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Science & Technology Current
Science & Technology Current Affairs August 2nd Week 2017
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Science & Technology Current Affairs August 2nd Week 2017

1. Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere.

Scientists have discovered the strongest evidence to date for a stratosphere on a planet outside our solar system, or exoplanet. A stratosphere is a layer of atmosphere in which temperature increases with higher altitudes.

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"This result is exciting because it shows that a common trait of most of the atmospheres in our solar system a warm stratosphere -- also can be found in exoplanet atmospheres," said Mark Marley, study co-author based at NASA`s Ames Research Center in California`s Silicon Valley. "We can now compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system."

Reporting in the journal Nature, scientists used data from NASA`s Hubble Space Telescope to study WASP-121b, a type of exoplanet called a "hot Jupiter." Its mass is 1.2 times that of Jupiter, and its radius is about 1.9 times Jupiter`s -- making it puffier. But while Jupiter revolves around our sun once every 12 years, WASP-121b has an orbital period of just 1.3 days. This exoplanet is so close to its star that if it got any closer, the star`s gravity would start ripping it apart. It also means that the top of the planet`s atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 Celsius), hot enough to boil some metals. The WASP-121 system is estimated to be about 900 light years from Earth - a long way, but close by galactic standards.

revious research found possible signs of a stratosphere on the exoplanet WASP-33b as well as some other hot Jupiters. The new study presents the best evidence yet because of the signature of hot water molecules that researchers observed for the first time.

"Theoretical models have suggested stratospheres may define a distinct class of ultra-hot planets, with important implications for their atmospheric physics and chemistry," said Tom Evans, lead author and research fellow at the University of Exeter, United Kingdom. "Our observations support this picture."

To study the stratosphere of WASP-121b, scientists analyzed how different molecules in the atmosphere react to particular wavelengths of light, using Hubble`s capabilities for spectroscopy. Water vapor in the planet`s atmosphere, for example, behaves in predictable ways in response to certain wavelengths of light, depending on the temperature of the water.

Starlight is able to penetrate deep into a planet`s atmosphere, where it raises the temperature of the gas there. This gas then radiates its heat into space as infrared light. However, if there is cooler water vapor at the top of the atmosphere, the water molecules will prevent certain wavelengths of this light from escaping to space. But if the water molecules at the top of the atmosphere have a higher temperature, they will glow at the same wavelengths.

2. IISc researchers develop low-cost, sensitive CO sensor.

IISc researchers develop low-cost, sensitive CO sensor

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) researchers from Bengaluru have developed a highly sensitive, low cost nanometre-scale carbon monoxide (CO) sensor , with potential applications in environmental pollution monitoring. 

The sensor was developed using novel fabrication technique that does not involve costly and time consuming lithography technology.CO is a colorless, odorless gas. It is harmful when inhaled in large amounts The greatest source of CO is internal combustions (IC) engines of cars, trucks and other vehicles or machinery that burn fossil fuels. Breathing high concentration of CO reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain.

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The nanometer-sized sensor was made using zinc-oxide (ZnO) nanostructure on a silicon wafer substrate. Tiny polystyrene beads were also used on the wafer. These beads were first added on the on the oxidised silicon wafer arrange themselves into what is called a hexagonal close-packed structure.

Reasonable level of vacuum is maintained between the wafer and beads. When a high voltage is applied, it etches away the surfaces of the beads until a gap of desired thickness is formed between adjacent beads. Then ZnO is deposited on the system. This occupies the spaces between the beads, forming a honeycomb like nano-mesh that can function as a nanosenor.

3. IIT Delhi researchers develops new nanotechnology-based drug delivery system.

IIT Delhi researchers develops new nanotechnology-based drug delivery system.

An all-women team of researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has developed a new drug delivery platform using nanoparticles.

The nanotechnology-based drug delivery system has ability to boost the efficacy of antibiotics at the cellular level and improve chances of recovery from cancer-related bacterial infections.

In traditional drug delivery system, if the bacterial infection in cancer remains untreated, it can infect the host even after the cancer cells are killed by chemotherapy. Similarly antibiotics used in most conventional therapeutics has several issues such as improper biodistribution, lack of target specificity, poor water solubility and loss of efficacy over time due to the emergence of drug resistance in pathogenic bacteria. Moreover, 50% of these antibodies prescribed to humans are either not needed or not effectively utilised as prescribed.

