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Anyone who has watched the cartoon series Beyblade has probably fancied a top that can spin for an absurd amount of time, after seeing the characters have battles where the top that spins the longest is the winner. It was one such Beyblade enthusiast, Saptarshi Sadhu, a fifth year at IIT Kharagpur who decided to take his passion to the next level.

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Making a Top Spin Forever Edited by MARTIN JOSE Designed by AVANTI HARGUDE

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One day in 2018, Saptarshi came across the Guiness World Record for the longest spinning mechanical top, set in the same year by Fearless Toys, Nimrod Back and Breaking Toys in Tel Aviv, Israel. The time to beat was 27 hours, 9 minutes and 24 seconds. The secret to their long spin time was One of the final the use of motors inside prototypes the top to power it and make it last longer than the 5-10 minuites that a traditional one spins for. Saptarshi, convinced that he can do better would spend the next two years crafting and perfecting his contenders.

A disassembled view of one of the first prototypes

To start off with, he looked at the design of the existing record holder and thought of improving on that. The first change that was made to it was to decrease the size of the tip. He figured that a thinner tip would create less friction with the surface that the top is spinning on and hence settled employing the nib of a ballpoint pen. The first generation of prototypes featured small motors to spin the body of the top.There were button cells that would power the motors, with a microcontroller to regulate the flow of current from the battery to the motor.

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A disassembled 3D model of the final prototype

He planned to create the body of the top using epoxy resin, but decided to scrap the idea following many difficulties in moulding it and it interfering in the working of the components. Epoxy resin was also found to be too heavy for the job. This series of prototypes could spin for only around five minutes. For the second family, Saptarshi went with using 3D printed plastic instead of epoxy resin. He also experimented with connecting the shaft of the motor with the tip. That did not work out, only yeilding a spin time of around twenty minutes. A major cause for this, Saptarshi discovered, was vibrations caused by the motor which tended to unsettle the tip. He also tried putting a liquid in the top which would

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move towards the edges, increasing rotational inertia. However, the liquid also made the top unstable, further reducing the spin time. Not keen on giving up, a radically different approach was taken in the last generation. He tried spinning a disc using the motor. The top would spin in the opposite direction to the disc, conserving angular momentum. He also focussed on reducing power consumption. Aside from minimising fricion using a smooth tip and smoothing the surface of the top, the weight of the top was also reduced drastically. He also changed the physical shape of the top, from one resembling the previous record holder, to one that is almost cylindrical. By doing this, the center of gravity of the top was lowered, improving its stability.


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Saptarshi’s final generation of prototypes had another feature which took it from spinning for a mere twenty minutes to a whopping 38 hours. By eliminating the microcontroller that regulates power to the motors, he could both achieve a decrease in mass and divert the tiny bit of energy used by the chip, to power the top. He also carefully tuned the weight of the disc and the top to spin at the lowest stable speed, further reducing the power requirement. A careful selection of the motor also had a part to play in this. Finally in December 2020, Saptarshi attempted the Guiness World Record. There were witnesses present both at his house and over video conferencing. He had a live

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stopwatch open on his laptop and three tops spinning in front of it, on steel surfaces, so as to avoid friction. As hours ticked by, he could feell his dream coming closer to reality. All went well until the thirty sixth minute of the fifth hour- when one of the tops stopped spinning suddenly, a loose connection being the prime suspect.Saptarshi however,had good faith in his other two warriors and he could not have been more right! They would both go on to beat the world record, one spinning for a whopping 36 hours and 19 minutes and the other for three more hours- 39 hours and 28 minutes! A sense of indescribable joy swept over him- the culmination of two years of hard work- having spun a top for the longest time in the history of mankind!

The first record holders for the feat

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Carbon Dioxide Cell : A Green Powerhouse

The newly developed Lithium - CO2 Cell is a promising candidate in the clean energy efforts around the world. Offering significant improvements over traditional metal batteries, this technology is potentially paradigm altering in the field of highly efficient energy systems.

Written by DIVYANSH KHARBANDA Designed by NIDAMANURI CHANIKYA GUPTA

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he versatility of carbon is difficult to justify with words. This element is the source and the sustenance of all life. It’s properties span the entire range of possibilities. In one form it is very strong, flexible and highly conductive. In another it is one of the hardest substances and equally resistive. The element at the core of all life now presumably holds the key for its continuity. The Metal - CO2 Battery, developed by Dr. Chandra Sekhar Sharma, an Associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and his team at IIT Hyderabad, serves the purpose of providing higher energy density batteries in an ecologically friendlier way.

Development of technology The CARBON Lab team at IIT Hyderabad has been researching and developing batteries and supercapacitors for almost a decade. Aiming to improve on the traditional Lithium-ion batteries, due to their limited energy density, the team considered expanding the research on Lithium-Air and Lithium-Oxygen batteries which were gaining popularity in the scientific community. After a careful review of the existing trends, in conjunction with collective brainstorming, the idea of Li-CO2 batteries came into existence. Since Li-CO2 based chemistry is still in its infancy, there were a lot of opportunities as well as scientific challenges to explore.

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How it works The Li-CO2 battery system is an open system from cathode end to ensure the regular supply of carbon dioxide, which functions as an energy carrier in this battery. Li ions react with CO2 gas molecules at porous carbon cathode during discharge and form Li2CO3 (Lithium carbonate) and solid carbon. This reaction is based on the electrochemical reduction of CO2. This is in contrast with the Lithium - ion batteries where Li ions react with carbon reversibly through intercalation upon discharge/charging. Herein, Lithium-ions react to CO2 gas through porous carbon cathode to form Lithium Carbonate. An appropriate catalyst is used to ensure the reversibility of the reaction, i.e. decomposition of Lithium carbonate. The reversibility of this reaction is not very well understood.

