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1. Food Fortification

Background

  • Nearly 70% of people in India consume less than half of their recommended dietary allowance(RDA) of micronutrients. The deficiency of micronutrients is also known as “hidden hunger”.

  • Fortification is being promoted through both open market and government schemes like ICDS,MDMS,PDS,etc.

  • In National Nutrition Strategy (Kuposhan Mukt Bharat), food fortification has been given a major thrust.

  • FSSAI has operationalised standards for fortification of:

  • wheat- flour-rice (with iron, Vitamin B12 and folic acid)

  • milk & edible oil (with Vitamins A and D)

  • double-fortified salt (with iodine and iron).

  • It has also introduced the +F logo to identify fortified foods.

  • It has also launched the Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) to promote large-scale fortification of food across India.

Some International experiences

  • Salt iodization was introduced in the early 1920s in both Switzerland and the United States of America and has since expanded progressively all over the world.

  • In Venezuela, wheat and maize flours have been fortified with iron has shown significant reduction in iron deficiency.

  • In Morocco, fortification of double fortified salt showed improved results in reduction of anaemia.

What is food fortification?

  • Food fortification is the deliberate addition of one or more micronutrients to food so as to correct or prevent a deficiency and provide a health benefit .

  • The concentration of just one micronutrient might be increased (e.g. the iodization of salt) or there might be a whole range of food–micronutrient combinations.

  • Food fortification is a “complementary strategy” and not a replacement of a balanced & diversified diet to address malnutrition.

1.1. Advantages of food fortification

Health benefits:

  • Elimination of micronutrient deficiency diseases like anaemia, goitre, xerophthalmia, etc. which are prevalent in India. For eg. according to the National Family Health Survey, around 50% of women and children in India suffer from anaemia.

  • Food fortification can be used as an effective tool to counter vitamin D deficiency. (prevalent in more than 70% of Indian population).

  • It reduces the risk of death from infectious diseases.

  • Wide population coverage: Since the nutrients are added to staple foods that are widely consumed, it enable to improve the health of a large section of the population.

  • Socio-culturally acceptable: It does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people being targeted.

 

Cost-effective:

  • The Copenhagen Consensus estimates that every 1 Rupee spent on fortification results in 9 Rupees in benefits to the economy.

  • Technology to fortify food is simple and easy to implement.

  • Complements Food security: Nutritional security is much needed to reap the dividends of implementing the food security act.

1.2. Challenges

  • Voluntary nature: Fortification continues to be voluntary rather than mandatory leading to limited efforts to fortify by state governments and private sector.

  • Poor implementation by states: Although some states have adopted fortification in ICDS, MDMS and PDS, but due to lack of definitive policy guidelines, budgetary constraints, technical knowledge and logistic support, states have not adopted fortification in a holistic manner.

  • Weaknesses of FSSAI: It lacks resources and manpower to effectively carry out its mandate.

  • Lack of awareness: There is a lot of misinformation and ignorance about the usage and benefits of fortified food as of now.

Way forward

  • Nationwide Implementation: Pan-India implementation of fortification via government schemes would amount to only an increment of 1 percent of the total budget allocated annually.

  • Support to states: Merely issuing orders and notifications from Government of India will not suffice as state governments require hand-holding support and should sensitised about the benefits fortification and must be enabled to procure fortified staples in various programs.

  • Ensure Standards: Compliance with FSSAI standards w.r.t macronutrient content and quality must be strictly enforced.

  • Awareness: A mass awareness campaign about food fortification is needed to scale up demand from consumers in the open market.

  • Promote food processing industry: It will go a long way in improving the nutritional value of staple food.

2. Fixed Dose Combinations (Fdcs)

Background

  • In 2016, the health ministry had banned 349 FDCs, claiming they were "unsafe" and "irrational" for consumption on the recommendation of Chandrakant Kokate committee (2015). However, the matter was contested by the affected manufacturers in various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India.

