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PIB 26th April

Contents

  1. Likely Low-Pressure area over south Andaman Sea
  2. Ruhdaar: A Low-cost mechanical ventilator
  3. NTPC launches Hydrogen Fuel bus and car project
  4. COVID 19 may cause loss of smell and taste
  5. Organic-Inorganic Hybrid Nanocoatings for Disposable Masks

LIKELY LOW-PRESSURE AREA OVER SOUTH ANDAMAN SEA

Focus: GS-I Geography, Prelims

Why in news?

  • As per the forecast guidance from various numerical weather prediction models and the environmental and thermo-dynamical conditions prevailing over the region, a Low-Pressure Area is very likely to form over South Andaman Sea and neighbourhood around 30th April 2020.
  • It is very likely to intensify further during subsequent 48 hours and very likely to move north-northwestwards initially and then north-northeastwards along & off Andaman & Nicobar Islands during 30th April – 3rd May 2020.
  • The Cyclone Warning Division of the India Meteorological Department says that the system is under continuous surveillance and the concerned state governments are being informed regularly.

Adverse weather that might be caused around Andaman & Nicobar Islands

  • Rainfall:  Light to moderate rainfall at many places with heavy falls at isolated places is very likely over Nicobar Islands.
  • Wind warning: Squally winds, speed reaching 40-50 kmph gusting to 60 kmph are likely to prevail.
  • Sea condition: Sea conditions will be rough to very rough.
  • Fishermen Warning: The fishermen are advised not to venture into the Sea along & off north Sumatra coast, Andaman Sea and adjoining areas of southeast & east central Bay of Bengal from 30th April to 3rd May 2020.

Andaman Sea:

  • The Andaman Sea is a marginal sea of northeastern Indian Ocean bounded by the coastlines of Myanmar and Thailand along the Gulf of Martaban and west side of the Malay Peninsula, and separated from the Bay of Bengal to its west by the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands.
  • Its southernmost end is defined by Breueh Island, an island just north of Sumatra, and communicates with the Malacca Strait.

Low-pressure area

  • A low-pressure area, low area or low is a region on the topographic map where the air pressure is lower than that of surrounding locations.
  • Low-pressure systems form under areas of wind divergence that occur in the upper levels of the atmosphere.
  • The formation process of a low-pressure area is known as cyclogenesis.
  • Within the field of meteorology, atmospheric divergence aloft occurs in two areas.
  • The first area is on the east side of upper troughs, which form half of a Rossby wave within the Westerlies (a trough with large wavelength that extends through the troposphere).
  • A second area of wind divergence aloft occurs ahead of embedded shortwave troughs, which are of smaller wavelength.
  • Diverging winds aloft ahead of these troughs cause atmospheric lift within the troposphere below, which lowers surface pressures as upward motion partially counteracts the force of gravity.

How are Low-Pressure Areas formed?

  • Thermal lows form due to localized heating caused by greater sunshine over deserts and other land masses.
  • Since localized areas of warm air are less dense than their surroundings, this warmer air rises, which lowers atmospheric pressure near that portion of the Earth’s surface.
  • Large-scale thermal lows over continents help drive monsoon circulations.
  • Low-pressure areas can also form due to organized thunderstorm activity over warm water.

RUHDAAR: A LOW-COST MECHANICAL VENTILATOR

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

A team of engineering students from IIT Bombay and other institutes have come up with a low-cost ventilator using locally available materials.

3-D printing and laser-cutting technologies also were instrumental in the success of the prototype.

Why are Ventilators important right now?

  • Among those getting infected by COVID-19, around 80% will experience only mild illness, around 15% will need oxygen support and the remaining 5% who get critical or severe will need ventilators.
  • Ventilators are thus an important component of the medical infrastructure required for treating infected patients, providing critical breathing support to those falling critically ill.

What is a ventilator and what does it do?

  • Simply put, a ventilator takes over the body’s breathing process when disease has caused the lungs to fail. This gives the patient time to fight off the infection and recover.
  • A ventilator is used to push air, with increased levels of oxygen, into the lungs.
  • The ventilator also has a humidifier, which adds heat and moisture to the air supply so it matches the patient’s body temperature.
  • Patients are given medication to relax the respiratory muscles so their breathing can be fully regulated by the machine.
  • People with milder symptoms may be given ventilation using facemasks, nasal masks or mouthpieces which allow air or an oxygen mixture to be pushed into the lungs.
  • This is known as “non-invasive” ventilation, as no internal tubes are required.
  • Another form of ventilation – continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP – keeps a patient’s airways continuously open,

NTPC LAUNCHES HYDROGEN FUEL BUS AND CAR PROJECT

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

NTPC Ltd, India’s largest power producer and a central PSU under Ministry of Power, has invited Global Expression of Interest (EoI) to provide 10 Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and an equal number of Hydrogen Fuel Cell based electric cars in Leh and Delhi.

