Why in News?
- Project DANTAK is commemorating its Diamond Jubilee in Bhutan.
- It was a fitting tribute to the sacrifices made by personnel of DANTAK in strengthening the bonds of friendship between India and Bhutan.
- It may be recalled that over 1,200 DANTAK personnel laid down their lives while constructing important infrastructure in Bhutan.
- Project DANTAK was established on April 24, 1961 as a result of the visionary leadership of His Majesty the Third King and then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.
- Identifying the utmost importance of connectivity in spurring the socio-economic development and growth of Bhutan, DANTAK was tasked to construct the pioneering motorable roads in the Kingdom.
- DANTAK completed the road connecting Samdrup Jongkhar to Trashigang in 1968. In the same year, Thimphu was connected to Phuentsholing by DANTAK. Many Bhutanese had also volunteered to work with DANTAK.
Single Crystal Blades for helicopter engine application
Why in News?
- Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed single crystal blades technology and supplied 60 of these blades to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as part of their indigenous helicopter development program for helicopter engine application.
- It is part of a program taken up by Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), a premium laboratory of DRDO, to develop five sets (300 in number) of single crystal high pressure turbine (HPT) blades using a nickel-based super alloy.
- Helicopters used in strategic and defence applications need compact and powerful aero-engines for their reliable operation at extreme conditions.
- To achieve this, state-of-the-art Single Crystal Blades having complex shape and geometry, manufactured out of Nickel based superalloys capable of withstanding high temperatures of operation are used.
- Very few countries in the world such as USA, UK, France and Russia have the capability to design and manufacture such Single Crystal (SX) components.
- The DMRL undertook this task based on its expertise gained during the development of such a technology for an aero-engine project earlier.
- Special ceramic composition had to be formulated for making strong ceramic moulds which can withstand metallostatic pressure of liquid CMSX-4 alloy at 1500°C and above during casting operation.
- The challenge of maintaining the required temperature gradient has also been overcome by optimising the casting parameters.
Oxygen enrichment technology
Why in News?
- The CSIR-CMERI indigenously developed Oxygen enrichment technology may effective for treating COVID-19 patients.
- CSIR-CMERI developed an Oxygen enrichment unit requiring easily available oil free reciprocating compressor, Oxygen grade zeolite sieves and pneumatic components.
- This unit can safely be placed in the isolation ward of the hospital for patients who are in dire need of Oxygen.
- The unit is capable of delivering medical air in the range of up to 15 LPM with oxygen purity of more than 90%.
- If required, this unit can even deliver up to 70 LPM at a purity of around 30%.
U.K.’s aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth
Why in News?
- As part of its Indo-Pacific focus, the U.K.’s aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth will sail to the Indian Ocean on its maiden operational deployment later this year and will also exercise with the Indian Navy.
- As a representation of the ‘Indo-Pacific tilt’ in the U.K.’s foreign policy, the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier, the largest ship ever built by the Royal Navy, will sail to India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and the wider region.
- Throughout the deployment, the U.K. will support freedom of passage through vital global trading routes and demonstrate commitment to a recognised international system of norms and behaviours that benefit all countries.
- In a landmark review of its foreign, defence, development and security policy, published last month, the U.K. government committed to “becoming the European country with the broadest, most integrated presence in the Indo-Pacific in support of trade, shared security and values”.
- The CSG will travel over 26,000 nautical miles from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, from the Gulf of Aden to the Arabian Sea, and from the Indian Ocean to the Philippine Sea.
Logistics support agreement
- As part of deepening defence cooperation, India and the U.K. are close to signing a mutual logistics support agreement while the U.K. has expressed interest in posting a Liaison Officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR).
- Britain has also offered India collaboration on development of sixth generation fighter technologies and the design of Queen Elizabeth for Indian Navy’s proposed second indigenous aircraft carrier which is yet to be approved by the government.
World’s most powerful weather, climate-change forecasting supercomputer
Why in News?
