Category Archives: Science & Technology

Mahatma Gandhi University’s faculty to lead expedition team to Arctic

Kottayam :

CT Aravindakumar, a faculty at Mahatma Gandhi University’s (MGU) School of Environmental Sciences, will lead an eight-member team of Indian scientists for an expedition in the Arctic region this month. National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) in Goa, the nodal agency that coordinates India’s polar research, will organize the expedition, which will last four to six weeks. MGU had recently signed a MoU with NCAOR on joint polar research.

Under this agreement, MGU researchers can take part in Artic expedition  every year. India conducts nearly 5 expeditions each year. The team will be studying atmospheric, biological, marine and earth sciences, glaciological and pollution issues. The main research programme is on pollution in the Arctic region which will have a long-term impact. It has already initiated a long-term programme with NCAOR on the study of air and water pollution, fate and transport of pollutants, aquatic organism etc.

India is one of the leading contributors in polar research and had started its Arctic expedition in 2007. India’s first Arctic research station, named Himadri, was inaugurated in 2008 at the International Arctic Research base, Ny-Alesund, located 2,000km north of Norway.

India is the 11th country to set up a permanent research station in the region. Himadri can host 8 scientists at a time under normal conditions. Members of the station are given weapon training to protect themselves from polar bears.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Kochi News> Schools & Colleges / TNN / July 14th, 2017

ST radar inaugurated at Cusat

Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan visits the Stratosphere-Troposphere Radar Facility at Cusat in the city on Tuesday

Union Minister says researchers must work towards people-centric science

Union Minister for Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan has said that scientists and researchers have to work towards a people-centric science and emphasised the need for scientific social responsibility on the lines of corporate social responsibility. The Minister was speaking at a press conference after the dedication of the Stratosphere-Troposphere (ST) Radar Facility at the Advanced Centre for Atmospheric Radar Research at the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) here on Tuesday.

He said scientists and researchers had the responsibility to give back to society. The scientists behind the achievement had to be congratulated because they had followed the call for ‘Make in India’ and the effort had been appreciated internationally by countries such as Japan, Korea and Sweden. He said climate science was doing well in India, and the country had entered into high quality collaborations with countries like Israel recently.

A handout issued at the dedication of the facility at the university said that it was the first stratosphere troposphere wind profile radar operating on 205 MHz installed in the world. The facility will aid monitor atmospheric wind conditions across altitudes up to 20 km and beyond. The research has applications in meteorology, cloud physics, thunderstorms, convections, atmospheric electricity and climate change.

Mr. Vardhan said India expected to provide optical fibre cable facility to all panchayats in the country by 2018. The 38 CSIR laboratories will be made accessible to students in Kendriya Vidyalayas for two to three weeks to create awareness about the work being done in the laboratories. The programme will help familiarise people with the scientific research being done in the country. The government wanted to create a passion for science among students, the Minister added.

Director of the Centre K. Mohankumar and Cusat Vice Chancellor J. Letha were among those present at the dedication of the facility.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by Special Correspondent / Kochi – July 12th, 2017

Country’s first digitalised Panchayat ward in Kerala

Kottayam  :

A ward in the district today became India’s first digitalised panchayat ward . website

Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Krishan Pal Gurjar inaugurated the website of the first digitalised panchayat ward number 15 of Aymanam grama panchayat at a function held at a temple premises.

The minister launched the website digitalaymanam  at the function.

This small panchayat ward in Kerala  has become the first one to go digital in the country, taking a very important step in fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of transforming India  into a digitally empowered society, the Minister said.

Gurjar hailed ward member Devaki teacher for taking the challenge of collecting details of 423 families and 1,262 members in the ward and made them available in a mouse click away.

The website also contains information about blood donors’ forum and telephone directory of the people of the ward, officials said.

CPI(M), which is ruling the Aymanam Gram Panchayat, boycotted the function.

They, however, have not cited any reasons for the boycott.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Kohikode News / PTI / April 30th, 2017

When a noisy creature brought laurels to a not too silent campus

A short film on cicada, shot at Maharaja’s College, bags top honours at National Science Film Festival

Kochi :

Cicada is an insect that turns an otherwise silent place noisy. In fact, it is its absence that continues to preserve the silence in the rain forests of Silent Valley.