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In the nanotechnology-based drug delivery system, a peptide called sushi-peptide was conjugated [bound] to gold nanoparticles. It was found that this peptide bound to gold nanoparticles was able to kill E. coli and Salmonella typhi bacteria more efficiently at lower dosages at much lower concentration than free peptides. The nanoconjugate was able to kill 50% of bacteria at much lower concentration (400 nM) while the free peptide’s antibacterial activity was not significant at the same concentration.

4. ISRO to develop full-fledged Hyperspectral Imaging Earth observation satellite.

ISRO to develop full-fledged Hyperspectral Imaging Earth observation satellite

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is planning to launch a full-fledged niche Earth observation (EO) satellite — called the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite (HySIS). 

The HySIS satellite has critical chip called an “optical imaging detector array’” indigenously developed by ISRO. Its launch will allow ISRO to enter the domain of operational hyperspectral imaging from earth orbit.

Hyperspectral Imaging

Hyperspectral imaging or hyspex imaging (imaging spectroscopy) combines the power of digital imaging and spectroscopy. It collects and processes information from across the electromagnetic spectrum. Hyspex’ imaging enables distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on Earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space. 

The hyspex technology is still an evolving science. In recent times, it has become trend that is being experimented globally. It has ability to add a new dimension to plain-vanilla optical imagers.

Key Facts

HySIS satellite developed by ISRO can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above ground. It can be used for a range of applications from monitoring the environment, crops, looking for oil and minerals, military surveillance. The architecture of the optical imaging detector array chip on board of satellite has been designed by the payloads development centre, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad. It was manufactured at ISRO’s electronics arm, the Semi-Conductor Laboratory, Chandigarh. It can read upto 1000 x 66 pixels.

ISRO for first time had tried out hyspex imaging technology in an 83-kg IMS-1 experimental satellite in May 2008. The same year, it also had mounted hyperspectral camera on Chandrayaan-1 and used to map lunar mineral resources. Globally so far, very few space agencies have such a satellite.

5. National Cyber Coordination Centre made operational : Government

National Cyber Coordination Centre made operational : Government

The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has announced that the first phase of National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) has become operational. 

NCCC has been set up to scan the country’s web traffic to detect cyber security threats. It scans the cyberspace in the country for cyber security threats at metadata level to generate situational awareness.

NCCC is a multi-stakeholder cyber-security and e-surveillance agency implemented by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It derives its powers as per provisions of section 69B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Rules notified thereunder. 

It will be India’s first layer for cyber threat monitoring and all communication with government and private service providers will be monitored by it. Its mandate is to scan internet traffic and communication metadata coming into the country to detect real-time cyber threat and alert various organisations as well as internet service providers (ISPs) for timely action.

NCCC also will coordinate between intelligence agencies, specifically during network intrusions and cyber-attacks. It will have virtual contact with the control room of all ISPs to scan traffic within the country, flowing at the point of entry and exit, including international gateway. Apart from monitoring the Internet, the NCCC will also look into various threats posed by cyber-attacks. It will have top experts from the cyber security field and will run like similar organisation in other countries such as the US, the UK, France, Germany, etc.

 6. Google, NSDC Launch Android Skill Development Programme to Improve Mobile Developer Ecosystem .

Google, NSDC Launch Android Skill Development Programme to Improve Mobile Developer Ecosystem 
 The National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Google India on Tuesday launched Android Skill Development programme to impart mobile development training on the Android and Web platform and improve the quality of mobile app development ecosystem in India.

Under the initiative, NSDC would introduce a specific course to create applications for the mobile platform that can be used on smartphones and tablets running on the Android operating system.
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"This is a timely association considering promising development in the telecommunication and IT sectors and their importance for economic progression of the country. The collaboration aims to accelerate mobile skill training and create opportunities for youth in the country," Manish Kumar, MD and CEO of NSDC, said in a statement.

"By building a world class curriculum and making it easily accessible to millions of students and developers in India, we want to contribute to the Skill India initiative," said Peter Lubbers, Head of Google Developer Training.

The 100-hour duration course is designed to be delivered by NSDC`s partner agencies, outside the formal education system. NSDC and Google India will also work together to focus on up-skilling Android trainers under the programme.
 
7. In an apparent bid to take on Google-owned YouTube, Facebook has rolled out `Watch` - a redesigned video platform for creators and publishers.
In an apparent bid to take on Google-owned YouTube, Facebook has rolled out `Watch` - a redesigned video platform for creators and publishers
 
The social media giant last year launched `Video` tab in the US, which offered a predictable place to find videos on Facebook.

