The Scitech Journal is a multi disciplinary monthly publication in print and digital format dedicated to science, technology and innovation and aims to promote communication and interaction among, scientists, engineers and public. The mission is to spread awareness about scientific and technological advancements and achievements by publishing the latest scientific discoveries and technological innovations.
Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr. Harsh Vardhan presided over as Chief Guest and inaugurated the 1st Grand Challenges India (GCI) meeting. The meeting was hosted by the Program Management Unit at BIRAC (PMU-BIRAC) from 21st to 24th March, 2017 and was jointly supported by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Wellcome Trust.
The Grand Challenges India (GCI) is a mission-directed research initiative, collaboratively launched in 2012 under the umbrella of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the DBT and BMGF. As India transitions from Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals, the GCI partnership has ushered a new wave of innovative solutions to help address issues that are inextricably linked to social impact. This aims to achieve the said goals by reconnecting Science to People and available scientific data & evidences to the societal problems for finding tangible solutions.
The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) celebrated its 5th Foundation Day on Monday in New Delhi. The 5th Foundation Day aptly themed ‘Impacting the Biotech Innovation Ecosystem’ was presided over by the Minister of State for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences, Mr. Y. S. Chowdary, and attended by a large number of dignitaries from the scientific and industry sectors both from within the country and overseas.
“Research and innovation has been one of the key areas that the Prime Minister and this government have focused on. BIRAC, which has completed five years, stands at the cusp of a great leap. Globally, BIRAC has been hailed as one of the most effective government measures to create an enabling environment for research and development to flourish in a country, “said Mr. Y. S. Chowdary, Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences while inaugurating the 5th Foundation day celebrations. He stressed that the government aimed to develop India into a Global Innovation Hub by 2020 and BIRAC has paved the way to deliver on that mandate. Mr Chowdary also emphasized that the Government’s initiatives like Make in India and Start- up India have given great boost to Biotechnology sector.
The Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Prakash Javadekar , released the India Rankings 2017 for the Educational Institutions and dedicated it to the nation in New Delhi today. Speaking on the occasion he said that this step is a sequel of our Government’s commitment towards bringing landmark changes in the quality of education provided to students across the country for which we are working relentlessly. Shri Javadekar said this ranking is meant to have beginning of a fair competition among the institutions for achieving excellence in their efforts. This has recorded success beyond any doubt and is bound to march ahead.
The Minister said so far no one has raised fingers on the ranking charted out by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), working under his Ministry. And this has proved its worth on the stipulated Parameters. He said until now NAAC and NBA used to assess Educational Institutions but now in our government this is the unique modification for bringing transparency and credibility. He said besides institutions now parents and students will also have worth information’s about the ranking and quality of a particular university, college or vocational institution. This has led to the global scaling up of our credentials.
Ph.D. Student in Bioengineering, Researcher at the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering, University of Washington
Rajesh P. N. Rao
Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and Director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering , University of Washington
A BCI can vary along multiple dimensions: whether it interfaces with the peripheral nervous system (a nerve) or the central nervous system (the brain), whether it is invasive or noninvasive and whether it helps restore lost function or enhances capabilities. James Wu; adapted from Sakurambo, CC BY-SA
Just as ancient Greeks fantasized about soaring flight, today’s imaginations dream of melding minds and machines as a remedy to the pesky problem of human mortality. Can the mind connect directly with artificial intelligence, robots and other minds through brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies to transcend our human limitations?
Over the last 50 years, researchers at university labs and companies around the world have made impressive progress toward achieving such a vision. Recently, successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk (Neuralink) and Bryan Johnson (Kernel) have announced new startups that seek to enhance human capabilities through brain-computer interfacing.
Global non-profit organization Mozilla has announced IIT Bombay’s project ‘Gram Marg Solution for Rural Broadband’ the winner of its ‘Equal Rating Innovation Challenge’. The Mumbai-based Project Gram Marg will receive USD125, 000 (INR 82 lakhs) in funding for its unique affordable broadband initiative.