However, it required these noisy creatures to bring laurels to Maharaja’s College campus, which was in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, thanks to its fare share of noisy scenes.

Ore Naadam…Ore Thaalam (Same Tune, Same Rhythm), a short film made by Kottarakkara-based Padanakendram of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, in association with the zoology department at the college, has bagged the prestigious Golden Beaver Award for the best science and technology film at the seventh National Science Film Festival held at the Birla Industrial and Technological Museum in Kolkata from February 14 to 18.

The festival was organised by Vigyan Prasar of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Council for Science Museums.

The 25-minute film was directed by K.V. Sreenivasan Kartha, who had previously won the Golden Beaver Award in 2015 for another short film. C. Lilly, who wrote the screenplay, also received a special jury award.

“The whole idea was the popularisation of science, and the film aims at deconstructing several myths and misconceptions about cicadas and the sound they generate,” said K.S. Sunish, a faculty member of the zoology department at Maharaja’s College.

The film narrates how a group of children from Kottarakkara approaches Maharaja’s College in their quest to know more about cicada and where L.P. Rema, head of the zoology department, and Mr. Sunish take them through the many characteristics and life cycle of the insect.

One of the highlights of the film is a 2.30-minute visual on the moulting of cicada. But as ubiquitous as their sound is, it is equally tough to spot cicadas.

Some portions of the film were shot at Kottarakkara and some at the Kerala Forest Research Institute based on interactions with a scientist, T.V. Sajeev, who also happens to be an alumnus of Maharaja’s College.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kochi / by M P Praveen / February 26th, 2017

Breakthrough method developed for water purification by young scientist

Deepu Gopakumar, a 28-year-old research student of Nanoscience technology at MG University

Kottayam :

In a breakthrough invention , a research student at the MG University  here developed a method to remove toxic dyes and Nano particles from water using cellulose based Nano filters made from agro waste. It was Deepu Gopakumar, 28-year-old research student of Nano Science technology at the varsity who made this important invention which will help in cost effective purification of water in future. A green approach for purification of water is also made possible as organic solvents are not needed in this new method.

Deepu developed a Nano cellulose based Nano fibrous membrane from agro waste (pineapple, banana, coir etc.) for the removal of toxic textile dyes and nanoparticles from water. Currently, most of the surface modifications of cellulose nanofibers are done using toxic organic solvents. The new method is the first one where the surface modifications of cellulose Nano fibers is done through non solvent assisted procedure.

Deepu did his research under the supervision of Sabu Thomas and Nandakumar Kalarikkal at the International and Inter University Centre for Nano science and Nanotechnology (IIUCNN), MG University. The research also had support of Federal University of Uberlandia, Brazil, under the supervision of Daniel Paiquini, said MG Vice Chancellor Babu Sebastian. The results of the study were recently published in ACS sustainable energy and engineering. American Chemical Society  (ACS) is a scientific society based in the United States that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry.

According to Deepu, the bed developed from the agro waste which is used for purification of water can be continuously used for six months after that it has to be cleaned. Since the membrane does not have any organic solvent, minerals are not lost from the water.

Babu Sebastian said that the University will apply for a patent for the invention. Research guides Sabu Thomas and Nandakumar said that the University will start producing it commercially within a year after finding a business partner. The university is also planning to develop miniature models which can be connected to the water taps. According to initial studies the cost of purifying water which costs around Rs 5 for a litre can be reduced to Rs 2 using the new method. It can also be sued for sea water purification.

source: / The Times of India / News> City News> Kozhikode News / Jaikrishnan Nair / TNN / February 13th, 2017

Conference on Indian medicine system from Friday

Thiruvananthapuram :

‘Jignasa 2017’ an international conference on Indian systems of medicine such as ayurveda and siddha will be held from February 10 to 12 at the Saraswati Mandapam Ground, Poojappura. As part of the conference, an exhibition on science and public health has opened at the venue. The event is organised by the Vidyarthi Seva Trust.

