Prelims Capsule

Prelims Capsule: Science and Tech Special

Oil cleaning membrane from water

Click here to Download Prelims Capsule PDF (17 Feb. 2017)

Recently researchers have developed a membrane with exceptional hydrophobic and extremely high oil-loving (oleophilic) properties.

The superior water-repellent and oleophilic membrane can potentially be used for tackling the globally challenging issue of marine oil spills.

Who developed?

Researchers from:-

  1. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune
  2. Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI)
  3. Bhavnagar and National Chemical Laboratory (NCL)

What developed?

Membrane with the properties:-

  • Exceptional hydrophobic
  • Extremely high oil-loving (Oleophilic) properties

Exceptional hydrophobic

Ultrahydrophobicity was achieved by synthesizing the metal-organic framework (MOF) with a high density of fluorine.

Fluorine is inherently hydrophobic in nature and any material that is fluorine-rich becomes hydrophobic.


By virtue of being highly hydrophobic, the MOF membrane, by default, becomes distinctly oleophilic or oil-loving in nature.

When water-oil mixture is passed through the membrane the oil permeates by rapid absorption, while water is retained above the membrane.

Metal Organic Framework

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of hybrid network supramolecular solid materials comprised of organized organic linkers and metal cations.

MOFs have attracted wide scientific attention for the potential application to gas storage, gas separation, catalysis and nanospace engineering.

E.coli free water

IISc researchers have made it possible to easily rid the water of E. coli bacteria

It has been done by synthesizing a zinc oxide photocatalyst that absorbs both UV and visible light to kill the bacteria.

Catalyst have been doped with a metal and a non-metal (copper and nitrogen) so that it absorbs both visible and UV light

Visible light comprises more than 40 per cent of the electromagnetic spectrum and UV light 4 per cent. The catalyst absorbs both components and generates free radicals that kill the bacteria.

The rate of killing the bacteria increases with an increase in the intensity of sunlight. 

Conventional methods that rely on UV light to kill pathogenic bacteria are often expensive and need relatively more sophisticated process.

Conventional catalysts like TiO2 are active only in the UV region.

Hyper-elastic Bones

Hyperelastic Bone or HB is a breakthrough in reconstructive surgery.

Surgeons currently replace shattered or missing bones with a number of things.

It is a new synthetic material that can be implanted under the skin as a scaffold for new bone to grow on, or used to replace lost bone matter altogether.

Hyperelastic bone will be made of hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring mineral that exists in our bones and teeth.


  • No need for painful and time consuming Autograft surgeries or waiting for a custom scaffold to be manufactured,
  • Now he or she could be X-rayed and a 3D-printed hyperelastic bone scaffold could be printed that same dayusing the material hydroxyapatite ,for the patients coming with the broken bones.

Irradiation processing of food

Irradiation processing of food involves the controlled application of energy from ionizing radiations such as gamma rays, electrons, and X-rays for food preservation.

Gamma rays and X-rays are short wavelength radiations of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Gamma rays are emitted by radioisotopes such as Cobalt-60 and Caesium-137 while electrons and X-rays are generated by gaseous discharge using electricity

Irradiation is a direct, simple, and efficient one-time process. It works by disrupting the biological processes that lead to decay.


Radiation processing technology can be used for :

  1. Inhibition of sprouting in bulbs and tubers
  2. Disinfestation of food grains and pulses
  3. Extending shelf-life under recommended conditions of storage
  4. Ensuring microbiological safety
  5. Overcoming quarantine barriers to international trade

Noble prize for discovering Autophagy

What is Autophagy?

The term autophagy means “self-eating,” and refers to the processes by which human body cleans out various debris, including toxins, and recycles damaged cell components.

It is a fundamental process for degrading and recycling cellular components.

Autophagy is the key to slowing the ageing process.

Noble prize for molecular-level machine

A molecular-level machine can be defined as “an assembly of a distinct number of molecular components that are designed to perform machinelike movements (output) as a result of an appropriate external stimulation (input)”.

Molecular motors, also called molecular machines, are either natural or synthetic molecules that convert chemical energy into mechanical forces and motion.

Molecular machine requires a supply of energy for its operation, and can be driven by suitable energy sources.

A molecular machine can be one thousand times thinner than a strand of hair.

Some of the applications

Chemists hope that one day these mini machines could be developed so they can deliver drugs within the human body directly to cancerous cells or target a specific area of tissue to medicate.

It could one day lead to the design of a molecular computer which could be placed inside the body to detect disease before any symptoms are exhibited.

‘Himansh’ research station

National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, under the Ministry of Earth Sciences has established a high altitude research station in Himalaya called HIMANSH (literally meaning, a slice of ice), situated above 13,500 ft (> 4000 m) at a remote region in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.

The ongoing initiatives by NCAOR would contribute to the integrated study the glaciers in the upper Indus basin (Chandra basin) in Himachal Pradesh and their contribution to discharge.

An integrated study using glaciological, geodetic, glacio-hydrological methods will shed light on the glacier response to the changing climate in this region and will also quantify the contribution from glacial melt water to the river discharge in Indus basin.

“Himansh” will provide the much needed fillip to the scientific research on Himalayan glaciers and its hydrological contribution.

Changing materials for making solar cells

Over the years, silicon-based cells have been used for industrial purposes due to their efficient solar-to power generation (~30%), particularly crystalline silicon. However, the cost of Si-based photovoltaic cells is relatively high and difficult to utilize in large-scale industries.

Traditional research has been around a hybrid organic-inorganic halide perovskite material.

Though the hybrid material has high efficiency of over 22%, the organic component in it is volatile and becomes completely unstable under ambient conditions

Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) has successfully produced a stable, high-efficiency, all-inorganicperovskitenanocrystal solar cells.

The new material has 10.77% efficiency to convert sunlight to electricity.



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