the algorithm using causal relationships to discriminate on the basis of gender or caste or race.
  6. Or, the multiple implications of AI deployed in a military context or controlling driverless vehicles—or the issue du jour, employment.
  7. Steps taken by the industry to address these concerns: Amazon, Facebook, Google’s DeepMind division, IBM and Microsoft have recently founded a new organization called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society that aims to initiate a wide dialogue about the nature, purpose and consequences of AI.
  8. A similar organisation ‘OpenAI’ aimed at addressing such issues was founded last year.
  9. The way ahead: The rise of AI cannot be left to the industry; it demands the involvement of everyone from social scientists to ethicists and philosophers.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

China to build deepest, largest high-speed rail station at Great Wall

  1. What? China will build the world’s deepest and largest high-speed railway station at a popular section of the country’s Great Wall
  2. Why? This is a part of its preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics
  3. The station will be at Badaling, the most visited section of the Great Wall which lies about 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Beijing
  4. It will be located 102 metres (335 feet) below the surface, with an underground construction area of 36,000 square metres (387,501 sq feet)
  5. This is equal to five standard soccer fields, making it the deepest and largest high-speed railway station in the world

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

A new handheld device to detect melamine in milk

  1. The detector is developed by researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore
  2. This has made detecting melamine in milk extremely easy, quick and inexpensive
  3. Leaf extract of a commonly seen weed parthenium along with silver nitrate is used for detecting the presence of melamine in milk
  4. It can be detected at room temperature within a few seconds through a change in colour

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

IIT-M develops a lab-on-a-chip diagnostic device

  1. The device: A simple, self-powered, lab-on-a-chip
  2. Could enable diagnoses of several diseases, which is both affordable and accessible even in resource-constrained settings
  3. Has successfully passed preclinical trials
  4. Does not require any external or internal power as it relies on capillary force to draw blood
  5. Also the separation of plasma from blood cells is achieved through differential wetting behaviour of the microchannel walls

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

How FAST has and will affect lives?

  1. The telescope requires a radio silence within a five-km radius, resulting in the relocation of more than 8,000 people from their homes in eight villages to make way for the facility
  2. Reports in August said the villagers would be compensated with cash or new homes from a budget of about $269 million from a poverty relief fund and bank loans.
  3. China has also completed the construction of tourist facilities such as an observation deck on a nearby mountain
  4. Such facilities can be a draw for visitors — the one in Puerto Rico draws about 90,000 visitors and some 200 scientists each year

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

World’s largest radio telescope begins operations


  1. Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, the world’s largest radio telescope has begun functioning
  2. The project demonstrates China’s rising ambitions in space and its pursuit of international scientific prestige
  3. Beijing has poured billions into such ambitious scientific projects as well as its military-backed space programme, which saw the launch of China’s second space station earlier this month

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Stephen Hawking warns against contacting aliens

  1. News: British physicist Stephen Hawking has warned against announcing our presence to any alien civilisations, especially to those more technologically advanced than humans
  2. Our first contact from an advanced civilisation could be equivalent to when Native Americans first encountered Christopher Columbus and things didn’t turn out so well
  3. They will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

CSIR scientists must strive for time bound delivery of technology: Modi

  1. Context: The 75th anniversary of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  2. PM: The CSIR labs have immensely contributed to developing affordable technology- from tractors to diabetic drugs, for the country
  3. However, it needs to ensure that there was no duplication of research efforts
  4. There should be a platform such that scientists learn what’s happening in one lab and then orient themselves to new challenges

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Sugarcane waste yields carbon for use in batteries

  1. Who? Researchers from Pune’s National Chemical Laboratory (NCL) and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER)
  2. What? They have used a simple, cost-effective and quick process to convert sugarcane bagasse into anode-grade porous, conducting, activated carbon material for use in Li-ion batteries
  3. Benefits: The process time and the electrical energy input to get anode-grade carbon are cut down dramatically
  4. Making anode-grade carbon is currently very expensive and time-consuming

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Microsoft develops AI to help cancer doctors find the right treatments

  1. New data & researches: There are hundreds of new cancer drugs in development and new research published minute to minute
  2. These are helping doctors treat patients with personalized combinations that target the specific building blocks of their disease
  3. Problem: There’s too much to read and too many drug combinations for doctors to choose the best option every time
  4. Solution: A Microsoft Research machine-learning project, Hanover
  5. It aims to ingest all the papers and help predict which drugs and which combinations are most effective

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

IIT-M’s cheap solution to make brackish water potable

  1. Researchers at IIT-Madras have found a way to convert brackish water into drinking water at about 12 paisa per litre right on the kitchen table by using a potential difference of just 1.8 volts
  2. Sustainable: The water wastage is only 25% & it can work independent of the grid using solar energy
  3. Usual reverse osmosis is energy intensive and causes 65-70% of water to be rejected as waste