The current status When tested in a lab in a pure CO2 atmosphere, the Li-CO2 battery showed approximately 68% first cycle efficiency. However, when tested in Martian atmosphere-like conditions (95.6 % CO2 and rest CO and O2), this efficiency jumped to 96%. Through the use of Sodium and Potassium, the battery can be made even more efficient. This knowledge opens up new avenues that involve exploring the effect of these trace amounts of other atmospheric gases on the reversibility of the reaction.

Based on these investigations and the knowledge gained in the developmental process, a complete Metal-CO2 battery prototype is expected to be developed in the next 3 - 4 years.

Where this research could lead Technical feasibility of the Metal-CO2 batteries may add a new dimension to the global efforts to curb carbon dioxide emissions. Theoretically Li-CO2 batteries have almost 8-10 times higher energy density than Lithium-ion batteries. Hence such batteries would help address another grand challenge of tackling the increasing carbon emissions. Energy extensive processes of converting the gas emissions into useful chemicals have been a major blockade in this global objective. However a battery design such as this is much more efficient than traditional energyintensive carbon dioxide fixation measures. The use of this technology extends far beyond its capabilities on our planet, as they can be used to power the Mars Missions. The surface landers and rovers built with this technology would utilize the carbon dioxide abundant in the Martian atmosphere.

At present, a lot of scientific understanding is yet to be developed for identifying the appropriate electrode, catalyst, salt and electrolyte system to enhance the performance. All of these require comprehensive experimental as well as computational efforts.

“Further the use of CO2 as an energy carrier in Metal CO2 rechargeable batteries, which have a higher energy density than the currently used Lithium-ion batteries may not only reduce the payload mass and volume for interplanetary Mars missions but also increase the scientific capabilities of these missions�, states Dr. Sharma.

A SIMPLISTIC VIEW OF THE BATTERY Source: Arbon laboratory

APPARATUS OF PROTOTYPE Source: Carbon lab, IIT Hyderabad

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Conclusion The team had previously shown its capabilities by utilizing soot derived carbon to use as an electrode in energy storage devices in 2015. This material is unique in terms of its morphology and other physicochemical properties and was demonstrated successfully for the first time by the group for high rate Li-ion batteries in electric vehicles. What follows is innovation in its true sense the result of years of research in the field of carbon nanotechnology. From developing soot derived carbon which can be used as an electrode for batteries and supercapacitors without requiring any modifications, to developing this ingenious battery, the focus has always been to develop facile, scalable and inexpensive technologies. Innovations such as these are the need of the hour. Gradual advancements in the standard technologies cannot outpace the global demand for solutions. Such technologies might still prove to be inadequate until we realize the actual need for them and make it a priority to accept them and expand them. Carbon is a versatile element - we should be too.

A SCHEMATIC FOR THE USE OF THE BATTERY IN MARTIAN ENVIRONMENT Source: Carbon lab, IIT Hyderabad

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Breaking a Virus 2:

COVIRAP and where it goes from here Written by PRANAV KRISHNAN Designed by SHARVARI SRIRAM

April-June 20202020 April-June

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ll too often the students and researchers behind the scenes in science, don‘t get much credit. There may be a cursory mention and of course, the professional satisfaction of having contributed to a project of immense social value, at most. Not this time this story involves the hard work of 3 research scholars at IIT Kharagpur, during the height of the uncertainty gripping pandemic-hit India. We spoke with them: Sujay Biswas - Research Scholar at SMST, IIT KGP Nandita Kedia (NK)- Research Scholar at School of Bioscience, IIT KGP Saptarshi Banerjee (SB)- Research Scholar at School of Bioscience, IIT KGP

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: NANDITA(WITH BLUE MASK), SUJAY(WITH WHITE MASK), SAPTARSHI(WITH GREEN MASK), ALL AT THE MOLECULAR VIROLOGY LAB Source: IIT KGP Team

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Q. Sujay, you have perhaps the most unique background here - can you tell us a little about how you came into this interdisciplinary field? Sujay Biswas: IIT Kharagpur’s unique forays into Medical Science had influenced me when I was completing my MTech. in Mechanical Engineering here. So despite my background working in Microfluidics, I developed an interest in medical diagnostics. I worked with Tata Steel for 7 and a half years, but then that curiosity pulled me back here for a PhD at the School of Medical Science in 2016. I knew almost nothing about the medical field! But the school was very supportive and allowed me to catch up, and soon I was able to apply my unique expertise and become an asset. Q. Nandita and Saptarshi, you’ve been the Biological researchers at the core of this project, before it got fast

tracked into a Covid diagnostic device. How has the journey been? Nandita Kedia: Saptarshi and I have been doctorate students under Professor Mondal since 2017, so Virology is our cup of tea. We have been working on the biological protocol, but the absolute urgency of the situation and the pressure that something that we’ve theoretically proven has to work, and the whole country is depending on work like ours, was a very different situation. Saptarshi Banerjee: Yes, exactly. Along with the urgency, we also had to deal with the new challenge of robust and minimal processes, since we wanted to make a device that did not depend on the sophisticated and usually inaccessible infrastructure we have in our labs. How and whether this protocol will scale to an industrial level has kept us up at night. We have been working with artificially synthesised DNA of about 1 kb (kilo base pairs), but the actual CoV-2 virus has a genome of ~30 kb. Q. While the life of a researcher is something all of you have grown into, how difficult was it to continue this vital research in the middle of a pandemic? Sujay Biswas: For starters, most people left campus for their homes to be with family. We knew we were working on something with huge social importance, so we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave, and stayed on. Nandita Kedia: The biggest problem that caused is that there weren’t many competent researchers left. Since our group is small, Saptarshi and I were the only students working on this project day and night. It was all going fine until...

