This post is a part of our current affairs series for the UPSC IAS Prelims 2022. In this post, we have covered the Science and tech current affairs of Chemistry and the related aspects section. This post covers current affairs from Dec. 2021 to 15th March 2022. In the 2nd part, we will cover the rest of the current affairs of July 2021 to 31st April 2022.
Science and Tech Current Affairs 2021-22
List of Contents
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Perovskite Solar Cells (PSC)
News: Indian Scientists have devised a new process for increasing the efficiency and stability of Titanium dioxide (TiO2) nanorods based on Perovskite Solar Cells (PSC). This will help to develop solar cells with a high power conversion efficiency.
About Perovskite Solar Cell (PSC): Perovskite Solar Cell (PSC) is made by a perovskite-structured compound. Perovskites materials offer excellent light absorption, charge-carrier mobilities, which act as the light-harvesting active layer.
PSCs have become commercially attractive because of the potential of achieving even higher efficiencies and very low production costs. However, the challenge lies in its short- and long-term stability. Similarly, perovskite materials are unstable towards humidity and oxygen, which restricts their commercialization.
Present solar cell tech: Currently, silicon-based inorganic solar cells are a major player in the market. However, this technology requires high-temperature processing that results in the high price of solar panels. Further, the recycling of solar panels is perilous and complicated.
News: The Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology recently visited the Gallium Nitride Ecosystem Enabling Centre and Incubator (GEECI) facility at the prestigious Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru.
About Gallium Nitride Ecosystem Enabling Centre and Incubator (GEECI)
Established by: The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and IISc Bengaluru, jointly.
Aim: To establish Gallium Nitride (GaN) based Development Line Foundry facility, especially for Radio Frequency and power applications, including strategic applications.
About Gallium Nitride (GaN): Gallium Nitride (GaN) is a very hard, mechanically stable wide bandgap semiconductor material.
Properties of Gallium Nitride: High heat capacity, Sensitivity to ionizing radiation is low, faster-switching speed, higher thermal conductivity, and lower on-resistance.
Applications of Gallium Nitride
- LEDs and lasers: GaN-based violet laser diodes are used to read Blu-ray Discs.
- Transistors and Power ICs: GaN transistors are suitable for high frequency, high voltage, high temperature and high-efficiency applications.
- Space and Strategic Applications: Its sensitivity to ionizing radiation is low, making it a suitable material for solar cell arrays for satellites. Military and space applications could also benefit, as devices have shown stability in radiation environments.
- Nanoscale: GaN nanotubes and nanowires are proposed for applications in nanoscale electronics, optoelectronics, and biochemical-sensing applications.
- 5G Devices: Due to high power density and voltage breakdown limits, GaN is emerging as a promising candidate for 5G cellular base station applications. It will also play a key role in enabling e-vehicles and wireless communication.
News: Physicist Professor Deepak Dhar has become the first Indian to be awarded the Boltzmann Medal. He shares the medal with John J Hoefield of Princeton University.
About Boltzmann Medal
Initiated in: 1975.
Awarded by: The Commission on Statistical Physics (C3) of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).
Award conditions: The award is given to physicists that obtain new results concerning statistical mechanics.
The award is given only once to a person and on the condition that person has not won the Nobel prize so far.
Note: Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist and philosopher. His greatest achievements were the development of statistical mechanics and the statistical explanation of the second law of thermodynamics.
About Professor Deepak’s achievement: He has been given the award for his seminal contributions to several areas of statistical physics. Some highlights are exact solutions of self-organized criticality models, inter-facial growth, and universal long-time relaxation in disordered magnetic systems among others.
News: The Kerala government has announced the country’s first Graphene Innovation Centre.
About Graphene: Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It is the thinnest, most electrically and thermally conductive material in the world. It is also flexible, transparent, and incredibly strong.
Application of Graphene
Biomedical: Targeted drug delivery; improved brain penetration; DIY health-testing kits and ‘smart’ implants.
Composites and Coatings: One of the simplest and most effective ways of harnessing the potential of graphene is to combine it with existing products – so-called composite materials.
Electronics: Graphene has the potential to create the next generation of electronics, currently limited to sci-fi. Faster transistors; semiconductors; bendable phones and other electronics.
Battery: Graphene could dramatically increase the lifespan of a traditional lithium-ion battery, meaning devices can be charged quicker – and hold more power for longer.