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Indian-American scientist bags innovation award worth $500,000

  1. What? An Indian-origin scientist has bagged the prestigious Lemelson–MIT Prize worth $500,000
  2. Who? Nasik-born Ramesh Raskar, 46, is founder of the Camera Culture research group at the MIT Media Lab and an Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences
  3. Why? For his groundbreaking inventions, commitment to youth mentorship, and dedication to improving our world with practical yet innovative solutions
  4. Has more than 75 patents to his name, and has written more than 120 reviewed publications
  5. The co-inventor of radical imaging solutions including Femto-photography- an ultra-fast imaging system that can see around corners
  6. Also, low-cost eye-care solutions for the developing world & a camera that allows users to read pages of a book without opening the cover

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

China has world’s longest bullet train network

  1. News: China’s high-speed railway has completed over 20,000 kms of track network in the country, becoming the world’s longest bullet train network
  2. Context: A high-speed railway linking Zhengzhou in China’s central Henan Province with Xuzhou in eastern Jiangsu Province opened recently
  3. The 360-km line connects high-speed railway in the west with two major north-south lines, helping cut travel time between the west and east

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Intel unveils Merged Reality with Project Alloy device

  1. Merged reality: A new way of experiencing virtual reality and real world together, using cutting-edge technology, which is more dynamic and natural, and allows people to do things that are now impossible
  2. Beyond virtual reality: Digitises the real world and allows people to experience the virtual world without coming into conflict with the real world
  3. Example: Playing two musical instruments at the same time- a virtual piano with one hand and a cello with the other
  4. Project Alloy: A device that creates merged reality
  5. It is a headset that uses the RealSense technology enabling people to use their hands to interact with elements of the virtual world

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

China launches ‘hack-proof’ communications satellite

  1. News: China launched the world’s first quantum satellite, which will help it establish hack-proof communications between space and the ground
  2. Priority: President Xi Jinping has urged China to establish itself as a space power, and apart from its civilian ambitions, it has tested anti-satellite missiles
  3. Satellite: The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the remote northwestern province of Gansu

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Cyborg stingray swims toward light, breaks new ground

  1. Harvard University researchers created a translucent, penny-sized stingray with a gold skeleton, silicone fins and the heart muscle cells of a rat
  2. It’s remote-controlled, able to move toward pulses of blue light
  3. The creation could spark new research into autonomous, part-living machines or machines powered by living cells

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

China’s lunar rover Jade Rabbit retires

  1. News: China’s Jade Rabbit lunar rover has whirred its last
  2. Achievement: It was designed for a lifespan of a mere three months but it surveyed the moon’s surface for 31 months and became a national icon
  3. Background: The rover was part of the Chang’e-3 lunar mission
  4. It began its adventure on December 2013, sending back photographs of the lunar surface and gaining huge popularity with Internet users along the way
  5. Not long after landing its legend grew after a mechanical control abnormality forced it offline, prompting anxiety from its many supporters
  6. The rover later turned dormant and stopped sending signals during the lunar night, which lasts for two weeks and sees temperatures plummet
  7. But it made a dramatic recovery later on

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

New Chinese system named world’s top supercomputer

  1. News: Sunway TaihuLight, a new Chinese computer system has claimed the top spot on “TOP 500”, a list of 500 of the world’s most powerful supercomputers
  2. The supercomputer can make 93 quadrillions calculations per second
  3. Developed by the National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology (NRCPC) and is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in China
  4. Displaced Tianhe-2, an Intel-based Chinese supercomputer that claimed the leader spot earlier
  5. Trend: For the first time, China leads the TOP 500 list with 167 systems and the US is second with 165 systems
  1. News: Sunway TaihuLight, a new Chinese computer system has claimed the top spot on “TOP 500”, a list of 500 of the world’s most powerful supercomputers
  2. The supercomputer can make 93 quadrillions calculations per second
  3. Developed by the National Research Centre of Parallel Computer Engineering and Technology (NRCPC) and is installed at the National Supercomputing Centre in China
  4. Displaced Tianhe-2, an Intel-based Chinese supercomputer that claimed the leader spot earlier
  5. Trend: For the first time, China leads the TOP 500 list with 167 systems and the US is second with 165 systems

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Monsoon forecasting to get a high-tech makeover

  1. Context: Indian Meteorological Department is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer
  2. Aim: To improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts in time for next year’s rains
  3. The new system is based on a U.S. model tweaked for India & requires immense computing power to generate three-dimensional models to help predict how the monsoon is likely to develop
  4. Benefits: Better forecasting could help India raise its farm output by nearly 15%
  5. How? By helping farmers tweak the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertiliser to crops and if rains fail plan state-wide measures
  6. Currently: A statistical model is used for forecasting which was introduced under colonial rule in 1920s
  1. Context: Indian Meteorological Department is spending $60 million on a new supercomputer
  2. Aim: To improve the accuracy of one of the world’s most vital weather forecasts in time for next year’s rains
  3. The new system is based on a U.S. model tweaked for India & requires immense computing power to generate three-dimensional models to help predict how the monsoon is likely to develop
  4. Benefits: Better forecasting could help India raise its farm output by nearly 15%
  5. How? By helping farmers tweak the best time to sow, irrigate or apply fertiliser to crops and if rains fail plan state-wide measures
  6. Currently: A statistical model is used for forecasting which was introduced under colonial rule in 1920s

