Engineering and Technology Updates
Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project
The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project or KLIP is a multi-purpose irrigation project on the Godavari River in Kaleshwaram, Bhupalpally, Telangana. Currently the world’s largest multi-stage lift irrigation project, its farthest upstream influence is at the confluence of the Pranhita and Godavari rivers. The Pranahita River is itself a confluence of various smaller tributaries including the Wardha, Painganga, and Wainganga rivers which combine to form the seventh-largest drainage basin on the subcontinent, with an estimated annual discharge of more than 6,427,900 acre feet (7,930 cubic hectometres) or 280 TMC. It remains untapped as its course is principally through dense forests and other ecologically sensitive zones such as wildlife sanctuaries. The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project is divided into 7 links and 28 packages spanning a distance of approximately 500 km (310 mi) through 13 districts and utilizing a canal network of more than 1,800 km (1,100 mi). The project aims to produce a total of 240 TMC (195 from Medigadda Barrage, 20 from Sripada Yellampalli project and 25 from groundwater), of which 169 has been allocated for irrigation, 30 for Hyderabad municipal water, 16 for miscellaneous industrial uses and 10 for drinking water in nearby villages, with the remainder being estimated evaporation loss. The project aims at increasing total culturable command area (the sustainable area which can be irrigated after accounting for both upstream and downstream factors) by 1,825,000 acre⋅ft (2,251 hm3) across all 13 districts in addition to stabilizing the existing CCA. On 21 June 2019, the project was opened by Telangana governor Narasimhan and chief ministers K. Chandrashekar Rao (Telangana), Fadnavis (Maharashtra) and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy (Andhra Pradesh ). Four major pumping facilities manage the project’s outflow, the largest at Ramadugu (Medaram, Annaram and Sundilla being the others) is also likely to be the largest in Asia once consistent measurements are available, requiring seven 140 MWh (500 GJ) pumps designed and manufactured specifically for the project by the BHEL.
To view a video on the project, click on the link given below
MaxDIA: Taking proteomics to the next level
Proteomics produces enormous amounts of data, which can be very complex to analyze and interpret. The free software platform MaxQuant has proven to be invaluable for data analysis of shotgun proteomics over the past decade. Now, Jürgen Cox, group leader at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, and his team present the new version 2.0. It provides an improved computational workflow for data-independent acquisition (DIA) proteomics, called MaxDIA. MaxDIA includes library-based and library-free DIA proteomics and permits highly sensitive and accurate data analysis. Uniting data-dependent and data-independent acquisition into one world, MaxQuant 2.0 is a big step towards improving applications for personalized medicine. Proteins are essential for our cells to function, yet many questions about their synthesis, abundance, functions, and defects still remain unanswered. High-throughput techniques can help improve our understanding of these molecules. For analysis by liquid chromatography followed by mass spectrometry (MS), proteins are broken down into smaller peptides, in a process referred to as “shotgun proteomics.” The mass-to-charge ratio of these peptides is subsequently determined with a mass spectrometer, resulting in MS spectra. From these spectra, information about the identity of the analyzed proteins can be reconstructed. However, the enormous amount and complexity of data make data analysis and interpretation challenging. Two main methods are used in shotgun proteomics: Data-dependent acquisition (DDA) and data-independent acquisition (DIA). In DDA, the most abundant peptides of a sample are preselected for fragmentation and measurement. This allows to reconstruct the sequences of these few preselected peptides, making analysis simpler and faster. However, this method induces a bias towards highly abundant peptides. DIA, in contrast, is more robust and sensitive. All peptides from a certain mass range are fragmented and measured at once, without preselection by abundance. As a result, this method generates large amounts of data, and the complexity of the obtained information increases considerably. Up to now, identification of the original proteins was only possible by matching the newly measured spectra against spectra in libraries that comprise previously measured spectra. Jürgen Cox and his team have now developed a software that provides a complete computational workflow for DIA data. It allows, for the first time, to apply algorithms to DDA and DIA data in the same way. Consequently, studies based on either DDA or DIA will now become more easily comparable. MaxDIA analyzes proteomics data with and without spectral libraries. Using machine learning, the software predicts peptide fragmentation and spectral intensities. Hence, it creates precise MS spectral libraries in silico. In this way, MaxDIA includes a library-free discovery mode with reliable control of false positive protein identifications. Furthermore, the software supports new technologies such as bootstrap DIA, BoxCar DIA and trapped ion mobility spectrometry DIA. What are the next steps? The team is already working on further improving the software. Several extensions are being developed, for instance for improving the analysis of posttranslational modifications and identification of cross-linked peptides. MaxDIA is a free software available to scientists all over the world. It is embedded in the established software environment MaxQuant. “We would like to make proteomics data analysis accessible to all researchers,” says Pavel Sinitcyn, first author of the paper that introduces MaxDIA. Thus, at the MaxQuant summer school, Cox and his team offer hands-on training in this software for all interested researchers. They thereby help bridging the gap between wet lab work and complex data analysis. Sinitcyn states that the aim is to “bring mass spectrometry from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry to the clinics.” Instead of measuring only a few proteins, thousands of proteins can now be measured and analyzed. This opens up new possibilities for medical applications, especially in the field of personalized medicine.