NANDITA KEDIA AND SAPTARSHI BANERJEE(L-R) Source: IIT KGP Team

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Saptarshi Banerjee: ...The fire! Due to an electrical malfunction, our department caught fire, destroying much of our samples and records. We had to start from scratch, cleaning up and making all of them again. It


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was really challenging. Sujay Biswas: My challenges were a little different... because I am married and had to care for a 15 month old daughter too! (laughs) Spending 4 months in the lab and barely any time at home was tough, like Nandita said. But working with someone like Prof SC is inspiring and you are very motivated to deliver. Nandita Kedia: If I can add on to that, one thing that drove us on throughout was the thought that, even though we understood the virus and other aspects of the pandemic well, unlike doctors or health workers, we could not help directly - and so we HAD to do this, to contribute the best way we could. Q. What was the experience like of working with such an interdisciplinary team, focused on one goal? Sujay Biswas: From my previous experience developing medical diagnostics (glucose, blood tests etc.), I knew how crucial it is to have experts from several fields, and a very good team collaboration - it is very necessary when bringing technology to a previously untouched field. I have been glad to find a very conducive environment for this here in KGP - students from the Electronics Department helped us to develop the app; we had the advice of medical experts helping us; and Prof Aditya Bandopadhyay and his students from the Mechanical Department played an invaluable role in helping build this revolutionary device.

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July-October 2020 The months ahead were arguably the most important for the team - the litmus test for whether their diagnostic device - newly christened ‘COVIRAP’ - could deliver a huge change to Covid-19 testing, in India and worldwide. First, on the medical side. As per ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines, the prototype that was made had to be converted into a field-ready test kit, to be implemented in identified testing centres. The real world is no sanitised laboratory. These clinical trials - first on a smaller scale, then expanded - would really put the team’s work to tas . Whether the robustness and simplicity of the technology holds up against the harsh conditions of the field. Crucially, this was the first time the testing kit would be used on reallife samples from patients. Idiolect is formally explained as ‘speech habits peculiar to a particular person.’ While communicating, they use the understanding of these habits and patterns to derive an appropriate style along with content, which then goes out as a response. While communicating, they use the understanding of these habits and patterns VIVA’s engine understands various aspects of a caller’s idiolect in real-time, including many named factors like age, gender, etc. and latent factors and the standard lexical components needed for regular Spoken Language Understanding (SLU). This understanding, along with the semantics collected from SLU, helps in generating a response.

Testing

THE INITIAL PROTOTYPE OF THE MACHINE DESIGNED IN THE LAB. Source: IIT KGP Team

In a launch event on 21st October 2020, hosted jointly by IIT Kharagpur and the ICMR National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), the lead collaborators Dr Shanta Dutta and Dr Mamta Chawla Sarkar, lifted the curtain on the crucial testing that had happened over the past few months. The

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total number of RNA samples extracted from patients numbered 200. Using the standard RT-PCR test, it was predetermined that out of the 200, there were 115 positive and 85 negative samples. The results were encouraging: The positive percentage agreement (PPA), i.e the percentage of samples that were correctly determined to be positive, was at 94%. This is extremely encouraging, as PPA determines the sensitivity of a test - how sensitive it is to the viral load (CT) in the sample. Low sensitivity implies a higher viral load is needed, which isn’t always ideal in the real world, since there could be many patients with relatively mild infections that pass undetected, which can then rapidly worsen or be transmitted unknowingly to a more vulnerable person. As expected, with a lower CT value of 30 and below (low CT -> high viral load), the PPA rapidly rose to nearly 99%!

Sensitivity at a CT value of 35

Correctly Determined Positive Test Results

Incorrectly Determined Test Results

Meanwhile negative percentage agreement (you guessed it, the percentage of samples correctly identified as negative) was higher at 98%. NPA has a very different implication however - it determines the specificity of a test. This is very different from sensitivity - negative tests have no viral load at all, duh! - since CT value does not play a role here. Instead, NPA gives us an idea of how specifically the test can detect the SARS-CoV 2 virus in particular, as opposed to other viruses. This is important in removing false positives - preventing patients who’ve probably just come down with a bad case of flu, from being branded Covid-positive, hence saving them a world of worry and state

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authorities plenty of resources. Specificity and Sensitivity are the two primary parameters for any diagnostic test.

Specificity

Gave correct COVID negative result Gave COVID positive result for other viruses

The final verdict on the testing phase however, came from Dr Mamta Chawla Sarkar, the internationally acclaimed virologist who oversaw the patient trials on behalf of ICMR-NICED: “A detailed scrutiny of the testing results has clearly shown that this assay holds the capability of detecting extremely low levels of viral loads that any other method based on similar principles of testing, even those from the most celebrated research groups across the world, could not come up with so far. In practice, this means that very early stages of infection can be detected, thereby isolating the patient and arresting the uncontrolled spread of infection in the community via asymptomatic patients.”

THE COVIRAP TEST KIT IN THE FIELD Source: IIT KGP Team


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ICMR Certification After the successful round of testing, the ICMR-NICED finally bestowed their coveted certification to the COVIRAP test kit. Dr Shanta Dutta, the Director of ICMRNICED was effusive in her praise, following the testing and validation phase that she oversaw. “ I was very impressed with the portable low-cost machine unit that can truly be a game-changer for COVID-19 diagnostics at peripheral laboratories with the support of unskilled human resources as operators”, she said. She also pledged the support of ICMRNICED in working with the team to further collaborate to improve the testing method in the future. Barring the efficacy of the test itself, the innovative form factor and robust discussed in in Part part 22 design that we discussed of article, was appreciated too. of the article Since it is extremely user-friendly, the testing could be conducted by minimally trained rural youth, as opposed to clinicians or biologists who are in short supply. To simulate the kind of rural environment the test will need to work in, the team set up an experimental model mimicking a remote location with limited resources. The test kits were transported by road for several hours, and then stored in a normal refrigerator at 4ºC overnight before performing the test the next day; it worked just fine.

