CAO The Hindu NOTES – 27th May, 2018 (Daily News Paper Current Affairs Analysis)

📰THE HINDU NEWSPAPER DAILY  Hindu Current Affairs Analysis


Date:- 27th May 2018

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An air cleaner with potential (GS 3 Env)                 

  • A team of scientists led by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Gandhinagar, Gujarat, has developed a nano-composite material that can selectively convert environmental carbon monoxide into less toxic carbon dioxide.

Details: Carbon monoxide (CO) is a major air pollutant that poses a serious threat to health. The new composite material is made of graphene and an alloy of platinum and palladium in the form of nano-particles. In the project, graphene was used as a substrate and then “decorated” with alloy nano-particles made of platinum and palladium. The novel catalytic structure was then used for selective oxidation of CO into CO2. The use of a metal particle of certain orientation which absorbs or interacts with CO at lower energy helped the conversion.

Once integrated, it is the size and shape of the nano-particles that control the catalytic efficiency of the hybrid material. The efficiency of any catalyst depends on the availability of active sites and the surface area of nano-particles. Therefore, engineering the morphology of alloy nano-particles and their integration with graphene is critical to achieve catalytic performance.

While platinum and palladium, on their own, are active catalysts, alloying them with graphene does wonders. The hybrid has shown high adsorption and reaction due to synergism among the three.

The catalytic behavior of the nano-composite was studied using different morphologies for the oxidation of CO. The conversion rate varied along with the flow rate of CO as well as temperature, showing full conversion at temperatures ranging from 75° to 125°.

The new material could find potential use in chemical industries as well as environmental cleaning. While the concept used is novel and important as CO is a major environmental problem, it may take a while for this science to be converted into technology because the experimental set-up appears complex and may not be commercially viable.


Odisha to plant palms to arrest lightning (GS 3 S&T)

  • The Odisha State government has decided to revive the traditional practice of planting palm trees to deal with the issue of deaths caused by lightning every year.

Details: Approximately 500 lives are lost annually due to lightning in the State. Palm trees, being the tallest ones, act as a good conductor when lightning strikes.

Palm tree plantations will come up along the forest boundaries on National and State Highways and in common land in coastal villages. The State Forest and Environment Department has issued instructions to all regional conservators of forests and divisional forest officers in this regard.

Earlier, planting palm trees was a traditional practice in villages, but this has now been discontinued due to urbanization and development. The tree has a wide range of uses — its fruits are eaten, the stem is valuable as wood, and baskets and mats are woven with the leaves. It is also learnt to be helpful as a bulwark against lightning casualties.

Lightning usually hits the tallest object first. The palm tree being the tallest among other trees in its surroundings works as a lightning conductor, decreasing deaths by lightning.

Palm trees also protect coastal areas from storms and cyclones, while its roots protect embankments from soil erosion.

As many as 1,256 lightning deaths took place in the State in the last three years, most of them (about 85%) in the May-September period. Lightning deaths account for about 27% of the total number of ‘disaster deaths’. The OSDMA has taken up a massive awareness drive, educating people on how to react during a thunderstorm. The neighboring Bangladesh, which also sees many deaths every year due to lightning strikes, has announced a similar programme to plant one million palm trees.

In another step to prevent deaths by lightening the Odisha government had launched an app that will warn people about lightening strikes in their areas. The mobile application will be developed to alert smart-phone users if they are in a lightning zone. People using smart-phone will get information regarding possible lightning in their areas at least one hour ahead of the calamity.

The state has decided to collaborate with the U.S. based Earth Network to install lightning detection system in the State.

The people not using smart-phone can also get the information through SMS. The aim of the move is to reduce death toll due to lightning.


New Scheme for North East tea growers (GS 3 Eco)

  • To encourage farmers in the North East to start tea cultivation, the Centre has worked out a special assistance package that entails financial support for raising new tea plants and setting up mini tea-processing factories.