The expo, which features around 200 stalls, showcases the diversity and significance of traditional systems of medicine and healing practices practised in India, and their role in public healthcare. Participants include central and state government departments, NGOs, traditional and tribal physicians, medicinal plant nurseries and gardens and health-related industries. The home pavilion features ayurveda, yoga, unani and siddha systems.
The expo attempts to raise awareness about these systems and their contemporary significance, the trust said. ‘Jignasa 2017’ is planned as an international conference on ‘Convergence of health traditions in Bharatavarsha.’
Union ministers Dr Harsh Vardhan, Dharmendra Pradhan, Pon Radhakrishnan and Yesso Naik are expected to participate in the conference, the trust said. More than 1000 delegtates including 600 students are attending the event. As part of a public health awareness programme, a free medical camp is on offer.
Various cultural programmes also are planned in the evenings.

They include a baul performance by Parvathy Baul, kalaripayattu by Hindustan Kalari Sangham, classical dance recital by PNNM Ayurveda College and a ‘classical thematic yoga’ presentation by the Chinmaya Mission. Over 500 students from across the country had participated in Jignasa 2015.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Thiruvananthapuram / by Express News Service / February 07th, 2017

Tribe offers clues to hidden wonders of medicinal plant

Based on traditional knowledge of Cholanaickan tribe

A medicinal plant endemic to the southern parts of Western Ghats and Sri Lanka could offer scientists the key to new herbal formulations and modern drugs for the treatment of cancer and wounds and burns.

Scientists at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here have confirmed the multiple therapeutic properties of Neurocalyx calycinus used by the Cholanaickan tribe, one of the particularly vulnerable groups in Kerala, to treat inflammations and wounds.

The researchers have filed for a patent on a novel herbal drug formulation possessing wound-healing, burn-healing, anti-cancer, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immuno- enhancing, platelet-augmentation and anti-oxidant effects.

The scientists came to know of the miracle plant in 1988 during a biological survey deep inside the Nilambur forests. The team led by S. Rajasekharan, former Head, Ethnomedicine and Ethnopharmacology division, JNTBRI, came across Kuppamala Kaniyan, a tribal elder, with hideous scars right across his chest. On inquiry, it was revealed that he had been terribly mauled by a bear a few years ago.

“We were told that the animal had pinned him down and was trying to rip open his chest. The bleeding tribesman somehow fought back and managed to hack the bear to death,” says Dr. Rajasekharan. “It took three days of persuasion before Kuppamala Kaniyan revealed how he had made a paste from the fresh leaves of N.calycinus, known in local parlance as ‘pacha chedi,’ to arrest the bleeding and heal the fresh wounds on his chest.”

Systematic documentation of traditional knowledge helped scientists take up the research work later.

Animal trials have proved that the leaves of N.calycinus possess wound-healing properties comparable to the standard drug Povidone/ Iodine in the early phase of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory activity of the leaves was found comparable to the drug diclofenac sodium.

The pre-clinical trials confirmed the therapeutic effects of N.calycinus against burn wounds and pain, besides its immuno-enhancing, platelet augmentation, and anti-oxidant potential. The presence of high Vitamin E content and potent cytoprotective activity in cell lines in the plant species have also enhanced the prospects of developing an anti-cancer drug.

In a presentation that won the best paper award at the Kerala Science Congress last month, Aneeshkumar A.L., a member of the research group, said the work had thrown up promising leads for the development of novel herbal formulations and modern medicines.

“It will now need multi-institutional studies to take the work forward,” says Dr. Rajasekharan.

The paper said the JNTBGRI would share the commercial benefits of its work with the dwindling Cholanaickan tribe.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / T Nandakumar / Thiruvananthapuram – February 04th, 2017

First molecular diagnostic lab in private sector in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram  :

Gone are the days we used to send blood samples to Virology Institute in Pune and wait for the results to confirm the infectious diseases. Now the tests can be done at your door step that too at affordable rates.

NIMS Medicity has set up the state’s first Molecular Diagnostic Lab in the private sector. “Several diseases are going undetected since we are not having proper diagnostic facilities. Many of the infectious diseases have become seasonal in Kerala and we are not worried why it has become endemic here. Hence there is a need for proper evaluation of the blood samples we collect. This lab would be catering to this need of the patients,” said Dr P S Shareek, Infectious Disease Consultant at NIMS Medicity.