"Now we want to make it even easier to catch up with shows you love. We`re introducing `Watch`, a new platform for shows on Facebook. `Watch` will be available on mobile, on desktop and laptop and in our TV apps," Daniel Danker, Director of Product at Facebook wrote in a blog post.

Shows are made up of episodes -- live or recorded -- and follow a theme or storyline.
"To help you keep up with the shows you follow, Watch has a `Watchlist` so you never miss out on the latest episodes," she added.
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The shows available include "Nas Daily", "Gabby Bernstein" and "Kitchen Little".
"Nas Daily" publishes a daily show where he makes videos together with his fans from around the world.
Gabby Bernstein, a New York Times bestselling author, uses a combination of recorded and live episodes to connect with her fans and answer questions in real time.

Tastemade`s "Kitchen Little" is a funny show about kids who watch a how-to video of a recipe, then instruct professional chefs on how to make it.

Facebook has also signed a deal with Major League Baseball to broadcast one live game per week.
"To help inspire creators and seed the ecosystem, we`ve also funded some shows that are examples of community-oriented and episodic video series," Facebook said.

"We`ll be introducing `Watch` to a limited group of people in the US and plan to bring the experience to more people soon," it added.

8. US Scientists develop micropropulsion system based on liquid water.

US Scientists develop micropropulsion system based on liquid water 
Engineers from Purdue University in US have designed and tested a micropropulsion system called a Film-Evaporation MEMS Tunable Array (FEMTA) thruster that uses liquid water as the propellant for orbital maneuvering of tiny satellites called CubeSats.

CubeSats are basically miniature satellites which typically weigh around two kilograms. In the future, they have potential to carry out tasks like imaging and remote-sensing currently performed by heavier satellites which are expensive to build and launch. CubeSats at present cannot totally replace their larger counterparts as they are incapable of changing orbit or performing complex manoeuvres as they donot have a propulsion system. If CubeSats would be having system would allow such tiny satellites to correct their orbit or maintain their altitude, thereby prolonging their operating life in space before becoming space debris.

Film-Evaporation MEMS Tunable Array (FEMTA) 

 

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The FEMTA system uses an innovative design of small thrusters that deliver bursts of water vapor to manoeuvre the spacecraft into different orbits. It uses pure water as the propellant since it is safe, green, easy to use and free from the risk of contaminating sensitive instruments by the backflow from plumes as in the case of thrusters using chemical propellants.

It uses capillaries thinner than human hair through which the propellant water can flow. Small heaters located near the ends of the capillaries turn the water into vapor, which, on escaping provides the thrust. The minuscule capillaries act like valves that can be turned on and off by activating the heaters. It is compact and not power hungry. The technology is said to be similar to the inkjet printer, which uses heaters that fire dots of ink at the paper.
 
9. CSIR-IGIB and NCDC Researchers develop DNA sensor for quick pathogen detection.
CSIR-IGIB and NCDC Researchers develop DNA sensor for quick pathogen detection
Researchers form CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have developed an ultrasensitive DNA chip based sensor for quick pathogen detection.

The senor can detect S. pyogenes, a bacterium which causes a wide range of diseases in about 30 minutes. The conventional method takes 18-24 hours identification of the S. pyogenes.

 

Key Facts 


The DNA chip based sensor consists of a carbon electrode embedded with gold nanoparticles. By means of a bioinformatics study, researchers were able to design probes which are specific for S. pyogenes. The working electrode surface of the sensor is attached with several small-sized, single-stranded DNA probe specific to the pathogen.
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When patients’ DNA, isolated from throat swabs are placed on the surface of the sensor, they bind to the complementary single-stranded DNA on the device leading to electrochemical change. This is measured using a differential pulse voltammetry.

 

Significance: 


The sensor is highly sensitive and could detect even 60-65 bacteria in a 6 microlitre sample. It could identify the pathogen even at very low concentrations of DNA.The sensor was found to be stable for 12 months with only 10% loss in initial current peak on storage at 4 degree C. 

 

S. pyogenes infections


S. pyogenes cause diseases ranging from mild skin and throat infections to life-threatening toxic shock syndrome. If not treated during early stages of the infection, it can even lead to rheumatic heart disease (heart valves damage). It affects 700 million people every year.

 

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