Details: The scheme would be available only for small tea growers clubbed under self help groups and as farmer’s producer’s organizations (FPOs). It would run as the Tea Development & Promotion Scheme under the Medium Term Framework rolled out by the Centre recently. The tenure is from December 2017 to March 2019. The package would be covered under the 136.5 crore scheme for plantation development.

Although there is reservation among sections of the organized tea industry on the issue of expanding tea growing areas, the government has linked its policy initiatives with creating a regular income stream for the NE States, saying that this would play a significant role in weaning farmers away from jhum cultivation, which is a type of shifting cultivation in the North east India.

Assam accounts for a bulk of India’s tea crop (676.3 million kg in 2017-18), followed by West Bengal (387.9 million kg) and South India (233.7 million kg) contributed by Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

For obtaining assistance under this scheme, at least 10 growers would have to come together. Financial assistance of 7 per plant would be given with 25% of the amount being released upfront for enabling the SHG to start work. The balance would be released in three equal tranches linked with work progress.  The small growers in the North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong district of Assam would also be covered under this scheme. The Centre would also provide half the cost (with a 33 lakh ceiling/factory) for setting up mini tea factories by SHGs. They would also get assistance for attending training workshops and study tours.

This scheme would encourage small growers in the new areas who were suffering due to funds crunch.


Capsules with living cells (GS 3 S&T)

  • Scientists have developed a swallowed capsule packed with tiny electronics and millions of genetically engineered living cells that might someday be used to spot health problems from inside the gut.

Details: The capsule was tested in pigs and correctly detected signs of bleeding. At more than an inch long, it will have to be made smaller for testing in people. But the results suggest the capsule could eventually be used in people to find signs of ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or even colon cancer.

It’s the latest advance in a growing field of sensors that can be swallowed or worn to monitor our health. Pills equipped with cameras, thermometers and acidity gauges already look for disease and track digestion. Last year, a psychiatric medication that alerts doctors when it’s taken won U.S. approval.  Stick-on skin monitors for recovering stroke patients are in the works.

This device is the first to use engineered cells as sensors in swallowed capsules.

The researchers tested the capsules using a harmless strain of E. coli bacteria. The cells were modified with DNA from other bacteria to make them detect blood and then light up. Electronics then take over, relaying signals to a Smartphone.

Shrinking the capsule to a normal pill size could be achieved by combining its three electronic chips. Data encryption will be needed to protect patient privacy. And it’s meant to be used once, so they’ll need to make it flushable.

All this and human testing, means a commercial product is years off. As labs discover DNA with new sensing powers, the capsule could be customized to diagnose multiple conditions.

The patients in future could swallow a capsule once a week or once a month to screen for early signs of cancer instead of getting a colonoscopy. The capsule could help doctors monitor tricky- to-reach parts of the small intestine for people with Crohn’s disease or to study the normal balance of microbes in the gut.


Mars rocks may show signs of earlier life (GS 3 S&T)

  • Iron-rich rocks — which formed in lake beds — are the best place to seek fossil evidence of life on Mars from billions of years ago.

Details: It is believed that Mars supported primitive life forms around four billion years ago and the new study could aid the search for traces of tiny creatures — known as microbes —  on the Red Planet.

There are many interesting rock and mineral outcrops on Mars where researchers would like to search for fossils, but since they can’t send rovers to all of them they have tried to priorities the most promising deposits based on the best available information.

The sedimentary rocks made of compacted mud or clay is the most likely to contain fossils. These rocks are rich in iron and mineral called silica, which helps preserve fossils.

They formed during the Noachian and Hesperian Periods of Martian history between three and four billion years ago. At that time, the planet’s surface was abundant in water, which could have supported life. The rocks are much better preserved than those of the same age on Earth.

This is because Mars is not subject to plate tectonics —the movement of huge rocky slabs that form the crust of some planets—which over time can destroy rocks and fossils inside them.


 

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