The path forward Creating a disruptive product requires seamless operation at scale. And this is where Prof. Chakraborty stresses the importance of the technology they’ve created. “We are in close contact with government agencies like the ICMR - as well as in touch with the biggest pharma and manufacturing companies in India, who have expressed interest after we filed our patent for the device” he said.

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When I ask about whether the team would prefer working with the govt. or with private industry moving forward, he has an interesting answer: “No technology for the benefit of the public can be fully disseminated fairly, in an accessible model, without state involvement. At the same time, no disruptive and efficient business model can be developed without working with industry partners and entrepreneurs”.

The news of the device has created ripples in the month ever since the launch of the prototype itself, on the 25th of July. Worldwide, universities, diagnostic companies and alumni in industry have paid notice. With respect to this Rapid Covid Diagnostic Test, there is everything to play for and a limitless potential for impact. “We see great adoption of this device in the rural areas of India and other developing countries, where just a single device costing Rs.5000 (An RT-PCR machine costs about 15 lakh rupees) would be able to test hundreds of people every day”. When viewed in the context of a single RTWhen viewed in the context of a single RTPCR Covid test costing around Rs. 4500 in cities, it is absolutely phenomenal that a single test by this device would be much less. This is disruption at the highest level. But both Prof Mondal and Prof Chakraborty, have their respective visions that extend beyond our current crisis. Ways of thinking and conducting research that will have an impact much after the last positive Coronavirus case. Arindam Mondal looks at disease testing for viruses, and sees a hopelessly muddled story. If you exhibit symptom A, common to Diseases X, Y and Z, more often than not you are going to have to undergo THREE separate tests, just to confirm which one you have - which may not even be the correct diagnosis! He correctly sees a future where diagnostics are a rapid and efficient tool to Medicine, not the most cumbersome and expensive step in an

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already convoluted process. In line with this, the Molecular Virology team plans to extend this protocol to create a single test kit that can be used to detect and rule out several RNA viruses. For example, a ‘Respiratory Disease Toolkit’ where the swab sample is tested against 2 or 3 probes that do not crossreact - Influenza, Parainfluenza, Rhinovirus, Coronavirus. Something that could be gamechanging and bring the much needed reforms to medicine that medical science has always promised. Professor Suman Chakraborty is looking at an even higher horizon. “Where do new ideas in emerging fields come from? The iPhone with computing and electronics; Medical diagnostics with biologists and engineers; Those ideas are inherently interdisciplinary. The very idea that we have research fixed to specific disciplines, and so-called ‘interdisciplinary’ research is glorified, should be abolished.” All research is interdisciplinary, and it should be! A revolutionary idea, but one that is quickly gaining credence in all top universities in the world. However, he strongly feels that any attempt to enforce ‘interdisciplinary thinking’ forcefully, would just lead to failure. At best, a simulacrum of status quo where students are fed their research topics and careers by buzzwords. “Collaborations like ours, between a mechanical engineering lab and biological science, are so uncommon in India because a stigma still exists. Mechanical Engineers are polarised to think they ‘hate’ biology; Traditional Biologists still shy away from hard maths and engineering. It’s very clear that interdisciplinary thinking needs to percolate to the student level, to inspire them to cook up these ideas themselves.” he explains.

College professors are sometimes dismissed as dinosaurs, out of touch with the generation they teach. Prof SC however, leaves me with an incisive observation:

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“You cannot try to enforce a culture, however good and necessary you think it is. There will always be a natural tendency to overrule it. The change you want to create has to be organic and from the grassroots”.

While we students are all very far from the grand IIT KGP Main Building, the fiery red letters that are emblazoned on its facade are firmly imprinted in our minds: Dedicated to the Service of the Nation. It is in line with these goals that a project like this assumes immense importance as a standard to hold up. There is often a ridiculous notion that research that is geared to creating low-cost and frugal solutions is ‘jugaad’ or MacGyvered into a barely standing, sub-standard result. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the ultimate goal of all Engineering and Science to create high value solutions that are not high cost. Diagnosing Covid by analysing the coronavirus’ genetic material is no big deal - it’s a technique from decades ago. Doing so at Rs. 400 per test? ($5.3) That’s using cutting edge collaboration - conceptualised in a little meeting room months ago, and worked on day and night by researchers, in the middle of a global pandemic - to create a truly disruptive low-cost technology.


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Pyomancer:

Novel Antimicrobial Drugs against MDR Infections Team iGem IIT Roorkee’s gold medal solution to tackling WHO’s topmost priority problem of Antimicrobial Resistance and approaching it from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Written by MOHIT SHARMA Designed by SHALMALI SRIRAM

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he World Health Organization describes Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as the most critical and urgent problem to address today. At the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015, a global action plan was endorsed to tackle antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, the most urgent drug resistance trend. Still, today’s statistics show that about 35–40% of all hospital admissions in India contract hospital-acquired infections due to Multidrug Resistance with no pertinent treatment. The corollary is that the hospital environment is one of the biggest reservoirs of antibioticresistant pathogens. Team iGEM IIT Roorkee believes that in the coming decades when bacterial infections would become untamed due to drug resistance, we are likely to witness a ten-fold increase in death rates and indefinite damage to the global economy in comparison to the pandemonium caused by the current coronavirus pandemic. The situation becomes more acute due to the naïve outlook of people towards the intake of antibiotics. The team felt an imperative need to build alternative solutions to treat bacterial infections and reduce healthcare systems’ dependence on antibiotics. With the theme ‘How to break the Antibiotic Dependence of the healthcare systems and control the damage caused?’, the team presented their solution at the iGEM competition and also won the Gold medal for their exceptional work.