- Microsoft and UK’s Met Office have teamed up to build the world’s most powerful supercomputer to forecast weather and climate-change.
- Likely to be operational in 2022, the supercomputer will provide accurate warnings on severe weather and help protect from impact of increasingly extreme storms, floods and snow in the UK.
- In February 2020, the UK government had announced funding of £1.2 billion (about ₹12,400 crore) to develop this supercomputer, which is expected to be one of the top 25 supercomputers in the world.
- The device will enhance emergency preparedness to local storms, heavy rain and flooding through improved forecasting of local-scale weather using very high-resolution simulations.
- Supercomputers are being increasingly used for accurate weather and climate-change forecasting. Japan’s Fujitsu Laboratories used the world’s most powerful supercomputer, Fugaku, to develop an AI model to predict tsunami flooding.
- Meanwhile, Hewlett Packard Enterprise is developing a supercomputer, which will be installed at NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Centre in the U.S., to help study phenomena such as climate change, and severe weather.
Tenure of MD, CEO and whole-time director (WTD) in a private sector bank
Why in News?
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) fixed the tenure of MD, CEO and whole-time director (WTD) in a private sector bank at 15 years and prescribed the maximum age of 70 years for such functionaries.
- These directives form part of the instructions issued by the RBI with regard to the chair and meetings of the board, composition of certain committees of the board, age, tenure and remuneration of directors, and appointment of the WTDs.
- Thereafter, the individual will be eligible for re-appointment as MD & CEO or WTD in the same bank, if considered necessary and desirable by the board, after a minimum gap of three years, subject to meeting other conditions,
- During this three-year cooling period, the individual shall not be appointed or associated with the bank or its group entities in any capacity, either directly or indirectly.
- With regard to upper age limit for MD & CEO and WTDs in the private sector banks, the RBI said that no person can continue in such positions beyond the age of 70. The maximum age limit for chairman and non-executive directors has been fixed at 75 years.
Why in News?
- Does “herd immunity” really protect from subsequent waves? It depends on how widespread the virus is in a community and its transmission rate.
- The number of daily cases depends on three factors: The number of infectious people in the population, the number of susceptible individuals, and the rate of transmission of the virus.
- The rate of transmission is dependent on the nature of the virus and the extent of contact between individuals.
- The herd immunity concept is based on lowering the number of susceptible individuals. If sufficient individuals in the population are immune (either through vaccination or a prior exposure), then the number of susceptible individuals drops. For example, if the immune population is 70%, then the susceptible population is 30%.
- The prediction for future cases, unfortunately, is not that simple. If the rate of transmission increases (due to change in social behaviour and increased contact) then even with a large percentage of the immune population, a significant number of daily cases can result.
- The “herd immunity” number is not a static number but it changes depending on the rate of transmission of the virus and the extent of virus present.
- The population touched by Covid can also be estimated by the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR). This is the total number of deaths divided by the total people infected. In India, the estimate is 0.08%.
- So this number can be used to back-calculate the number of infections based on the number of deaths in the different cities.
Why in News?
- Odisha reported its first-ever case of a baby born with harlequin ichthyosis, a rare genetic condition.
- The facial features of the baby, including the mouth, eyes and ears were deformed, restricting breathing and eating.
- Disease was an extremely rare genetic disorder that resulted in thickened skin forming over nearly the entire body at birth.
- The disease affected one in three million births and is caused due to a mutated gene inherited from the parents. The disease sees the skin form large diamond-shaped plates across the body that are separated by deep cracks (fissures).
- The skin is dry and scaly, almost like fish skin and hence the term ‘icthyosis’, derived from ‘ikthus’, Greek for fish.
- Mutations in the ABCA 12 gene are stated to cause harlequin ichthyosis.
- The ABCA12 protein plays a major role in transporting fats in cells which make up the outermost layer of skin.
