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Waste can be turned into an economic opportunity, says an Indian-Australian Scientist Veena Sahajwalla

The two-day event that addressed the need to develop the scrap recycling industry in India saw participation by over 280 delegates from the scrap and steel industry

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E-waste. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi, Sept 11, 2016: An Indian-Australian scientist who has been looking for ways to transform waste into something useful, said here on Saturday that non-metallic waste can be turned into new economic opportunity.

“We can either consider non-metallic waste as an environmental burden or turn it into a brand new economic opportunity,” Veena Sahajwalla, Director at the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said.

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Veena Sahajwalla. Pic from Twitter account.
Veena Sahajwala. Pic from Twitter account.

Sahajwalla, who invented Polymer Injection Technology (PIT) that can be used to recycle end-of-life rubber tyres to replace coal and coke in making a green steel, was speaking at “Scrap Recycling Conference – Emerging Markets”.

The two-day event that addressed the need to develop the scrap recycling industry in India saw participation by over 280 delegates from the scrap and steel industry.

“Green steel could be a potential solution deal with the growing problem of disposal of waste tyres globally,” Sahajwalla added.

The PIT or “green steel” technology introduces a simple modification into the conventional manufacturing process for steel precisely and controls the injection of granulated waste tyres in conventional electric arc furnace (EAF) steel making, partially replacing non-renewable coke.

Waste tyres, like coke, are good sources of hydrocarbons. This means they can be usefully transformed in EAF steel making, as long as the process of injecting them into the furnace is precisely calibrated.

However, though modern tyres are fundamentally rubber products, they are a complex mix of natural and synthetic rubbers, and various structural reinforcing elements such as metals and chemical additives, which makes the recycling process more complicated from the traditional methods.

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This complex nature of wastes has also led to stockpiling, dumping and diversion to landfill, exposing people to environmental and health risks.

“So from the traditional reduce, recycle and reuse one has to move towards reforming. It’s the transformation of waste to higher value products,” Sahajwalla noted.

In addition, the waste stocks are full of materials that contain valuable elements like carbon, hydrogen, silicon and metals that we would otherwise source from virgin raw materials.

The technology may not only help control pollution but also open several avenues for metal and scrap processors in India, Sahajwalla said. (IANS)

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Indian-origin Scientist part of the team that discovered natural Human Antibodies to fight Ebola viruses

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A health worker takes the temperature of people to see whether they might be infected by the Ebola virus inside the Ignace Deen government hospital in Conakry, Guinea, March 18, 2016. VOA

New York, May 23, 2017: In a first, scientists led by one of Indian-origin have discovered natural human antibodies that can neutralise and protect animals against three virulent ebola viruses, an advance that could lead to vaccines against the deadly disease.

The broadly neutralising natural human antibodies were discovered in the blood of a survivor of the 2013-16 ebola outbreak in Western Africa, which caused more than 11,000 deaths and infected over 29,000 people.

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The blood was found to contain remarkable antibodies that block not just one strain of Ebola from infecting animal cells, but all five known strains — Zaire, Bundibugyo, Sudan, Reston and Tai Forest, the researchers said.

Our discovery and characterisation of broadly neutralising human antibodies is an important step toward a single therapy that could treat or prevent infection caused by any known ebolavirus, said Kartik Chandran, professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.

Previously, monoclonal antibodies — which bind to and neutralide specific pathogens and toxins — emerged as one of the most promising treatments for Ebola patients. However, the therapy targetted just one of the specific ebola virus and could not work against the others.

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In the study, published in the journal Cell, the team found that two of the 349 monoclonal antibodies — ADI-15878 and ADI-15742 — from the Ebola survivor, potently neutralised infection by all five known ebolaviruses in tissue culture.

Both the antibodies were able to protect animals (mice and ferrets) that had been exposed to a lethal dose of the three major agents: ebola virus, Bundibugyo virus and Sudan virus.

The study also pinpointed the human genes that are the likely source of the immune cells that produce the two antibodies.

“We’d like to synthesise vaccine immunogens [proteins that trigger antibody production] that can elicit the same types of broadly protective antibodies in people,” Chandran added. (IANS)

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‘Sensory skin’ to help astronauts to know exactly when the outside of their spacecraft has been damaged: NASA

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NASA Headquarter in USA, VOA

Washington, March 26, 2017: Scientists at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are developing a system that acts like a sensory skin to help astronauts to know exactly when the outside of their spacecraft has been damaged.