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Team iGEM IIT Roorkee Source: Team iGEM IIT Roorkee

The iGEM Foundation (International Genetically Engineered Machine) is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration. The iGEM Competition gives students the opportunity to push the boundaries of synthetic biology by tackling everyday issues facing the world. I aim to illustrate the technical and intricate workings of their project to you and provide an insight into how to perceive antibiotic

awareness in our daily lives. But before moving forward, let’s ask the question, “ What causes antibiotic resistance?” Antibiotics are nothing new to us. We take them for all purposes. From minor infections to serious health issues caused by bacteria, we depend upon them. They essentially neutralize the bacteria by interrupting cell wall synthesis or interfering with vital processes like protein synthesis. And it does it all while keeping our cells unharmed. But as our dependencies start increasing on them, the bacteria start to become immune to the treatment. Darwin’s theory of natural selection fundamentally tells us that individual bacteria can undergo random mutations giving them an edge in survival. They learn from our antibiotics and engineer an immunity profile in their DNA, and help other bacteria fight against the antibiotics. As we intake more and more antibiotics for our small needs, the bacteria become more resilient towards it and eventually gain resistance to any future treatments. To give you an overview of the resistance levels attained by the present scenario, bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, the primary bacteria causing Pneumonia, has reached its mutation stage and is immune to most treatments. This makes the treatment of an infected person compound and complex. So how do we go about attacking a problem that involves the breakdown of the DNA structure

Pyomancer: Novel Antimicrobial Protein Complexes for MDR Infections Source: Team iGEM IIT Roorkee

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in these bacteria?

Host Specificity

Altered Host Specificity (target specific drug resistent bacteria)

Union of Pyocin & Phage to produce a synthetic altered host specificity Source: Team iGEM IIT Roorkee

The research division at iGEM IIT Roorkee studied the problem extensively and found that the solution lies in a narrow-spectrum treatment for the multidrug-resistant pathogen, Acinetobacter baumannii, by the engineering and combination of natural antibacterial molecules-bacteriophages and pyocins. This results in the creation of a novel antimicrobial protein complex called Seekercins. The team essentially created a bioengineered fusion of naturally occurring antibacterial molecules and synthetic antibiotics to create an advanced host to attack bacteria. The task requires intensive bioinformatics study upon different biomolecules and their behavior to various stimuli. The team used a machine learning approach called DARG, i.e., Detection of Antibiotic-Resistant Genes, to provide faster and more accurate detection of the compatible antibiotic-resistant genes.

Team iGEM IIT Roorkee tells us that they performed multiple sequence alignment of resulting bacteriophage tail fiber sequences. The task required choosing the right bacteriophage and the correct plasmid design to hold them. The team also designed a web-based software tool, called TailScout, for conveniently designing these fusion proteins. he aim was to execute the computational process and the rendering of the Seekercin on a bettercontrolled environment. After successfully

Source: dailymail.co.uk

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Pipeline of the entire computation process Source: Team iGEM IIT Roorkee

identifying the resistant class of genes, the team encapsulated their behavior into a single unit for integrated human trials.

The team tells us that they gained several insights on AMR infections during COVID-19 across India and also understood the patients’ mental and physical trauma to give purpose to the project. They believe that their approach is capable of giving humanity a step ahead of these notorious bacteria. The novel working relationship with natural antibacterial resistors is a cutting edge idea alongside phage therapy and vaccines. But the team also feels that the real solution lies in the habits we follow. And to give their project a significant meaning, they collaborated with National Service Scheme, IIT Roorkee, to host the antimicrobial awareness week at IIT Roorkee. They organized several webinars, quizzes, and published infographic posts to inform people of the threats we face and what we can do to fight antimicrobial resistance.

The Team Leader, Sanjeevani Marcha, says: “We believe that through our concept and protein design, we can focus

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on the priority pathogens and urge the pharmaceutical companies to change the ways antibiotics are conventionally developed. By working together on a biological system with an engineering approach, we could think beyond traditional methods in life sciences and implement creative approaches from an open mindset.” iGEM IIT Roorkee won the Gold medal at the iGEM competition held in November 2020. Through their project Pyomancer, they propagated the message that the time has come for a paradigm shift to narrow-spectrum antimicrobial therapies in the healthcare sector to regulate the damage done by the continuous use of broad-spectrum antibiotics. This new class of Antimicrobial Complexes is our valuable arsenal at fighting the battle against pathogenic bacteria. Scientists are still pursuing better ways of understanding the abstract structure of these bacteria. And we hope for better treatments for bacterial infections in the future. But the immediate long-term treatment lies with us! It lies in our perception of the antibiotics we consume and the awareness we have about them.


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BlueSky Analytics

-Leading the fight against air pollution “Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites� Written by GARGI DAS Designed by RENU SREE PINNINTI

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ur insatiable hunger for exhaustive natural resources has led to the exploitation and hence degradation of nature. The deteriorating condition of our environment has been a source of constant concern for many countries across the world. It is uncomfortable to imagine how the ecosystems would thrive under the extreme conditions of pollution and global warming. The melting of polar ice caps have resulted in increased sea level and more frequent floods and draughts. Studies have shown that deltas and even countries like Bangladesh could submerge under the sea in the course of a few years. Eventually increased average temperature would put to peril the biological processes and Earth would become unfit for habitation just like its sister planets. Thus, spreading awareness and getting a better idea of the climate change in real time is the need of the hour and the best way to do that would be to have a glimpse of the havoc we are causing. Measures like satellite imagery to track carbon footprints and climate change rates can be the best way to keep an estimate and that is why Abhilasha Purwar and her brother Kshitij Purwar set up BlueSky Analytics with an objective to incorporate a fusion of technical knowledge and innovation to find a solution to the climate question and spread awareness.