Graphene Membranes: Graphene oxide membranes are capable of forming a perfect barrier when dealing with liquids and gases. They can effectively separate organic solvent from water and remove water from a gas mixture to an exceptional level.
Sensors: Ultra-sensitive sensors made from graphene could detect minute dangerous particles, helping to protect potentially dangerous environments.
Laser-Based Technology for Autonomous Repair of Turbine Blades & Aerospace Elements
News: An Indian Scientist has developed a completely autonomous technology for the repair and restoration of high-value components such as moulds, turbine blades, and other aerospace components that require minimal human intervention.
About existing repair techniques: The existing repair techniques like welding and thermal spraying are ad hoc and do not provide accuracy and precision. Moreover, all the existing technologies are manual, and the quality of repair depends upon the skill set of the person.
New repair technique for high-value components: The new technique uses a laser for excellent process control and is completely autonomous with minimal to zero human intervention.
The developed system consists of a robotic restoration system and is designed to function autonomously for all key activities, namely, scanning path planning, damage detection, deposition, finishing, and inspection. This ensures restoration with enhanced quality and repeatability.
The level of accuracy and precision, which is possible through this technology, is far ahead of the current state-of-the-art methods.
The technology developed with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies Program of the Department of Science & Technology.
Negative Ion Technology
News: The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), Netherlands has issued a statement identifying various negative ion wearable products containing more Radioactivity than legally permitted.
About Negative Ions: An ion is an atom, or a molecule, which has gained or lost one or more electrons. Negative ions are made when sunlight, radiation, air, or water break down oxygen.
It is believed that negative ions create positive vibes and uplift the mood. These ions also have an impact on pollutants by making them negatively charged and getting them collected on surfaces.
About Negative Ion Technology: Negative ion technology embeds negative ions in personal products. It is currently being advertised as a means to maintain health, balance energy, and improve well-being.
This technology is used in certain silicone wristbands, quantum or scalar-energy pendants, sleep masks, jewelry among others.
Negative ion technology can involve the use of minerals that contain a naturally occurring source of radiation such as thorium or uranium.
Concerns associated with the Negative Ion Technology: The radiation detected in some of these Negative Ion Technology products have been higher than the safe level and in some cases high enough to require licensing.
Exposure to ionizing radiation can cause adverse health effects, and wearing the products for extended periods could pose health risks that include tissue and DNA damage.
News: A report released by Sport Ecology Group at Loughborough University and Save Our Winters has stated the dangers of artificial snow to be produced at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.
About Artificial Snow: It is a type of snow that is injected with water to harden it and then treated with chemicals to keep the hardened snow in place. This form of artificial snow is recommended for winter competitions.
How is Artificial Snow produced: At this Winter Olympics, TechnoAlpin machines have been used. These machines produce this snow by pumping out ice particles together with a thin mist of water vapor. Both these particles are launched up to 60 meters in the air where they combine to become snow and then fall to the ground.
Harmful effects of Artificial Snow
Impact on Athletes: Athletes are at greater risk when competing on artificial snow, as it tends to create a faster and harder surface, which can cause more severe injuries, due to falls.
Impact on Environment: Chemically treated water can reduce biodiversity and damage plants, and a slow melt means plant growth beneath the snowpack is delayed.
High volumes of water and energy are required to create artificial snow.
Digital Embossing Technology
News: Visually challenged students from all over the country will have access soon to Braille Maps designed and developed using Digital Embossing Technology.
About Digital Embossing Technology: It is a process that eliminates the need for printing plates, moulds, chemicals, and solvents. It emits no pollutants or waste and reduces overall energy usage.
Introduced by: introduced, designed, and implemented for the first time in India by National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO).
Significance: The maps produced using this technology are not only useful for high-speed production of the maps. It can also produce Braille Maps that can be used by more people for years together.
About National Atlas & Thematic Mapping Organisation(NATMO)
NATMO was established in 1997. It is a subordinate department under the Department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology.
Functions: a) Compilation of the National Atlas of India in Hindi, English and other regional languages b) Preparation of thematic maps based on socio-economic, physical, cultural, environmental, demographic and other issues c) Preparation of maps/atlases for visually impaired d) Digital mapping and training using Remote sensing, GPS and GIS technology e) Training and f) Research & Development.
Significance: NATMO has become popularized with the publication of Braille Atlas for Visually Impaired (India), edition 2017 in English Braille Script. It was developed with an indigenous manual embossing method. For this, it was also conferred the National Award on “Science & Technology Intervention for Physically Challenged”.