The “Flexible Damage Detection System” technology may offer a possible solution to NASA’s problem of figuring out in real-time where a spacecraft is damaged and how seriously.

“I kind of look at it like a sensory skin,” said Martha Williams, the scientist leading the development team.

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“It’s a sensory system that tells us where we are damaged and the level of intensity,” Williams said in a statement.

Micrometeoroids and orbital debris pose threats to spacecraft as they move at speeds of 17,500 mph or 28,000 km per hour in low-Earth orbit, and at over 24,000 mph or 38,400 kmph on trips to the Moon and deep space.

As space shuttle windows revealed, something as small as a paint chip moving at that velocity can punch through several layers of glass.

If something pierces a spacecraft’s hull — or the first layer or two — there are very limited ways for astronauts aboard a spacecraft to know there might be damage.

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An impact that goes all the way through and causes a leak would set off alarms, but otherwise the current methods to detect damage require either a camera inspection or a spacewalking astronaut.

Nor is there a precise way to pinpoint exactly in real-time where the damage occurred if not visible to the eye or camera so that astronauts can assess it.

The new invention uses a series of several technologies to create circuits printed on thin layers and that can be embedded in a spacecraft’s structure, scientists behind the invention said.

The researchers believe that if successfully incorporated, the innovation could also be applied to a host of satellites and aircraft. (IANS)

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Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University Discover Malaria Achilles Heel

The experiments include seeing how well each of the 12 compounds works, for how long, and whether resistance develops with any of the promising agents

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Infected mosquito. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

September 10, 2016: Scientists appear to have discovered malaria Achilles heel, a weakness common to the multiple stages of malaria infection. In doing so, they have found a compound that cured mice of the disease.

Once it’s entered the body through the bite of an infected mosquito, the malaria parasite, P. falciparum, behaves as a unique organism as it goes through three phases during its life cycle. Experts say most treatments are aimed at only one stage or another. Over time, the parasite can become resistant to therapy, sometimes as quickly as within one year.

But researchers at the Broad Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have identified a single protein target that appears to be the disease’s weakness, according to senior researcher Stuart Schreiber, a founding member of the biomedical institution.

Malaria Infection. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Malaria Infection.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Malaria protein

“We did discover a novel protein that’s made by the parasite, that’s needed for all three phases of its life cycle, and a series of novel compounds that potently inhibit this protein,” he said. “And we could show in an infected animal that we could kill the parasite in all three phases.”

Schreiber and colleagues published their findings in the journal Nature.

After discovering the protein, researchers screened a unique library of 100,000 small molecules, from which they synthesized about a dozen compounds that they tested in infected mice. The molecules appear to stop the production of this protein in all of malaria’s life stages, effectively killing the disease.

The mice were disease-free for a month, a length of time considered to be a cure. When they tried to infect other mice with the blood of the treated rodents, the animals did not become infected with malaria.

The compound that scientists tested was a one-time oral treatment. Schreiber was quick to caution that what works in a mouse is not necessarily effective in humans. But he is hopeful.

“I am the eternal optimist,” he said. “On the other hand, I do know that what’s ahead is extremely challenging and full of unknowns that can only be addressed by marching forward and running the key experiments.”

The experiments include seeing how well each of the 12 compounds works, for how long, and whether resistance develops with any of the promising agents.

In theory, Schreiber said a drug that works in all three stages of malaria could be taken at any point in the disease cycle, as a treatment and even as a way to prevent the disease.

The researchers note that individuals can remain infectious even while undergoing treatment. So their infection can be spread to someone else through a mosquito bite.

Information about the anti-malaria compounds is being made freely available to other researchers through an online database. The library contains compounds designed and housed at the Broad Institute that are not usually found in the arsenals of pharmaceutical companies.

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Malaria infects over 200 million people each year. Once it has infected a human host, the malaria parasite evolves through a number of unique stages, from initial blood infection to liver infiltration where the parasite matures and reenters the blood stream.

The parasite then goes on to infect and destroy red blood cells, releasing thousands of daughter parasites that invade other blood cells, continuing the cycle of reproduction and infection.

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It is during this later blood stage when symptoms of malaria occur, including very high fever, overwhelming sweating, debilitating nausea and diarrhea. Over half a million people do not survive, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa.

The research by Schreiber and colleagues was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A Japanese drug company, Eisai, has shown an interest in helping to further develop the experimental malaria treatment. (IANS)