  • The Drugs Technical Advisory Board on a direction from Supreme Court, formed Nilima Shirsagar committee to review the safety, efficacy and therapeutic justification of 344 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs. The committee also recommended the continuation of the ban along with other observations such as: o FDCs were formulated without due diligence, with dosing mismatches that could result in toxicity.

  • Pharma companies whose products were under scrutiny provided “irrelevant” data that relied on biased studies and almost 95%, failed to prove safety, rationality and compatibility of these FDC.

  • Experts believe combination drugs to be unsafe because unaware physicians can prescribe wrong dosage that can in turn make human body resistant to treatment.

  • Over the years, India has become a "dumping ground" for irrational FDCs that are not approved in other countries for consumption.

  • The DTAB in its report recommended that there is no therapeutic justification for the ingredients contained in 328 FDCs and that these FDCs may involve risk to human beings.

  • Market size of the banned drugs is estimated to be around Rs 20-22 billion and will impact the country’s top drugmakers.

About FDC

  • An FDC is a cocktail of two or more therapeutic drugs packed in a single dose. Several cough syrups, painkillers and dermatological drugs in India are FDCs.

  • Benefits: They are known to offer specific advantages over the single entity preparations, such as increased efficacy, and/or a reduced incidence of adverse effects, possibly reduced cost and simpler logistics of distribution relevant to situations of limited resources

  • Cheaper for consumer: patient can buy just one FDC medicine to treat multiple illness symptoms.

  • Good For Business: For pharma companies, FDC's are cheaper and easier to combine existing active ingredients to make new products than to discover new medicines. They are also not covered under the ambit of price control regime.

  • According to All India Drugs’ Action Network (AIDAN), the market of unsafe, problematic FDCs in India is at least one fourth of the total pharma market valued at ₹1.3 trillion.

3. Hydrogen-cng

More on News

  • The decision follows a Supreme Court direction for the Delhi government to explore the feasibility of introducing zero emission and cost-effective hydrogen-run public buses. Also, the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas had issued a draft notification, following a NITI Aayog proposal, for H-CNG as an automotive fuel.

  • In order to help study the technology as well as its infrastructure requirements, the government has tied up with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL), which is a public sector undertaking, to initially induct 50 HCNG-fuelled buses.

  • The performance of buses as well as the reduction in emissions will be tested by mixing 18 to 20 per cent of hydrogen to compressed natural gas (CNG) in every bus.

 

What is HCNG?

  • HCNG is a vehicle fuel which is a blend of compressed natural gas and hydrogen, typically 8-50% hydrogen by Related Information

  • Before this, in 2002, to help the deteriorating condition of pollution in Delhi, the government had introduced CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) buses.

  • Besides this the pollution is expected to be handled by following Bharat Stage emission norms throughout the country. Recently, Delhi became the first city in the country to supply ultra-clean Bharat Stage (BS) VI grade fuel (both petrol and diesel).volume.

  • Existing natural gas engines can be used with HCNG, although higher hydrogen blends require re-tuning of the engines for optimal performance. Studies indicate that HCNG mixtures with 20- 30% hydrogen by volume are optimal for vehicle performance and emissions reduction.

3.1. Advantages of HCNG

  • No retrofitment required- It does not need any modification of the engine or retrofitment. Only some calibration is required thus allowing governments and agencies to promote the use of hydrogen to greater number of people at less cost.

  • It is usable with the existing CNG infrastructure. It requires only small hydrogen storage and a column for the mixing of hydrogen with natural gas. Safety properties are similar to CNG.

  • Lower pollutant emissions- Global HCNG testing to date has demonstrated the fuel’s potential to reduce nitrous oxide (NOx), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (appx 70%) and hydrocarbon emissions (appx 15%) vehicle emissions compared to traditional CNG.

  • Hydrogen addition to natural gas can decrease engine’s unburned hydrocarbons and speed up the combustion process.

  • Improves fuel economy- It improves the engine efficiency, lowers fuel consumption upto 5 per cent as compared to a CNG bus.