The Inspiration Behind BlueSky Analytics (BSA) A graduate in applied chemistry from IIT (BHU) Varanasi in 2012, Abhilasha started her career in Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab( J-PAL) on a consulting project on IoT devices-based air pollution monitoring for the Union Ministry of Environment. She rejected two high pay job offers to work on this, being driven by the will to do something for the greater good. She says that she had once come across a river in Chandrapur, Maharashtra and was shocked by the water that had turned orange due to the pollution.

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After completing her masters on Environmental Management in Yale school of Forestry and Environmental Studies on a full scholarship, she shifted to Delhi and along with her brother Kshitij Purwar set on to build a startup with a capital of $10,000 from her own savings, determined to seed a change in the degrading environmental degradation and change the way people perceive it.

The Plan of Action

Source: blueskyhq.in

BSA is a geospatial data intelligence startup that is leading the fight against air pollution, water pollution and environmental degradation by building a stack of environmental indicators. A geospatial intelligence system is one which tracks human activity on Earth by exploiting and analyzing imagery and geospatial information that assesses and visually depicts physical features and geographically referenced activities of the Earth. Presently, BSA is a team of 15 spread across 15 cities and 2 continents. The team consists of experts in data science, finance, design, development and storytelling who share a mutual concern for the environment and are willing to fight for it in high spirit. They exploit the power of Artificial Intelligence and satellites to obtain high resolution, real-time environmental data. Their geospatial data refinery transforms raw data into usable environmental insights, thus enabling us to respond quickly to the changing climatic conditions and increasing environmental pollution. The app maps the country in squares of 1km to monitor pollution levels. The sibling duo decided to do ground level work and therefore cut off carbon emission on fundamental levels.

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The products they developed are:

BreeZo : It was developed to provide the most extensive quality datasets on air pollution and therefore, enable people to respond quickly and spread awareness on air pollution. It uses three million virtual air quality sensors and is aided by historical datasets. Zuri : APIs on forest fires. It is a global farm and forest tracker. It can also estimate the amount of greenhouse emissions from fires. Also provides information on the areas burnt and high risk zones. Next on their target is water quality and pollution. They are building more datasets on water quality across lakes and rivers, flood and drought risks, extreme weather events and industrial carbon emissions. They also have an app for monitoring pollution and emission levels. Thus they aim at solving the bigger problems by tackling it at the grassroot level.

Support and accolades BSA received wide support for its huge potential in this sector and philanthropic nature. They secured seed funding from BEENEXT, Rainmatter and Stanford Angels in July-Sep 2020. It has won prizes from Schmidt Futures & Patrick McGovern Foundation, Copernicus Masters & European Space Agency, MIT Solve & AI Innovation and raised angel funding.

Source: blueskyhq.in


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Source: FreshersLive

“Abhilasha and Kshitij give me hope that together we can solve the air pollution and climate change crisis. I am really impressed by their intelligence, dedication, and ability to get things done” says Ashish Dhawan, the cofounder of Chrysalis Capital.

The Roadblock faced The company did face quite a lot of challenges in their journey. There was skepticism towards their idea and the approach and how much it could actually do to solve the problems. The major roadblock faced by BSA was the lack of funds and investors due to the nature of their product. The fact that they used a deep tech solution for an environmental issue made them depend heavily on philanthropists and angel funding. Abhilasha advises to explore everything, work under different setups and environments, overcome fear of doing something for the first time. It’s about doing the little things, one step at a time and overcoming that fear,” says Abhilasha.

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Flying High with the best Drone Technology: The inspiring tale of UrbanMatrix

A team of undergraduates from IIT Madras have consistently been working on building industry-grade drones and providing aerial solutions that elevate efficiency and profitability for the industries. The race is on to build perfect drones that are easy enough to operate without any formal training.

Written by SAKSHI GUPTA Designed by NIDAMANURI CHANIKYA GUPTA

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team of undergraduates from IIT Madras have consistently been working on building industry-grade drones and providing aerial solutions that elevate efficiency and profitability for the industries. Their creative and innovative designs have won them various competitions and have landed them clients from varied industries, ranging from agriculture to construction houses to governmental agencies and organizations. Started with an idea at CFI, the Student Lab of IIT Madras, Rishabh Verma, an alumnus of IIT Madras built a modular plane in his first year. CFI had given him the freedom and a platform to develop and present an innovative product. E-Cell, the Entrepreneurship Cell of IIT made him wonder how proper implementation of emerging technologies could bring about changes in the dynamics of our daily lives. ‘Modular plane‘, a revolutionary product made by ‚Black Pearl‘ went on to win various competitions further along their journey, including SIH smart India Hackathon, 2018 . The idea was primarily to incorporate modularity in drone planes, thereby, making them more adaptable. This invention would find relevance in the manufacturing, agriculture and aerial surveillance and other sectors, deploying drones for several purposes. Keeping adaptability in mind, a unique prototype of a fixed-wing drone with innovative features like crash resistance design, instant modular swapping, high customizability, completely autonomous operations, among other things was built.