Details

  • The move to procure Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles is first of its kind project in the country, wherein a complete solution from green energy to the fuel cell vehicle would be developed.
  • The initiative, which has been undertaken with support of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, will also harness renewable energy for generation of hydrogen and develop its storage and dispensation facilities as part of pilot projects at Leh and Delhi.
  • The move to launch hydrogen powered vehicles aims at decarbonizing mobility segment.

What is a Hydrogen Fuel Cell and how does it work?

  • A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (often hydrogen in the case of Hydrogen Fuel Cell) and an oxidizing agent (often oxygen) into electricity through a pair of redox reactions.
  • A Fuel Cell consists of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte that allows ions, often positively charged hydrogen ions (protons), to move between the two sides of the fuel cell.
  • A fuel cell converts chemical potential energy (energy stored in molecular bonds) into electrical energy.
  • A PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) cell uses hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2) as fuel.
  • The products of the reaction in the cell are water, electricity, and heat.
  • This is a big improvement over internal combustion engines, coal burning power plants, and nuclear power plants, all of which produce harmful by-products.
  • Since O2 is readily available in the atmosphere, we only need to supply the fuel cell with H2 which can come from an electrolysis process (see Alkaline electrolysis or PEM electrolysis).

How are they different from conventional Batteries?

Fuel cells are different from most batteries in requiring a continuous source of fuel and oxygen (usually from air) to sustain the chemical reaction, whereas in a battery the chemical energy usually comes from metals and their ions or oxides that are commonly already present in the battery.

Fuel cells can produce electricity continuously for as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied.

Advantages of the Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology:

  • By converting chemical potential energy directly into electrical energy, fuel cells avoid the “thermal bottleneck” (a consequence of the 2nd law of thermodynamics) and are thus inherently more efficient than combustion engines, which must first convert chemical potential energy into heat, and then mechanical work.
  • Direct emissions from a fuel cell vehicle are just water and a little heat. This is a huge improvement over the internal combustion engine’s litany of greenhouse gases.
  • Fuel cells have no moving parts. They are thus much more reliable than traditional engines.
  • Hydrogen can be produced in an environmentally friendly manner, while oil extraction and refining is very damaging.

COVID 19 MAY CAUSE LOSS OF SMELL AND TASTE

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Scientists of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jodhpur have explored the neuroinvasive nature of the COVID 19 virus SARS-CoV-2 highlighting that loss of smell and taste of infected patients makes their entire Central Nervous System (CNS) and the underlying structures in the brain more prone to viral infection with devastating effects.

Details of how COVID-19 Might affect our CNS

  • SARS-CoV-2 is known to interact with a specific human receptor known as hACE2 (human angiotensin-converting enzyme-2) which also happens to be the entry point of the virus and has an almost ubiquitous presence in most human organs ranging from lung parenchyma to nasal mucosa. The brain is also known to express this receptor.
  • The loss of smell or taste is attributed to the fact that nose and mouth both are very important entry points of the virus, which then may be slowly making its way to the olfactory bulb using the neurons of the olfactory mucosa.
  • The olfactory bulb located in the forebrain is the structure that is chiefly responsible for the sense of smell. This explains the loss of smell associated with many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 and also may be exposing the CNS to viral infection.
  • It may also completely destroy the medulla oblongata of the hindbrain, which regulates breathing, heart, and blood vessel function.

Significance of this research:

The asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 with anosmia (loss of smell) and ageusia (loss of taste) should be told to consult specialized nephrologists before they turn into carriers.

It will help with the future rational approaches for therapy. The neuro-invasive nature of the virus and its effects on the senses of smell and taste are thus interesting and useful areas of investigation


ORGANIC-INORGANIC HYBRID NANOCOATINGS FOR DISPOSABLE MASKS

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) has approved support for large scale production of organic-Inorganic hybrid nanocoating for disposable masks.

Why is this Nanocoating needed?

  • The N95 masks available in the market are capable of filtering out all types of particles, including viruses and bacteria, but they are expensive and need prior training as standard practice before using it.
  • The wearer of the mask is prone to touch the surface of the mask frequently to adjust his mask or to scratch the itch. Due to this, the mask gets contaminated.
  • These aspects have created a pressing need for innovative solutions that can mitigate the existing concerns of disposable medical masks.

How does Nanocoating help?

Nanocoatings could address this problem by offering a hydrophobic coating on the surface of the masks, preventing it from wetting, and will disinfect the pathogens that may come in contact with the nanocoated surface.

  • Functionalization of nanoparticles using the sol-gel technology by the researchers will make the nanocoating hydrophobic, which effectively repels water/moisture from the surface of the mask.
  • Further, the addition of a suitable polymer will increase the virucidal properties of the hydrophobic nanocoating.
  • Therefore, by using sol-gel technology, a hybrid organic-inorganic silica-based nanocoating coupled with a proprietary polymer will be developed that will make the masks reusable and non-toxic.
  • The nanocoating will be easily scalable, safe, and economical while being highly effective against the COVID-19.
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