Lean and mean: Building a multifunctional pressure sensor with 3D printing technology
The treatment of many medical issues like abnormal gait and muscular disorders require an accurate sensing of applied pressure. In this regard, flexible pressure sensors that are simple, lightweight, and low-cost, have garnered considerable attention. These sensors are designed and manufactured through “additive manufacturing,” or what is more commonly called “3D printing,” using conductive polymer composites as their building blocks. However, all 3D-printed pressure sensors developed so far are limited to sensing applied forces along a single direction only. This is hardly enough for real world applications, which involve situations where forces can be applied along various angles and directions. Moreover, the electrical resistance of most conductive polymers varies with temperature and must be compensated for accurate pressure sensing. In a study a group of scientists led by Prof. Hoe Joon Kim from Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea, have addressed this issue with a newly designed multi-axis pressure sensor coupled with a temperature-sensing component that overcomes the limitations of conventional sensors. “Our multi-axis pressure sensor successfully captures the readings even when tilted forces are applied. Moreover, the temperature-sensing component can calibrate the resistance shift with temperature changes. In addition, the scalable and low-cost fabrication process is fully compatible with commercial 3D printers,” explains Prof. Kim. Scientists first prepared the printable conductive polymer using multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) and polylactic acid (PLA). Next, they built the sensor body with a commercial elastomer and sensing material with MWCNTs/PLA composite filament using 3D printing. The sensor is based on a bumper structure with a hollow trough beneath and employs three pressure-sensing elements for multi-axis pressure detection and a temperature-sensing element for calibration of resistance. The sensor could successfully calibrate both the magnitude and direction of the applied force by evaluating the response of each pressure-sensing element. This bumper structure, when installed in a 3D-printed flip-flop and a hand gripper, enabled clear distinction between distinct human motions and gripping actions. The scientists are thrilled about the future prospects of their 3D-printed sensor. “The proposed 3D printing technology has a wide range of applications in energy, biomedicine, and manufacturing. With the incorporation of the proposed sensing elements in robotic grippers and tactile sensors, the detection of multi-directional forces along with temperature could be achieved, heralding the onset of a new age in robotics,” comments an excited Prof. Kim.
Indeed, those are some interesting consequences to look forward to!
New electronic paper displays brilliant colors
Imagine sitting out in the sun, reading a digital screen as thin as paper, but seeing the same image quality as if you were indoors. Thanks to research from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, it could soon be a reality. A new type of reflective screen — sometimes described as ‘electronic paper’ — offers optimal colour display, while using ambient light to keep energy consumption to a minimum. Traditional digital screens use a backlight to illuminate the text or images displayed upon them. This is fine indoors, but we’ve all experienced the difficulties of viewing such screens in bright sunshine. Reflective screens, however, attempt to use the ambient light, mimicking the way our eyes respond to natural paper. “For reflective screens to compete with the energy-intensive digital screens that we use today, images and colours must be reproduced with the same high quality. That will be the real breakthrough. Our research now shows how the technology can be optimised, making it attractive for commercial use,” says Marika Gugole, Doctoral Student at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology. The researchers had already previously succeeded in developing an ultra-thin, flexible material that reproduces all the colours an LED screen can display, while requiring only a tenth of the energy that a standard tablet consumes. But in the earlier design the colours on the reflective screen did not display with optimal quality. Now the new study takes the material one step further. Using a previously researched, porous and nanostructured material, containing tungsten trioxide, gold and platinum, they tried a new tactic — inverting the design in such a way as to allow the colours to appear much more accurately on the screen. The inversion of the design represents a great step forward. They placed the component which makes the material electrically conductive underneath the pixelated nanostructure that reproduces the colours — instead of above it, as was previously the case. This new design means you look directly at the pixelated surface, therefore seeing the colours much more clearly. In addition to the minimal energy consumption, reflective screens have other advantages. For example, they are much less tiring for the eyes compared to looking at a regular screen. To make these reflective screens, certain rare metals are required — such as the gold and platinum — but because the final product is so thin, the amounts needed are very small. The researchers have high hopes that eventually, it will be possible to significantly reduce the quantities needed for production. “Our main goal when developing these reflective screens, or ‘electronic paper’ as it is sometimes termed, is to find sustainable, energy-saving solutions. And in this case, energy consumption is almost zero because we simply use the ambient light of the surroundings,” explains research leader Andreas Dahlin, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers. Reflective screens are already available in some tablets today, but they only display the colours black and white well, which limits their use. “A large industrial player with the right technical competence could, in principle, start developing a product with the new technology within a couple of months,” says Andreas Dahlin, who envisions a number of further applications. In addition to smart phones and tablets, it could also be useful for outdoor advertising, offering energy and resource savings compared with both printed posters or moving digital screen.