The lab has been set up with molecular diagnostic facilities DNA sequencing based technologies, and gene therapy facility. This advanced biotechnology centre will also provide platform for doctors and researchers to work on their novel concepts and innovative ideas that can be immediately implemented.

The academic wing of the biotechnology wing will coordinate with doctors and researchers to support them with wet lab and computation work to materialise the innovative concepts. “It has been found that 99% of the fever cases reported in the private sector are tabbed as viral fever. However, there is no effort from us to find out what the exact virus was behind the fever and whether any mutation has occurred over the years for this virus. A comprehensive diagnosis can help in finding the exact behaviour of the virus and how it is acting on the patients. This lab has been equipped to find the root cause of the behaviour of the virus,” said Dr Shareek.

Even though the research is the main focus of this centre, the NIMS Medicity is also planning to conduct tests for the patients at affordable rates to confirm their disease. “If it costs Rs 25000 to test a blood sample , we are planning to introduce it here at much affordable rate such that the test result can be made available on the same day for the patient,” he said.

source: / The Times of India / News Home> Chennai News> Thiruvananthapuram / Rajiv G / TNN / October 24th, 2016

He makes technology barrier-free

Muthuraj at work
Muthuraj at work

Thiruvananthapuram :

Growing up with two best friends — one who is visually challenged, Muthuraj D always knew that he would one day work for persons with disability (PwD). The 39-year-old Bengalurean was the eldest of the six children born to a BPL family in Kormangala. Working as a salesman during the day and attending classes in the evenings, he eventually had to drop out of the college. Today, he has developed and customised over eight technologies that help the disabled, some of which has been adapted by technology giants such as Bosch.

Two years ago Muthuraj collaborated with a technology called ‘Kavi’, developed by Mindtree, Chennai and IIT Madras, and used by people with severe disability. This can convert muscular movements into an input.
“Unlike the western countries, disability is seen as a problem in India. Government has a long way to go and officials are apprehensive about spending money on technologies to benefit the disabled,” says Muthuraj adding that he renders solutions by coming up with affordable technologies.

With sky-high costs for propriety software, Muthuraj’s cost-effective technologies are a boon for the disabled, as they’re either free or priced lower than `5,000. Making use of free software such as Camera Mouse, which enables controlling the mouse pointer on the screen with the head movement, he devised a solution for people who cannot move their limbs. He trained non-English speaking students to use this.  He also made an alternative for the three-button foot pedals that are used in medical transcription to record, play, and rewind. Muthuraj customised a mouse and a keyboard to be used instead of the pedal. “With the available three buttons, we can come up with over 30 combinations that can be used for separate commands such as copy and paste,” he explains.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Thiruvananthapuram / by Regina Gurung / Express News Service / October 19th, 2016

This mechanical graduate has developed a treadmill bike at a cost below Rs 9K


Kochi  :

Every student dreams of making something original using the skills that he or she has acquired in their field of study. Disny Pious, a mechanical engineering graduate from Jai Bharath Engineering College, Perumbavoor is one such student who has achieved his dream. The 23-year-old has come up with his own model of a treadmill bike. While the original ones cost more than a lakh, Pious’ treadmill bike cost below Rs 9,000 to make.


A treadmill bike is a combination of treadmill and cycle used mainly for exercise and green transport. The idea came to Pious when he saw a Lopifit, the most popular treadmill bike in a WhatsApp group. The bike caught his attention and an idea germinated in his mind.

While the original product comes with an electric motor and sensor, Pious’s product completely depends on muscle power.

It took him two months to finish a prototype and build his own treadmill bike using materials which he collected from the local market with the help of his father Pious Xavier, who is an iron fabricator. He also used scrap iron to reduce the cost further. “What I have now is a very primitive model. I want to work further on it in reducing the weight and improving the mechanism. Once I succeed in this I think my product will be more user-friendly and also commercially viable,” said Disny Pious sharing his future dreams while jogging on his treadmill bike.

The project has been acknowledged by the Lopifit officials.

source: / The New Indian Express / Home> Cities> Kochi / by Akshay Thomas Kurien / August 15th, 2016