  • The thermal efficiency of both Natural gas and HCNG increases with increase in load which makes it an ideal fuel for high load applications and heavy-duty vehicles.

Challenges

  • Determining the most optimised hydrogen/compressed natural gas ratio- If the hydrogen faction increases above a certain limit, it will result in abnormal combustion such as pre-ignition, knock and backfire occur.

  • Ensure safe infrastructure- Probably most evident challenge for wide-spread use of the new fuel is the current lack of infrastructure. Similar to other gaseous fuels, natural gas and hydrogen are both lighter than air, therefore if there is a leak it will quickly disperse into air with adequate ventilation.

  • Cost and continuous availability- The cost of Hydrogen is higher than cost of Natural gas resulting in HCNG being costlier than CNG. Further, continuous availability of HCNG needs to be assured before embarking on its major use in IC engines.

  • Continued engine performance, emissions and durability testing in variety of engine types and sizes need to be developed to increase consumer and manufacturer confidence.

Conclusion

  • Most vehicles today run on either diesel or petrol leading to higher pollution levels. Rising pollution levels have led to the need for cleaner fuels. Hence we need to re-examine our sources of energy. In the current scenario, there is clear potential for the use HCNG as a method of reducing emissions from CNG vehicles. However, although there is currently a large amount of research taking place regarding the HCNG fuel, there are certainly many steps to take before wide-spread implementation can occur.

4. World’s First Hydrogen Fuel Cell Train

4.1.  About the Train

  • It was manufactured by Alstom, Europe’s largest railway manufacturers.

  • Coradia iLint is world’s first noise free, zero emissions trains running at 140km/hr and covering 1000 km on a full tank of hydrogen with seating capacity of 150 passengers.

  • The train will be refuelled from a 40 foot high mobile hydrogen steel container.

  • Its running cost is cheaper than the diesel trains.

4.2.  About Hydrogen fuel cell

  • It is a fuel cell that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity with water and steam as the only biproducts.

  • The excess energy can be stored on board in ion lithium batteries.

  • It is a climate friendly fuel as it does not emit carbon dioxide or particulate matter as the case with conventional fuels like diesel, coal etc.

 

How the hydrogen fuel cell works?

  • A fuel cell is composed of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte membrane.

  • A fuel cell works by passing hydrogen through the anode of a fuel cell and oxygen through the cathode.

  • At the anode, the hydrogen molecules are split into electrons and protons.

  • The protons pass through the electrolyte membrane, while the electrons are forced through a circuit, generating an electric current and excess heat.

  • At the cathode, the protons, electrons, and oxygen combine to produce water molecules.

  • Unlike traditional combustion technologies that burn fuel, fuel cells undergo a chemical process to convert hydrogen-rich fuel into electricity.

  • Fuel cells do not need to be periodically recharged like batteries, but instead continue to produce electricity as long as a fuel source is provided.

 

Way forward

  • Currently, the cheapest way to produce hydrogen is by burning natural gas at high temperature which emits carbon dioxide thus defeating the very purpose of using hydrogen fuel trains. The technology based renewable energy production of hydrogen from the water technology is required for a sustainable and cost effective rail transport for better tomorrow.

5. Apsara – U

5.1. Research reactors

  • Research reactors are nuclear reactors used for research, radioisotope production, education, training etc.

  • Research reactors are simpler than power reactors and operate at lower temperatures.

  • Like power reactors, the core needs cooling and usually a moderator is used to slow down the neutrons.

  • They produce neutrons for use in industry, medicine, agriculture, forensics, etc which is their main function. Hence most research reactors also need a reflector to reduce neutron loss from the core.

  • Research reactors are the back bone of a country’s Nuclear Programme.

  • Currently Apsara-u, Dhruva and kamini are the research reactors operational in India.

More about Apsara-U

Kamini (Kalpakkam Mini)

  • KAMINI is the only reactor in the world operating with 233U fuel which is produced by the thorium fuel cycle harnessed by the neighbouring Fast Breeder Test Reactor reactor.

  • It is very important for the third stage of Indian nuclear power programme.

