Bengaluru Feb 28, 2018, (Research Matters):
The 28th of February every year is celebrated across the country as ‘National Science Day’ to commemorate the discovery of ‘Raman effect’ by Sir C V Raman. About 90 years ago, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, had a ‘eureka moment’ when he discovered how light scattered when it travelled in a transparent medium. After two years, this discovery won India her first Nobel Prize in Physics, for a work that was carried out entirely in India.
Celebrating the spirit of science has always been the essence of National Science Day. This year, the theme is ‘Science and Technology for the future’. Here is a list of such innovations in the recent past that have the potential to impact our future in many ways. Though not an exhaustive list, this may help you appreciate Indian science and scientists behind these endeavours.
1. From waste to wealth: India’s first biomass to ethanol plant
Agriculture is our wealth, contributing to 20% of our GDP. What if we added more wealth with agricultural waste? Years of toil from scientists at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai, has now resulted in India’s first indigenous technology to produce ethanol from plant biomass on a commercial scale. With this technology, 10 tonnes biomass can be converted to 3000 litres of ethanol in one day! Soon, 3 crore litres of ethanol is expected to produced per year to meet national demands.
2. The best ever cancer gene inhibitor
Scientists all over the world are fighting cancer with all the grit and determination in their own ways. A few of these efforts in India are truly path breaking, and one at the Indian Institute of Science stands out. The researchers at IISc have designed and synthesised a new drug called ‘Disarib’ that can kill cancer cells overproducing a protein called BCL2, which suppresses programmed cell death. Disarib works against a range of cancers –leukaemia, lymphoma, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colon cancer, better than the current best BCL2 inhibitor in the world.
3. Saraswati - A supercluster discovered by our super scientists
The year 2017 was big for Indian astronomers for two things -- one, the Nobel Prize for the discovery of Gravitational Waves that had some contribution from our scientists, and two, was the discovery of a supercluster of galaxies. Named Saraswati, after the Indian goddess of music, art and knowledge, the supercluster is estimated to contain billions of stars, planets, gases, dark matter and other bodies. In addition, this would also help astronomers understand much about the composition of our universe and its mysterious past.
4. Electricity from landfills may power your homes
The mounting problem of landfills filling up our city suburbs and polluting our lakes and rivers may soon be a thing of past, going by a breakthrough research at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. The researchers have used landfill leachate -- a dark liquid that comes out of all the waste by leaching through it, to produce electricity using bacterial action, and power microbial fuel cells. They have been successful in generating a maximum voltage of 1.29V, which is more than twice the amount ever produced using such techniques.
5. Improved Samba Mahsuri -- Diabetic friendly, disease resistant rice
Rice is a cherished staple for most Indians, which is partly blamed for the surge in the number of diabetics in the country. But, there is some sweet news. Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, along with those at the Indian Institute of Rice Research, have now developed a derivative of the popular variety of rice Samba Mahsuri. This improved samba mahsuri has a glycemic index (GI) less than 50, is resistant to the deadly bacterial blight disease, matures 7-10 days earlier than Samba Mahsuri, has improved yield and is tolerant to water lodging. So, stick on to your love for rice!
6. Sniffing crop pests before they attack
Crop losses to pest attacks need no introduction. A variety of pests invade a range of crops, resulting in reduced yields and massive losses for farmers. Pesticides are no good either as they harm the environment. In a breakthrough research, scientists from the Indian Institute of Science have designed a micrometer-sized sensor that can detect the sex hormones of two crop pests - Helicoverpa armigera (Hubner) and Scirphophaga incertuals (Walker), much before the infestation starts, helping farmers take any preventive measures.
7. Oneer -- Safe drinking water for all
It is well known that India’s water is in crisis. Pollution has made our river waters unusable and availability of safe drinking water is a huge challenge. To address this, scientists at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research - Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) have devised a new water purifier that can provide safe drinking water at 1 paisa per litre. Named Oneer, the water purifier can purify water contaminated with microbes including E. coli, and is cost effective without the need for maintenance.
8. Tales of the stone tools in Attirampakkam
In a recent discovery that might retell the story of human migration from Africa to India, paleontologists at the Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, along with others, have unearthed 7000 stone tools that are between 3,85,000 to 1,72,000 years old, belonging to the middle palaeolithic period. This finding contradicts the previously accepted theory that ancient Homo sapiens migrated to India from Africa some 1,25,000 years ago and revises that date to more than 60,000 years earlier than thought before.
9. Nanorobots help us live healthy
Nanotechnology has immense potential to change our lives. A revolutionary idea in nanotechnology has been the development of ‘nanorobots’ -- nanometer sized robots that can be controlled. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science are working on making such nanorobots that could be controlled by light and magnetic fields. These nanomotors can be inserted into human body and can be used to deliver drugs at targeted sites to treat cancer. In addition, these nanomotors can also measure the physical parameters of blood and other body fluids.
10. Indian scientists develop world’s thinnest nano sheets
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, have designed the world’s thinnest nanosheets that can be used in next-generation batteries to ultraviolet absorbing films. These nanosheets are made of boron atoms arranged in the shape of a honeycomb, similar to graphene.