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Nirmaan, a pre-incubator at IIT Madras, helped them in their formative stages. It is the nursery of start-up dreams among students and faculty. Started as an initiative by a few professors of IIT Madras, it helps committed teams validate their ideas, approach to market leading to establishment of a start-up company. It provides for a creative space where ideas mature towards incubation.

Despite a remarkably designed product, Modular Plane was difficult to implement and market. Customers seemed interested, but were not ready to buy. The conclusion to be made from this situation was requirement of thorough market research and consumer adaptability before product development. One needs to understand the problem thoroughly before the ideation stage of the product. The journey did not end here. Rishabh was tenacious enough to make required the required changes and start afresh. And this time, he fought back harder and won IIGP 2.0, 2019 with their product ‘Agricopter’. As national winners, his team secured a funding of INR 1 Million. The drone ‘Agricopter’ was developed to automate pesticides spraying. It was designed to eliminate the need of manual spraying of pesticides in the fields by the farmers. The hexacopter drone can spray pesticides

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10 times faster and claims to provide 100 per cent accuracy with its multispectral imaging camera to make smart maps of farmland based on the health of the crops. IIGP 2.0 was a major turning point for Agricopter. Rishabh interacted and consulted with experts from various domains like business, electronics, aerodynamics, etc., which enabled him to look at a product and its market holistically. Economic feasibility and market understanding were their primal concerns. The product was launched and implemented with foreseeable promising results. A wide range of clients were served including a joint project with the United Nations in Africa. The product was a success, but it required substantial funding for further R&D to develop bigger drones with better durability and battery life. The market was rare and untapped, but was also credit deficient. Primary clients were farmers with subpar incomes. Development of an efficient Agricopter with a scalable economic model did not seem feasible in the near future. Also, the drone sector has been weighed down by regulation. Pesticides spraying on farms using drones is illegal, as clarified by the Govt. of India. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” -Winston Churchill


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Once again, with a creative comeback, Rishabh Verma and Ashutosh Kumar, also an IIT Madras alumnus, established a company ‘UrbanMatrix’ under the mentorship of Prof. Satyanarayanan Seshadri.

At UrbanMatrix, they build Industry-grade Drones and provide aerial solutions that elevate efficiency and profitability for the industries. They provide varied services like land survey, security and crowd management, inspection and asset monitoring and construction. Smaller drones are used, which have been exempted from many of the regulatory procedures by the Indian govt.

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is ingeniously built with sensor stabilization and tracking system, native support for survey-grade cameras, thermal and night vision cameras, accurate terrain-following throughout the flight and a fully autonomous operation with multiple fail-safes. To make planning autonomous missions easy, quick and intuitive, they have built UMT EasyFly, to get live feed and record videos or take photos, which is compatible with all android devices. They have also developed UMT SmartConsole, which enables one to remotely manage and monitor drones, in real-time. One can save all the flight data on the cloud, access past-flights data and get automatic health-reports for drones.

In sum, drone surveying produces quality results quickly, profitably, and safely. Today, UrbanMatrix is working tirelessly to build reliable and versatile drones UMT Versato

It is the unique entrepreneurial mindset that has led Rishabh to be creative, communicative, and highly motivated to succeed, yet open to risk and failure. When asked about what he thinks about drones as an emerging technical sector, he chuckles and replies, “Drones are useful, as in really useful, hence the massive market for the devices. The applications for drones in an industrial setting are vast: industrial monitoring; aerial surveillance; aerial imaging which, linked to AI, offers computer vision; even smart agriculture is flying in on the back of drones. And who wouldn’t want a drone, just for the fun of it? After all, the race is on to build perfect drones that are easy enough to operate without licenses or formal training.”

URBAN MATRIX Source: IIT Madras

SURVEYING BY USING DRONES Source: IIT Madras

Depending on the choice of data sensors and surveying software, drone surveying can produce a variety of deliverables with use cases in many industries. When surveying challenging terrain, drones make it no longer necessary for human operators to physically access and measure points in hazardous or difficult-to-reach locations. Additionally, while traditional surveying methods require meticulous measurement, preparation, and planning, drones can capture comparable data in dramatically shorter timeframes.

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Dioxane:

A Harmful Pollutant and the Search for its Sensor Written by VARUN GANTA & NAREN LOGANATHAN Designed by KEERTI CHARANTIMATH

About the Principal Investigator: Dr. Shanmugaraju Sankarasekaran received his Ph.D.(Inorganic Chemistry) from the Department of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and was awarded the Prof. S. Soundararajan Gold Medal for the Best Ph.D. Thesis in 2014. He received his IRC Postdoctoral Fellowship and Senior Postdoctoral Fellowship from the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland and was honoured with the Best Poster Prize in Catalysis and Sensing for our Environment Symposium during his time there. Dr. Shanmugaraju not so long ago was admitted as a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry(MRSC). He is now an Assistant Professor in Chemistry in IIT Palakkad with numerous publications under his name. Fluorescence and Visual Sensing of Nitroaromatic Explosives Using Electron-rich Discrete Fluorophores is one of them.

Introduction: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a large group of chemicals that are found in many products we use to build and maintain our homes. They are organic compounds that have high vapour pressures at room temperature. High vapour pressure correlates with a low boiling point, which in turn relates to a trait known as volatility. Volatility is a material quality which describes how readily a substance vaporizes. VOCs are used very frequently in manufacturing industries and scientific laboratories. Hence, they’ve become a major environmental pollutant. VOCs in general are not acutely toxic, but are known to have long-term chronic health effects. VOCs contribute to the formation of smog and also react with other air pollutants to produce ground level ozone which can damage crops and other materials. Since VOCs generally have a negative impact on the environment, it has become necessary to identify their presence in our surroundings.