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

3D hydrogel biochips to detect bowel cancer

  1. Context: Scientists have discovered new technology to detect cancer
  2. They have created a hydrogel-based biochip with 3D cells
  3. Biochip: Based on hydrogel, will help to help diagnose colorectal cancer
  4. Colorectal cancer: It is the third most common type of cancer
  1. Context: Scientists have discovered new technology to detect cancer
  2. They have created a hydrogel-based biochip with 3D cells
  3. Biochip: Based on hydrogel, will help to help diagnose colorectal cancer
  4. Colorectal cancer: It is the third most common type of cancer

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Breakthrough as new form of light discovered

  1. Context: Scientists have discovered a new form of light
  2. New form of light: The angular momentum of each photon (a particle of visible light) takes only half of this value
  3. Earlier: In all forms of light, the angular momentum would be a multiple of Planck’s constant
  4. Planck’s constant: The physical constant that sets the scale of quantum effects
  5. Experiment by: William Rowan Hamilton and physicist Humphrey Lloyd
  6. Effect: Creates impact on fundamental understanding of light, enable strange new possibilities of particles whose quantum numbers were fractions of those expected
  1. Context: Scientists have discovered a new form of light
  2. New form of light: The angular momentum of each photon (a particle of visible light) takes only half of this value
  3. Earlier: In all forms of light, the angular momentum would be a multiple of Planck’s constant
  4. Planck’s constant: The physical constant that sets the scale of quantum effects
  5. Experiment by: William Rowan Hamilton and physicist Humphrey Lloyd
  6. Effect: Creates impact on fundamental understanding of light, enable strange new possibilities of particles whose quantum numbers were fractions of those expected

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Chinese firm plans space expedition in a balloon

  1. Context: First space parachute suit developed by China
  2. Develop by JHY Space Technology Co Ltd (Space Vision)
  3. Aim: Send people into space using a high-tech balloon
  4. They will come back to earth by parachute
  5. The adventures will soar into stratosphere
  6. Features: A radar, space-ground communications system and an image transmission system
  1. Context: First space parachute suit developed by China
  2. Develop by JHY Space Technology Co Ltd (Space Vision)
  3. Aim: Send people into space using a high-tech balloon
  4. They will come back to earth by parachute
  5. The adventures will soar into stratosphere
  6. Features: A radar, space-ground communications system and an image transmission system

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Sticky coating to glue pedestrians to cars if hit

  1. Context: A new patent of Google for sticky coating
  2. When car having adhesive layer of sticky glue hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian will remain with car till it stops
  3. Application: To prevent pedestrians from injury when hit by car
  1. Context: A new patent of Google for sticky coating
  2. When car having adhesive layer of sticky glue hits a pedestrian, the pedestrian will remain with car till it stops
  3. Application: To prevent pedestrians from injury when hit by car

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Hologram for better fraud protection

  1. Context: Secure holograms for better fraud protection developed by a US researcher
  2. Nanotechnology is used
  3. Working: Holograms will be programmed by polarisation
  4. By using nanostructure that are sensitive to polarisation they produce images
  5. Images are produced depending upon polarisation of incident light
  6. Features: Compact, more efficient, very little light is lost to create the image
  1. Context: Secure holograms for better fraud protection developed by a US researcher
  2. Nanotechnology is used
  3. Working: Holograms will be programmed by polarisation
  4. By using nanostructure that are sensitive to polarisation they produce images
  5. Images are produced depending upon polarisation of incident light
  6. Features: Compact, more efficient, very little light is lost to create the image

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

World’s first holographic flexible phone is here

  1. Holoflex: World’s first holographic flexible Smartphone
  2. Equipped with a bend sensor that allows user to bend phone
  3. 3D printed flexible micro lens array to project the pixel box
  4. Pixel box gives view of 3d object from any point
  5. Features: A high-definition Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode touch-screen display
  6. Benefits: User can see 3d images and videos without using headgear or glasses, facilitate with editing of 3D models
  1. Holoflex: World’s first holographic flexible Smartphone
  2. Equipped with a bend sensor that allows user to bend phone
  3. 3D printed flexible micro lens array to project the pixel box
  4. Pixel box gives view of 3d object from any point
  5. Features: A high-definition Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode touch-screen display
  6. Benefits: User can see 3d images and videos without using headgear or glasses, facilitate with editing of 3D models