- Severe mutations in the gene lead to the absence or partial production of the ABCA12 protein. This results in lack of lipid transport and as a result, the skin development is affected by varying degrees according to the severity of the mutation.
- India’s first recorded case of a baby born with harlequin ichthyosis was in 2016, at a private hospital in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
- Such cases were also reported in Delhi, Patna and West Bengal. The infants could not survive for long and succumbed to the disease days after birth.
Microbes trap massive amounts of carbon
- Violent continental collisions and volcanic eruptions are not things normally associated with comfortable conditions for life.
- A new study, unveils a large microbial ecosystem living deep within the earth that is fueled by chemicals produced during these tectonic cataclysms.
- When oceanic and continental plates collide, one plate is pushed down, or subducted, into the mantle and the other plate is pushed up and studded with volcanoes. This is the main process by which chemical elements are moved between Earth’s surface and interior and eventually recycled back to the surface.
- Normally this process is thought to occur outside the reach of life because of the extremely high pressures and temperatures involved. Although life almost certainly does not exist at the extreme conditions where Earth’s mantle mixes with the crust to form lava, in recent decades scientists have learned that microbes extend far deeper into Earth’s crust than previously thought.
- This opens the possibility for discovering previously unknown types of biological interactions occurring with deep plate tectonic processes.
- An interdisciplinary and international team of scientists has shown that a vast microbial ecosystem primarily eats the carbon, sulfur, and iron chemicals produced during the subduction of the oceanic plate beneath Costa Rica.
- This microbial ecosystem sequesters a large amount of carbon produced during subduction that would otherwise escape to the atmosphere. The process results in an estimated decrease of up to 22 percent in the amount of carbon being transported to the mantle.
- The team found that these microbes—called chemolithoautotrophs—sequester so much carbon because of their unique diet, which allows them to make energy without sunlight.
- Chemolithoautotrophs are microbes that use chemical energy to build their bodies. So they’re like trees, but instead of using sunlight they use chemicals.
- These microbes use chemicals from the subduction zone to form the base of an ecosystem that is large and filled with diverse primary and secondary producers. It’s like a vast forest, but underground.
Giant Megathrust Earthquakes
- Earthquakes and volcanoes in subduction zones may cause great human catastrophe.
- Previous studies on subduction zone structure and causal mechanisms of giant megathrust earthquakes (M ≥ 9.0) have mainly focused on aspects like subducting plates and plate interfaces.
- In contrast, the oceanic asthenosphere structure beneath the subducting slab (at depths of 100-250 km) and its influence on the nucleation of giant megathrust earthquakes have not been well studied.
- Recently, researchers investigating the oceanic asthenosphere structure of six subduction zones where giant earthquakes have occurred.
- The researchers adopted P-wave tomographic inversions and compiled updated tomographic models. The tomographic images clearly reveal subslab low-velocity (slow) anomalies beneath forearc regions in the six subduction zones.
- The giant earthquake hypocenters are generally located above the edges of the slow anomalies or above the gaps between them. Large coseismic slips of the giant earthquakes mainly occur above gaps between the slow anomalies.
- The buoyancy force of a subslab slow anomaly can increase interplate shear stress by enhancing interplate normal stress.
- Interplate shear stress increases the critical stress threshold for rupture, and the critical shear stress above the slow anomaly gap is slightly smaller than that above the slow anomaly.
- However, critical shear stress is still large enough and relatively easier to reach.
- As such, it can induce a giant megathrust earthquake above the slow anomaly gap, which is primarily controlled by structural heterogeneity on and around the plate interface.
- In addition, the buoyancy force of the slow anomaly can cause a morphological response from the subducting slab, thus increasing the shear stress on the plate interface. Thermal conduction or thermo-mechanical erosion from the slow anomaly may result in transformation of the interface rheology from frictional to viscous shear.
- This transformation may partly account for the occurrence of slow-slip earthquakes above slow anomalies. The slow-slip area can impede rupture propagation and host afterslip of a giant megathrust earthquake.