Research for a sustainable future

Last Updated 26 February 2018, 15:57 IST

Every year, February 28 is celebrated across the country as 'National Science Day' to commemorate the discovery of 'Raman effect' by Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman (C V Raman). Around 90 years ago, Sir C V Raman, had an 'eureka moment' when he discovered how light scattered when it travelled through 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 a Sustainable Future'. Here is a list of innovations in the recent past that have the potential to impact our future in many ways. This may help you appreciate Indian science and scientists behind these endeavours.

*X India's first biomass to ethanol plant

Agriculture is our wealth, contributing to 20% of our GDP. What if we add 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 of biomass can be converted to 3,000 litres of ethanol in one day!

*X 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 the one at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) 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.

*X Discovery of a supercluster

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  Goddess Saraswati, the supercluster is estimated to contain billions of stars, planets, gases, dark matter and other bodies. This discovery would also help astronomers understand much about the composition of our universe and its mysterious past.

*X 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 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.

*X Diabetic-friendly 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 variety 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 waterlogging. So, stick on to your love for rice!

* 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.  

* 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.  

*X Nanorobots help us live healthy

A revolutionary idea in nanotechnology has been the development of 'nanorobots' - nanometre-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 can be inserted into human body and be used to deliver drugs at targeted sites to treat cancer.

* World's thinnest nanosheets

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.

(Published 26 February 2018, 10:34 IST)

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