The project won by an overwhelming margin. The competition called for initiatives to make affordable Internet available to all. The challenge received 100 submissions from 27 countries. The final shortlist of best five entries was prepared after deliberations by an esteemed panel of expert judges from around the world. Nearly 6,000 votes were polled in the online community voting in the final phase of the competition, with Gram Marg and Zenzeleni emerging as the leading vote-getters.
Gram Marg, which roughly translates as “roadmap” in Hindi, seeks to bring 640,000 villages in rural India online. Spearheaded by Indian Institute of Technology Bombay professor Prof. Abhay Karandikar, Dean (Faculty Affairs) and Institute Chair Professor of Electrical Engineering Dr. Sarbani Banerjee Belur, a Senior Project Research Scientist, the project reinforces the remarkable progress such communities could achieve once they have access to information pertaining to education, health and the political process.
Manufacturing industries rely on the efforts of factory employees who work daily to make, package, prepare and deliver the products we find on our shelves.
That’s a lot of physical effort, and the strain can lead to various injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis in the wrists, arms and shoulders. Risk of injury is hard on workers, and can create costs to employers for workers’ compensation, lost time and reduced productivity.
“We want to solve these problems before people get hurt,” says Rob Radwin, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of industrial systems engineering.
Radwin has been studying this problem for more than two decades, and he may be able to harness relatively simple technological tools such as smartphones to create a solution that is easy, efficient and economically viable.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) hopes to give hand-wrist prostheses the ability to move more naturally by enabling a hand and wrist to work simultaneously—known as two degrees of freedom—using electrical impulses generated by remnant muscles in the forearm. With traditional prostheses, only one element—either the hand or the wrist—can be in motion at any one time.
In part, the research is aimed at providing better prosthesis options for returning soldiers with amputations of the hand and wrist who have found it either difficult or impossible to perform a wide range of daily tasks with current one-degree-of-freedom hand-wrist prostheses.
The research is being done by co-principal investigators Edward Clancy and Xinming Huang, both professors of electrical and computer engineering at WPI. Their work is funded by a two-year subaward of $712,812 from Liberating Technologies Inc. (LTI) of Holliston, Mass., a leading supplier of upper-limb prosthetic devices for adults and children. The National Institutes of Health has given LTI a $1.4 million grant to help solve these problems.
Harvard Ph.D. candidates Nabiha Saklayen and Marinna Madrid have launched a startup to develop a simple, push-button device clinicians could use for gene therapy treatments. Their enterprise, Cellino, hopes to commercialize technology being developed in the lab of Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The early-stage laboratory spinoff, which the pair launched in November, claimed first prize in the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE) Startup Challenge, a pitch-off contest between more than 40 startups from around the world. In addition to winning $10,000 cash and $5,000 in optics products, Saklayen and Madrid were lauded for the impressive business potential of their startup.
Their technique uses laser-activated nanostructures to deliver gene therapies directly into cells. When a laser is shined onto the nanostructures, the intense hot spots can open transient pores in nearby cells.These pores are open long enough for any cargo that is around in the surrounding liquid to diffuse into the cell, and then the pores seal. It is sort of like a magical opening where molecules can be delivered into the cell without damaging it, in a very targeted, quick way.
Washington State University researchers have developed a unique, 3-D manufacturing method that for the first time rapidly creates and precisely controls a material’s architecture from the nanoscale to centimeters – with results that closely mimic the intricate architecture of natural materials like wood and bone.
They report on their work in the journal Science Advances and have filed for a patent.The work has many high-tech engineering applications.
“This is a groundbreaking advance in the 3-D architecturing of materials at nano- to macroscales with applications in batteries, lightweight ultrastrong materials, catalytic converters, supercapacitors and biological scaffolds,” said Rahul Panat, associate professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who led the research. “This technique can fill a lot of critical gaps for the realization of these technologies.”