Ultrathin semiconductors electrically connected to superconductors
For the first time, University of Basel researchers have equipped an ultrathin semiconductor with superconducting contacts. These extremely thin materials with novel electronic and optical properties could pave the way for previously unimagined applications. Combined with superconductors, they are expected to give rise to new quantum phenomena and find use in quantum technology. Whether in smartphones, televisions or building technology, semiconductors play a central role in electronics and therefore in our everyday lives. In contrast to metals, it is possible to adjust their electrical conductivity by applying a voltage and hence to switch the current flow on and off. With a view to future applications in electronics and quantum technology, researchers are focusing on the development of new components that consist of a single layer (monolayer) of a semiconducting material. Some naturally occurring materials with semiconducting properties feature monolayers of this kind, stacked to form a three-dimensional crystal. In the laboratory, researchers can separate these layers — which are no thicker than a single molecule — and use them to build electronic components. These ultrathin semiconductors promise to deliver unique characteristics that are otherwise very difficult to control, such as the use of electric fields to influence the magnetic moments of the electrons. In addition, complex quantum mechanical phenomena take place in these semiconducting monolayers that may have applications in quantum technology. Scientists worldwide are investigating how these thin semiconductors can be stacked to form new synthetic materials, known as van der Waals heterostructures. However, until now, they have not succeeded in combining such a monolayer with superconducting contacts in order to dig deeper into the properties and peculiarities of the new materials. A team of physicists, led by Dr. Andreas Baumgartner in the research group of Professor Christian Schönenberger at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and the Department of Physics of the University of Basel, has now fitted a monolayer of the semiconductor molybdenum disulfide with superconducting contacts for the first time. The reason why this combination of semiconductor and superconductor is so interesting is that the experts expect components of this kind to exhibit new properties and physical phenomena. “In a superconductor, the electrons arrange themselves into pairs, like partners in a dance — with weird and wonderful consequences, such as the flow of the electrical current without a resistance,” explains Baumgartner, the project manager of the study. “In the semiconductor molybdenum disulfide, on the other hand, the electrons perform a completely different dance, a strange solo routine that also incorporates their magnetic moments. Now we would like to find out which new and exotic dances the electrons agree upon if we combine these materials.”The electrical measurements at the low temperatures required for superconductivity — just above absolute zero (-273.15°C) — show clearly the effects caused by the superconductor; for example, at certain energies, single electrons are no longer allowed. Moreover, the researchers found indications of a strong coupling between the semiconductor layer and the superconductor. “Strong coupling is a key element in the new and exciting physical phenomena that we expect to see in such van der Waals heterostructures, but were never able to demonstrate,” says Mehdi Ramezani, lead author of the study. The fabrication of the new component in a type of sandwich made of different materials requires a large number of different steps. In each step, it is important to avoid contaminations, as they seriously impair the transport of electrical charges. To protect the semiconductor, the researchers pack a monolayer of molybdenum disulfide between two thin layers of boron nitride, through which they have previously etched the contacts vertically using electron-beam lithography and ion etching. They then deposit a thin layer of molybdenum rhenium as a contact material — a material that retains its superconducting properties even in the presence of strong magnetic fields. Working under a protective nitrogen atmosphere in a glove box, the researchers stack the boron nitride layer onto the molybdenum disulfide layer and combine the underside with a further layer of boron nitride as well as a layer of graphene for electrical control. The researchers then place this elaborate van der Waals heterostructure on top of a silicon/silicon-dioxide wafer.
