Current Affairs – February 2017

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Scientists develop high-quality graphene from soybean

Scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have made world’s strongest material graphene commercially more viable by using soybean.

They have developed a novel “GraphAir technology” which transforms soybean oil, a renewable, natural material into graphene films in a single step.

Background

Earlier, graphene was produced in a highly-controlled environment with explosive compressed gases that required long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing. This production process was costly and was major roadblock in its commercialisation.

About GraphAir technology

  • The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler. Soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units when heat is applied. It makes it essential for the synthesis of graphene films.
  • Significance: This unique technology makes graphene fabrication fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable and integration friendly. It results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods. It is expected to reduce cost of graphene production and improve uptake in new applications. Besides, it can also help to produce graphene from waste oil, leftover from cooking.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick. It is the world’s strongest and lightest known material derived from carbon. It has high conductivity and excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties. It is used in many applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices, water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine etc. It also used to improve battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.

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Maharashtra Government approves cloud seeding project for 2017 monsoon

Maharashtra Government has approved Rs. 250 crore Cloud Seeding Programme during 2017 monsoon season to produce sufficient rain.

Under this programme, weather scientists using aircrafts will spray chemicals (silver iodide) over clouds clouds hovering above Solapur district, a rain shadow region of Western Ghats in the state.

Key Facts
  • This will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.
  • This programme, coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.
  • In this experiment, scientists will fly two aircraft and spray silver iodide and dry ice on 100 clouds and compare them with 100 unseeded clouds. Ground radar will be used to track the clouds and verify which ones contributed rain.

Cloud Seeding

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NRAI gets highest WHO ratings for vaccine regulations

India’s vaccine regulatory body NRAI (National Regulatory Authority of India) was given the maximum ratings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for vaccine regulations.

The ratings were given by WHO after completing the assessment of the status of the NRAI system against WHO NRA Global Benchmarking Tool and measured the maturity of the system in India.

Need for assessment

India is one of the main players in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide and often is referred as pharmacy of the world. India, as a large vaccine producing country, is currently supplying several vaccines to the United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WHO and PAHO). A fully functional NRAI is a pre-requisite for WHO prequalification of vaccines. One of the requirements to become eligible and retain prequalification status is to get assessed.

Key Facts
  • The assessment was done in respect of 9 different functionalities by a WHO team comprising lead experts in different areas from WHO Headquarters Geneva, WHO India Country Office, experts from several countries.
  • Based on it, NRAI was declared functional with a maturity level of 4 which is highest level as per currently evolved definitions in respect of 5 functions, and maturity level 3 in respect of 4 functions.
  • Maturity level 4 indicates good results and sustained improvement trends, while level 3 reflects systematic process based approach, early stage of systematic improvements, data availability regarding conformance to objectives and existence of improvement trends.
  • The result reflects growing maturity of NRAI emanating from a concerted effort by Government in consultation with WHO to build capacity and capability of NRAI over last several years.

About National Regulatory Authority of India (NRAI)

NRAI comprises the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), State Drug Regulatory Authorities, Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) and Pharmaco-vigilance Programme of India (PvPI) structures at the Central and States levels.

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