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 of September, October 2021 and April 2022 months.
Science and Tech Current Affairs 2021-22
Chemistry and related aspects
List of Contents
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The National Dope Testing Laboratory(NDTL) has indigenously developed six new and rare Reference Materials (RMs).
About Reference Materials(RM)
Reference Materials(RMs) are the purest form of chemical required for anti-doping analysis in all World Anti-Doping Agency(WADA)-accredited Laboratories across the world.
During testing of a sample, RMs provide identity confirmation for prohibited substances that do not have a threshold limit.
Significance of Reference Materials(RM)
These Reference Materials are not readily available across the world but are needed by every WADA-accredited laboratory for their anti-doping analysis. India itself has been importing RMs from Canada and Australia.
However, the introduction of these Reference Materials will improve anti-doping testing in India and would assist the entire anti-doping fraternity in strengthening their testing skills.
According to a report, an imbalance in nitrogen availability has been reported across the globe with some places having an excess and others a shortage of the element.
Nitrogen is essential to life on Earth. It is a component of all proteins, and it can be found in all living systems.
According to a study, there is an imbalance in nitrogen availability across the globe with some places having an excess and others a shortage of the element.
The decline in Nitrogen Availability
Nitrogen availability has been shrinking in grasslands in central North America for a hundred years.
These declines are likely caused by multiple factors such as higher atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and warming and disturbances including wildfire.
Note: Higher atmospheric carbon dioxide fertilises plants, allowing its faster growth but in the process it dilutes the plant nitrogen, leading to a cascade of effects that lower the availability of nitrogen.
Impact: Without nitrogen, plants grow slowly and produce smaller flowers and fruits. Their leaves turn yellowish and are less nutritious to insects, birds and animals.
Further, low nitrogen availability could also limit plants’ ability to capture CO2 from the atmosphere.
Excess Human Production of Nitrogen
According to a 2017 study, human production of nitrogen is now five times higher than it was 60 years ago.
Impact: When excessive nitrogen accumulates in the streams, inland lakes and coastal bodies of water, it could sometimes result in eutrophication, leading to harmful algal blooms, dead zones and fish kills.
In humans, high levels of nitrogen in the groundwater are linked to intestinal cancers and miscarriages and can be fatal for infants.
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited(BHEL) has successfully demonstrated a facility to create methanol from high ash Indian coal.
Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that can replace both petrol & diesel in transportation & LPG, Wood, Kerosene in cooking fuel. It can also replace diesel in Railways and could be an ideal complement to Hybrid and Electric Mobility.
Methanol can also be used to generate di-methyl ether (DME), a liquid fuel that is very similar to diesel — existing diesel engines simply need to be minimally changed to use DME instead of diesel.
About the benefits of using Methanol
Methanol burns efficiently in all internal combustion engines, produces no particulate matter, no soot, almost nil SOX and NOX emissions (NEAR ZERO POLLUTION).
To adopt Methanol as a transport fuel requires minimal infrastructure modifications and capital both in vehicles and in terminal and distribution infrastructure.
Methanol 15% blend (M15) in petrol will reduce pollution by 33% & diesel replacement by methanol will reduce by more than 80%.
Production of Methanol
Methanol can be produced from a variety of feedstocks like Natural Gas, Coal (Indian High Ash Coal), Biomass, Municipal Solid waste and most importantly from CO2.
The majority of worldwide methanol production is derived from natural gas, which is a relatively easy process.
Challenges associated with methanol production in India
India doesn’t have much of natural gas reserves. Hence, producing methanol from imported natural gas leads to an outflow of foreign exchange and is sometimes uneconomical due to excessive prices of natural gas.
The next best option is to utilise India’s abundant coal. However, due to the high ash percentage of Indian coal, most internationally accessible technology will not be adequate for our demands.
India’s Initiatives to increase Methanol Production
NITI Aayog’s ‘Methanol Economy’ programme is aimed at reducing India’s oil import bill, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and converting coal reserves and municipal solid waste into methanol.
The Bureau of Indian Standards has notified 20% of DME blending with LPG, and a notification for other blends has been issued.
Railways is working towards blending methanol in the range of 5-2% through direct fuel injection in locomotives.
In 2018, Assam Petrochemicals launched Asia’s first canister-based methanol cooking fuel programme.
Five methanol plants based on high ash coal, five DME plants, and one natural gas-based methanol production plant with a capacity of 20 MMT/annum in a joint venture with Israel, have been planned.
Electronic polymer-based sensor for rapidly detecting explosives
For the first time, Indian scientists have developed a thermally stable and cost-effective electronic polymer-based sensor for rapidly detecting nitro-aromatic chemicals (NACs) used in high-energy explosives.
About the findings
Poly-nitroaromatic compounds in explosives generally require sophisticated instrumental techniques to detect them. But in the field, like military sites, extremist locations, they require simple, cheap, and selective field techniques which will be non-destructive in nature to make quick decisions.
But such Non-destructive sensing of nitroaromatic chemicals (NACs) is difficult. To overcome such disadvantages, a team of scientists has developed a layer by layer (LBL) polymer detector consisting of two organic polymers. The sensor device comprises three layers of polymers.
Significance of the invention
The detection of explosives without destroying them is essential for protection, and criminal investigations. The tri-layer polymer matrix was found to be a very efficient molecular sensor for nitroaromatic chemicals. An electronic sensing device built around a polymer gas sensor can quickly detect the explosive on-site.
The device can be operated at room temperature, and has a low response time and negligible interference from other chemicals. So, it will help in the faster detection of NACs used in high-energy explosives.