Novel heat-management material keeps computers running cool
UCLA engineers have demonstrated successful integration of a novel semiconductor material into high-power computer chips to reduce heat on processors and improve their performance. The advance greatly increases energy efficiency in computers and enables heat removal beyond the best thermal-management devices currently available. The research was led by Yongjie Hu, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. Computer processors have shrunk down to nanometer scales over the years, with billions of transistors sitting on a single computer chip. While the increased number of transistors helps make computers faster and more powerful, it also generates more hot spots in a highly condensed space. Without an efficient way to dissipate heat during operation, computer processors slow down and result in unreliable and inefficient computing. In addition, the highly concentrated heat and soaring temperatures on computer chips require extra energy to prevent processers from overheating. In order to solve the problem, Hu and his team had pioneered the development of a new ultrahigh thermal-management material in 2018. The researchers developed defect-free boron arsenide in their lab and found it to be much more effective in drawing and dissipating heat than other known metal or semiconductor materials such as diamond and silicon carbide. Now, for the first time, the team has successfully demonstrated the material’s effectiveness by integrating it into high-power devices. In their experiments, the researchers used computer chips with state-of-the-art, wide bandgap transistors made of gallium nitride called high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs). When running the processors at near maximum capacity, chips that used boron arsenide as a heat spreader showed a maximum heat increase from room temperatures to nearly 188 degrees Fahrenheit. This is significantly lower than chips using diamond to spread heat, with temperatures rising to approximately 278 degrees Fahrenheit, or the ones with silicon carbide showing a heat increase to about 332 degrees Fahrenheit.”These results clearly show that boron-arsenide devices can sustain much higher operation power than processors using traditional thermal-management materials,” Hu said. “And our experiments were done under conditions where most current technologies would fail. This development represents a new benchmark performance and shows great potential for applications in high-power electronics and future electronics packaging.” According to Hu, boron arsenide is ideal for heat management because it not only exhibits excellent thermal conductivity but also displays low heat-transport resistance. “When heat crosses a boundary from one material to another, there’s typically some slowdown to get into the next material,” Hu said. “The key feature in our boron arsenide material is its very low thermal- boundary resistance. This is sort of like if the heat just needs to step over a curb, versus jumping a hurdle.” The team has also developed boron phosphide as another excellent heat-spreader candidate. During their experiments, the researchers first illustrated the way to build a semiconductor structure using boron arsenide and then integrated the material into a HEMT-chip design. The successful demonstration opens up a path for industry adoption of the technology.
ISRO Holds Hot Test of Liquid Propellant Vikas Engine For “Gaganyaan”
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently successfully conducted the third long-duration hot test of the liquid propellant Vikas engine for the Gaganyaan programme, the country’s first manned mission to space. The test was done for the core L110 liquid stage of the human rated GSLV MkIII vehicle, as part of the engine qualification requirements for the Gaganyaan programme, the space agency said in a statement. The engine was fired for 240 seconds at the test facility of ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC), Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu, said the statement. The performance of the engine met the test objectives and the engine parameters were closely matching with the predictions during the entire duration of the test, it said. The objective of the Gaganyaan programme is to demonstrate the capability to send humans to low earth orbit onboard an Indian launch vehicle and bring them back to earth. Four Indian astronaut-candidates have already undergone generic space flight training. ISRO’s heavy-lift launcher GSLV Mk III has been identified for the mission. The initial target was to launch the human spaceflight before the 75th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15, 2022. ISRO is also taking the help of French, Russian and US space agencies in some of the crucial activities and supply of components, sources said.
Made in Hyderabad alloy for Gaganyaan crew space
A special titanium alloy has been developed by Hyderabad-based Midhani, a defence PSU, which will play a crucial role in ensuring safety of Gaganyaan crew. Gaganyaan, India’s human space flight mission, could propel India to the centre of human space exploration. ‘Crew escape systems’ is one of the new technologies required for ISRO’s Gaganyaan manned space mission and the crew will operate from a honeycomb-like structure which will be their home in the spacecraft. In simple words, the material to build this ‘home’ is ready and has been supplied to ISRO by Midhani. Titanium-31 was developed at Midhani particularly to meet this need. The alloy will make it possible for the astronauts to escape to safety in any eventuality. “The material would otherwise have to be imported, but we developed it here. We have tested it to perfection and made a supply to ISRO,” Sanjay Kumar Jha, chairman and managing director of Midhani, told TOI.