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One particularly notorious VOC is 1,4-dioxane. It has been known to pose a cancer risk to people. It dissolves in water and as a result is very capable of contaminating drinking-water facilities. Dioxane is also a trace contaminant in some cosmetic products such as perfumes, shampoos and toothpastes. It forms as a byproduct during the manufacturing process of certain cosmetic ingredients. To alleviate environmental pollution, the search for a suitable chemosensor for the fast

and selective sensing of hazardous substances and organic pollutants is attracting a lot of attention. Several sophisticated instrumental techniques are currently available for VOC detection and analysis, such as gaschromatography and mass spectrometry. However, the usage of such techniques is limited due to reasons such as their expensive apparatus, lack of portability, timeconsuming detection process, and complicated instrument standardization.

SYNTHESIS OF TB-TZ-COP Source: The Royal Society of Chemistry 2019 Journal

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As of late, fluorescence quenching/ enhancement -based sensing has become an effective and alternative detection method for VOCs due to its simplicity, high sensitivity, easy visualization and comparatively short response time. Fluorescence quenching refers to any process that decreases the fluorescence intensity of a sample, and fluorescence enhancement increases the fluorescence intensity of a sample. A lot of fluorescent sensors have been developed, however, it has been noted that background interference limits their practical use. Hence, there exists a need for developing a different method to detect VOCs. Turn-on fluorescence sensing seems to be alluring because the sensing event can be easily detected, even by the naked eye sometimes. Turn-off fluorescence sensing isn’t quite as fascinating, but the design for such sensing techniques isn’t as challenging as is for turn-on fluorescence sensing. Dr. Shanmugaraju and his team then considered the possibility of a solvatochromic fluorescent being capable of acting as an effective substitute for the sensing of VOCs.

So What’d the Team do? Using amino-1,8-naphthalimide Troger’s base (TBNaps) as the foundation, the team set out on developing an efficient fluorescent sensor to detect and distinguish between VOCs that are structurally and chemically similar to each other. TBNaps are very interesting V-shaped chiral molecules that are strongly coloured and fluorescent due to charge transfer within the molecule. They display significant Stokes shift in different solvents and thus they could be used for the sensing of structurally similar VOCs. Stokes shift is the difference in energy between positions of the absorption and emission spectra of the same electronic transition. A new TBNap functionalized organic compound, TB-TZ-COP was synthesized. It was observed that this particular compound had the potential to act as a fluorescence sensor to discriminate between VOCs of similar structure. After studying quite a few

Source: unsplash

of its physical and chemical characteristics, it was concluded that TB-TZ-COP is, in fact, a superior sensor. After confirming its capabilities, tests were conducted to observe if VOCs could be sensed as well. These tests were done by dispersing TB-TZ-COP in various common solvents and then measuring the fluorescence emission intensity of TBTZ-COP in those solvents. A few solvents that were used in the testing include toluene, acetone, dioxane, and methanol. TB-TZ-COP was found to be highly sensitive and reversible. Notably, the suspension of TB-TZ-COP in dioxane displayed a substantial enhancement in fluorescence intensity when compared to other organic solvents used in the experiments. Of all the VOCs used when testing, the largest emission enhancement was observed for dioxane. The team set out to find the reason why TB-TZ-COP was able to display different emission intensities, even with closely related VOCs. Initially, it was assumed that the varying amounts of energy transferred from different VOCs to the sensor was responsible for these results. However, this did not seem to be completely consistent with the data collected.

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Intermolecular interactions were also known to significantly affect emission intensities (enhancements). Additionally, dioxane was known to have significant interactions with solutes, particularly those with aromatic rings. Armoured with these facts, the team sought to investigate why TB-TZ-COP displayed a high degree of emission intensity for dioxane in particular. Dioxane, apart from being an environmental pollutant, also happens to be an industrially important chemical. It is generally synthesised through condensation of ethylene glycol. This is where TB-TZ-COP may prove to be particularly useful (i.e. in determining how far the condensation reaction has proceeded, and how much dioxane was obtained). The team demonstrated that the emission intensity of TB-TZ-COP in a mixture of glycol and dioxane increased with an increase in the volume percentage of dioxane. Additionally, as the polarity of the solvent decreased (due to the increasing concentration of dioxane, a nonpolar molecule), a decrease in wavelength was observed. The fluorescence was clearly visible to the naked eye.

in the presence of vapours of VOCs is crucial. It was found that a thin film of TB-TZCOP showed noticeable changes in emission intensity (visible to the naked eye) on exposure to saturated vapours of dioxane.

Conclusion: These results show that the TB-TZ-COP polymer has a lot of potential as a fluorescence sensor, being able to distinguish between glycol and dioxane even though they are structurally and chemically similar. TB-TZ-COP was shown to be capable of distinguishing between VOCs in both their liquid and vapour phases. Further research is being done to understand the various properties of such sensors.

One property commonly desired in fluorescence sensors is for them to be reusable in different environmental conditions with the same level of performance. To verify that TB-TZ-COP satisfied this requirement, the team first recorded its emission intensities in glycol and dioxane. They then isolated the polymer using centrifugation, and measured its emission intensities in the same solvents again. Even after repeated cycles, TB-TZCOP continued to reproduce the same results, thereby highlighting its reversibility. Another thing that needs to be taken into account is that VOCs are generally present in the environment in the vapour phase. Hence, testing the capabilities of a fluorescence sensor

COMPARISON OF INTENSITIES/EMISSION INTENSITIES OF VOCS USED IN TESTS Source: The Royal Society of Chemistry 2019 Journal

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Profile for IIT Tech Ambit

IIT Tech Ambit January 2021 Issue  

IIT Tech Ambit January 2021 Issue  

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