The WSU research team used a 3-D printing method to create foglike microdroplets that contain nanoparticles of silver and to deposit them at specific locations. As the liquid in the fog evaporated, the nanoparticles remained, creating delicate structures. The tiny structures, which look similar to Tinkertoy constructions, are porous, have an extremely large surface area and are very strong
USB flash drives are already common accessories in offices and college campuses. But thanks to the rise in printable electronics, digital storage devices like these may soon be everywhere – including on our groceries, pill bottles and even clothing.
Duke University researchers have brought us closer to a future of low-cost, flexible electronics by creating a new “spray-on” digital memory device using only an aerosol jet printer and nanoparticle inks.
The device, which is analogous to a 4-bit flash drive, is the first fully-printed digital memory that would be suitable for practical use in simple electronics such as environmental sensors or RFID tags. And because it is jet-printed at relatively low temperatures, it could be used to build programmable electronic devices on bendable materials like paper, plastic or fabric.
“We have all of the parameters that would allow this to be used for a practical application, and we’ve even done our own little demonstration using LEDs,” said Duke graduate student Matthew Catenacci, who describes the device in a paper published online March 27 in the Journal of Electronic Materials.
A team of engineering researchers has made a fundamental advance in controlling so-called soft robots, using magnetic fields to remotely manipulate microparticle chains embedded in soft robotic devices. The researchers have already created several devices that make use of the new technique.
“By putting these self-assembling chains into soft robots, we are able to have them perform more complex functions while still retaining relatively simple designs,” says Joe Tracy, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at North Carolina State University and corresponding author of a paper on the work. “Possible applications for these devices range from remotely triggered pumps for drug delivery to the development of remotely deployable structures.”
The new technique builds on previous work in the field of self-assembling, magnetically actuated composites by Tracy and Orlin Velev, the INVISTA Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State.
A new study in the April 3 issue of Nature Genetics describes an ancestry.com-type adventure that reveals the deep history of a family, including some disreputable relatives. But the family in this case is Asian rice (Oryza sativa), and the disreputable relatives are the weedy cousins of domesticated rice.
Weedy rice is neither wild rice nor crop rice but rather formerly domesticated rice that has shed some traits important to people. Adapted to human coddling, it does not grow outside of agricultural fields, but at the same time, it is not easily harvested and produces unpalatable seeds.
Depending on where you are in the world, the reduction in yield of crop rice can be as high as 90 percent because of these weeds, said Kenneth Olsen, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and the lead author on the paper. Even in the U.S., weedy rice is estimated to be present in 30 percent of rice fields and leads to crop losses of more than $50 million annually.
“Synthetic biomarkers” could be used to diagnose ovarian cancer months earlier than now possible.
Most ovarian cancer is diagnosed at such late stages that patients’ survival rates are poor. However, if the cancer is detected earlier, five-year survival rates can be greater than 90 percent.
Now, MIT engineers have developed a far more sensitive way to reveal ovarian tumors: In tests in mice, they were able to detect tumors composed of nodules smaller than 2 millimeters in diameter. In humans, that could translate to tumor detection about five months earlier than is possible with existing blood tests, the researchers say.
The new test makes use of a “synthetic biomarker” — a nanoparticle that interacts with tumor proteins to release fragments that can be detected in a patient’s urine sample. This kind of test can generate a much clearer signal than natural biomarkers found in very small quantities in the patient’s bloodstream.
Most website visits these days entail a database query — to look up airline flights, for example, or to find the fastest driving route between two addresses. But online database queries can reveal a surprising amount of information about the people making them. And some travel sites have been known to jack up the prices on flights whose routes are drawing an unusually high volume of queries.
At the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation next week, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Stanford University will present a new encryption system that disguises users’ database queries so that they reveal no private information.
The system is called Splinter because it splits a query up and distributes it across copies of the same database on multiple servers. The servers return results that make sense only when recombined according to a procedure that the user alone knows. As long as at least one of the servers can be trusted, it’s impossible for anyone other than the user to determine what query the servers executed.