Recycling next-generation solar panels fosters green planet
Tossing worn-out solar panels into landfills may soon become electronics waste history. By designing a recycling strategy for a new, forthcoming generation of photovoltaic solar cells — made from metal halide perovskites, a family of crystalline materials with structures like the natural mineral calcium titanate — will add a stronger dose of environmental friendliness to a green industry, according to Cornell-led research. The paper shows substantial benefits to recycling perovskite solar panels, though they are still in the commercial development stage, said Fengqi You, the Roxanne E. and Michael J. Zak Professor in Energy Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering. “When perovskite solar panels reach the end of their useful life, how do we deal with this kind of electronic waste?” said You, also a faculty fellow at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. “It is a new class of materials. By properly recycling it, we could potentially reduce its already low carbon footprint. “As scientists design solar cells, they look at performance,” You said. “They seek to know energy conversion efficiency and stability, and often neglect designing for recycling.” Last year, You and his laboratory found that photovoltaic wafers in solar panels containing all-perovskite structures outperform photovoltaic cells made from state-of-the-art crystalline silicon, and the perovskite-silicon tandem — with cells stacked like pancakes to better absorb light — perform exceptionally well. Perovskite photovoltaic wafers offer a faster return on the initial energy investment than silicon-based solar panels because all-perovskite solar cells consume less energy in the manufacturing process. Recycling them enhances their sustainability, as the recycled perovskite solar cells could bring 72.6% lower primary energy consumption and a 71.2% reduction in carbon footprint, according to the paper, “Life Cycle Assessment of Recycling Strategies for Perovskite Photovoltaic Modules,” co-authored by Xueyu Tian, a doctoral student at Cornell Systems Engineering, and Samuel D. Stranks of the University of Cambridge. “Lowering the energy needed to produce the cells indicates a significant reduction of energy payback and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Tian. The best recycled perovskite cell architecture could see an energy payback time of about one month, with a carbon footprint as low as 13.4 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent output per kilowatt hour of electricity produced. Without recycling, the energy payback time and carbon footprint of new perovskite solar cells show a range of 70 days to 13 months, and 27.5 to 158.0 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent throughout their life cycles. Today’s market-leading silicon photovoltaic cells can expect an energy payback period of 1.3 to 2.4 years, with an initial carbon footprint between 22.1 and 38.1 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per kilowatt hour output. “Recycling makes perovskites outcompete all other rivals,” Tian said.
Advanced care: Smart wound dressings with built-in healing sensors
Researchers have developed smart wound dressings with built-in nanosensors that glow to alert patients when a wound is not healing properly. The multifunctional, antimicrobial dressings feature fluorescent sensors that glow brightly under UV light if infection starts to set in and can be used to monitor healing progress. The smart dressings, developed by a team of scientists and engineers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, harness the powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties of magnesium hydroxide. They are cheaper to produce than silver-based dressings but equally as effective in fighting bacteria and fungi, with their antimicrobial power lasting up to a week. Project leader Dr Vi Khanh Truong said the development of cost-effective antimicrobial dressings with built-in healing sensors would be a significant advance in wound care. “Currently the only way to check the progress of wounds is by removing bandage dressings, which is both painful and risky, giving pathogens the chance to attack,” said Truong, a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at RMIT. “The smart dressings we’ve developed not only fight bacteria and reduce inflammation to help promote healing, they also have glowing sensors to track and monitor for infection. “Being able to easily see if something is going wrong would reduce the need for frequent dressing changes and help to keep wounds better protected. “With further research, we hope our multifunctional dressings could become part of a new generation of low-cost, magnesium-based technologies for advanced wound care.” The global advanced wound dressing market is expected to grow with demand fueled by technological innovations, increasing numbers of surgical procedures, and the rising prevalence of chronic wounds and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Though magnesium is known to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and highly biocompatible, there has been little practical research on how it could be used on medically-relevant surfaces like dressings and bandages. The new study is the first to develop fluorescent magnesium hydroxide nanosheets that could contour to the curves of bandage fibres. The research team synthesised the nanosheets — which are 10,000 to 100,000 times thinner than a human hair — and embedded them onto nanofibres. The magnesium hydroxide nanosheets respond to changes in pH, which makes them ideal for use as sensors to track healing. Healthy skin is naturally slightly acidic while infected wounds are moderately alkaline. Under UV light, the nanosheets glow brightly in alkaline environments and fade in acidic conditions, indicating the different pH levels that mark the stages of wound healing. The nanosheets are easily integrated onto any biocompatible nanofibre, which means they can then be deposited onto standard cotton bandages. Laboratory tests showed the magnesium hydroxide nanosheets were non-toxic to human cells, while destroying emerging pathogens like drug-resistant golden staph and Candida auris. Truong said the process to make the fluorescent nanosheets was simple to scale for potential mass production.” Normally, antimicrobial wound dressings start to lose their performance after a few days, but our studies show these new dressings could last up to seven days,” he said. “And because magnesium is so abundant compared to silver, our advanced dressings could be up to 20 times cheaper.” The research team is keen to collaborate with clinicians to further progress the technology, through pre-clinical and clinical trials.