 

Dhruva (at BARC in Trombay)

  • It is India's largest research reactor.

  • It is the primary source of weapons-grade plutonium.

  • It has been made indigenously.

  • It is the upgraded version of “Apsara”, the first research reactor in Asia which had became operational in 1956 and was shut down in 2009.

  • It uses plate type dispersion fuel elements made of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).

  • Owing to higher neutron flux, this reactor will increase indigenous production of radio-isotopes for medical application by about 50%.

  • It would also be used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding.

6. Particle Decay

More on news

  • Higgs bosons decay into pairs of the following particles in the following percentages: bottom quarks (58 percent), W bosons (21 percent), Z bosons (6 percent), tau leptons (2.6 percent) and photons (0.2 percent).

  • Significance: It validates the theory of Standard Physics which states that about 60% of the time a Higgs boson will decay to a pair of bottom quarks. o Standard Model: It’s built upon the idea that the Higgs field endows quarks and other fundamental particles with mass.

  • Standard Model doesn't include dark matter that makes up 85 percent of mass in the universe—or a description of how gravity works at the quantum level.

  • A quark is one of the fundamental particles in physics. They join to form hadrons, such as protons and neutrons, which are components of the nuclei of atoms.

  • The study of quarks and the interactions between them through the strong force is called particle physics.

  • The antiparticle of a quark is the antiquark. Quarks and antiquarks are the only two fundamental particles that interact through all four fundamental forces of physics: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong interaction and weak interactions.

  • A quark exhibits confinement, which means that the quarks are not observed independently but always in combination with other quarks. This makes determining the properties (mass, spin, and parity) impossible to measure directly.

  • There are six flavors of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top. The flavor of the quark determines its properties.

 

6.1. About Higgs Boson

  • It is popularly known as the God particle and is responsible for giving mass to fundamental subatomic particles.

  • It was discovered by Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

  • CERN is the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory. At CERN, scientists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the Universe.

  • LHC accelerator hosts two large-particle physics detectors capable of observing Higgs bosons — the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS).

7. ICESAT-2

What is ICESat?

  • ICESat (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite) is the benchmark Earth Observing System mission for measuring ice sheet mass balance, cloud and aerosol heights, as well as land topography and vegetation characteristics.

  • The ICESat, was launched in 2003 and ended in 2009. From it, scientists learned that sea ice was thinning, and ice cover was disappearing from coastal areas in Greenland and Antarctica.

  • ICESat-2 continues key elevation observations of the cryosphere begun by the original ICESat mission (2003 to 2009) and Operation IceBridge airborne efforts (2009 through present), to provide a continuous long-term record of change in the beginning of the 21st century.

 

Why is this mission important?

  • ICESat-2 data will help researchers narrow that range of possibilities to forecast sea level rise with greater certainty, allowing communities to be better prepared.

  • While scientists routinely measure sea ice coverage from satellite images, they lack region-wide sea ice height measurements that would allow them to derive thickness and volume—height measurements that ICESat-2 will provide.

  • Beyond the cryosphere, ICESat-2 will also survey heights of the world’s forests, lakes, urban areas, cloud cover and more, adding a detailed third dimension to flat images of Earth from space.

 

8. Polarimetry Doppler Weather Radar

8.1.More about the news

  • The Polarimetry Doppler Weather Radar provides advanced information, enhances the lead-time essential for saving lives and property in the event of a natural disaster associated with severe weather.

  • The severity of the weather systems can be quantitatively estimated more accurately and more precise advanced warnings can be generated for saving human lives and property.

  • While conventional radars are able to track and predict cyclones, the Doppler Weather Radar provides detailed information on a storm’s internal wind flow and structure.

  • The polarimetric capability of the radar will significantly improve the accuracy of rainfall estimation leading to accurate and timely flash flood warnings, according to ISRO’s earlier release.

  • The radar has been indigenously developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Bengaluru.

  • It is the seventh radar of such type manufactured in the country under “Make in India”.

September Science and Technology

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