Indian Science and Technology Developments : Updates and Discussions


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Over the years our R&D budget and efforts have increased in multiple domains. For some time I've noticed some very notable developments occurring across many areas that are very important from our point of view and yet not adequately talked about. So let's use this thread to post about general S & T developments in the country. I'll start :

Why this new variety of India’s iconic basmati rice is certain to boost exports

A new basmati variety, called Pusa 1718—which is an improved version of the iconic Pusa 1121—is set to sustain India’s aromatic and long-grained rice exports through higher yield and the ability to fight bacterial blight disease

By Sandip Das
Published: June 29, 2019 12:47:12 AM

Illustration: Rohnit Phore

Last few weeks have been quite busy for Preetam Singh, who lives in the Uraland Khurd village, part of Panipat district, Haryana, as farmers like him from nearby villages make a beeline for buying paddy seed of a new basmati rice variety, called Pusa basmati 1718 (PB1718) developed by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI). Singh owns 32 acres of agricultural land—he has also taken 100 acres of land on lease for farming—and he is mostly engaged in producing seeds for basmati rice variety.

This new basmati variety, which draws its parentage from the widely-grown Pusa 1121 (PB1121), has been endowed with two extra genes to fight the bacterial leaf blight disease, thus preventing lodging, besides increasing the yield. “Farmers who had sown this new basmati variety (PB1718) in the kharif season (2018) say that it did not flatten during rain and hailstorm owing to its comparatively shorter length,” farmer Singh said.

Notified in 2017 by the agriculture ministry, PB1718 is gradually being accepted by farmers across Haryana and Punjab—the key aromatic and long-grain rice-producing region of the country. “The new paddy variety is characterised by its ability to fight bacterial blight, it prevents lodging and also increases the yield,” AK Singh, head, Department of Genetics, IARI, said. Farmers who have grown this new variety in the previous kharif season (2018) claim that the yield has increased to around 25 quintals per acre, as against around 18 quintals achieved for the widely-grown PB1121 (also developed by IARI).

Singh added that while traditional varieties of basmati had a yield of around nine quintals per acre, the short-duration variety Pusa 1509 (PB1509, developed by IARI) gives a yield of around 20 quintals per acre. According to official estimates, PB1121 was grown in around 10 lakh hectares of land, of the total basmati acreage of around 15 lakh hectares in the key growing states last year. The short-duration variety PB1509 was grown in around 3 lakh hectares and the new PB1718 in around 1 lakh hectares. The traditional variety of basmati was grown in less than 1 lakh hectares during last year’s kharif season.

Ritesh Sharma, principal scientist, Basmati Export Development Foundation (BEDF)—an affiliate body of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)—said there were no effective pesticides available to deal with the bacterial leaf blight disease in PB1121 variety, which has a major share in India’s exports of aromatic and long-grained rice. “We have been dependent on one variety of basmati rice (PB1121) for many years for sustaining our exports. With PB1718, we have an alternate variety in case of exigency,” Sharma said.

Another unique characteristic of the new basmati variety is that there is less grain-loss or lodging while harvesting at maturity, as compared to PB1121, which results in higher yield for farmers. “A new variety also takes 5-6 years to get the desired results; PB1718 has been introduced at the right time, and in the next couple of years is going to be widely cultivated by farmers,” Sharma added.

More than a decade after the introduction of PB1121, which gave a boost to India’s basmati rice exports, PB1718 is expected to help the country dominate the global trade in aromatic and long-grain rice market in the coming years. Commerce ministry officials said that the new variety could not have come at a better time, because due to the bacterial leaf blight disease in PB1121, the yield has been adversely impacted and farmers are increasingly using pesticides to curb pests.

PB1121, a landmark rice variety having basmati-quality traits drawn from traditional varieties, was formally released for commercial cultivation in 2003. Singh of IARI said the new variety possesses extra-long and slender milled grains, aroma, and high-cooked kernel and taste. Owing to its exceptional quality characteristics, it has set new standards in the basmati global rice market. According to commerce ministry officials, the cumulative foreign exchange earnings from PB1121 since 2008 have been around $21 billion. This has given a boost to incomes of basmati growers. India has around 85% share in the global basmati rice trade, while Pakistan has a share of 15%.

India had achieved record basmati rice shipment, both in terms of value as well as volume, in the last financial year. According to APEDA data, India exported basmati rice worth `32,806 crore in 2018-19, which is 22% higher than the `26,870 crore achieved during 2017-18. Volume-wise also, India shipped 4.88 million tonnes of aromatic long-grained rice, which is a record in itself. Today, India exports basmati mostly to countries including Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK, besides several other countries. “PB1718 would definitely help sustain India’s dominant position in the global basmati rice trade,” a commerce ministry official added.

Meanwhile, exporters of India’s aromatic and long-grained basmati rice and officials from the commerce ministry have been deliberating on the complexities arising from the stringent import norms imposed by the European Union (EU), which sharply slashed the level of a commonly-used fungicide, Tricyclazole, in the rice that the EU imports. Tricyclazole is a fungicide used in India to protect the paddy crop from a disease called ‘blast’, and the EU had cut the maximum residue limit for Tricyclazole from 1 PPM to 0.01 PPM from December 31, 2017, onwards. This has put basmati rice exporters in a tough position.

“Two to three crop cycles are required to effect the desired change. Moreover, there is no scientific evidence that the concerned chemical is harmful to human health,” Vijay Setia, president, All India Rice Exporters’ Association (AIREA), said. The EU and the US are high-value markets for basmati rice exporters, even though a major chunk of aromatic and long-grained rice is shipped to Gulf countries.

Official data says that there are 16 lakh farmers, mostly in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and a few pockets of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, engaged in basmati rice cultivation. During the previous kharif season (2018), to curb the use of fungicides, AIREA, in association with APEDA, conducted campaigns among basmati rice growers in many districts of Punjab.

The author is a senior consultant with ICRIER. Views are personal.

Why this new variety of India’s iconic basmati rice is certain to boost exports


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Indian scientists develop more potent Anthrax vaccine

By Aditi Jain
New Delhi | Published on June 17, 2019

Anthrax is a deadly human disease caused by bacterium Bacillus anthracis that also infects animals like horses, sheep, cattle and goats.

A group of Indian scientists have developed a new vaccine against anthrax. It is claimed to be superior over existing vaccines as it can generate immune response to anthrax toxin as well as its spores rather than the toxin alone.

Anthrax is a deadly human disease caused by bacterium Bacillus anthracis that also infects animals like horses, sheep, cattle and goats. Humans, pigs and dogs are comparatively less susceptible and only get infected if exposed to copious amount of spores. In 2001, these spores were used as agents of bio-terrorism when letters containing anthrax spores were sent to some people in America, leading to widespread panic.

Spores of the bacterium that causes anthrax are present in soil and can stay in latent form for years. However, under favourable environmental conditions, they become active and start to infect. Often, animals pick up spores while grazing, following which spores germinate in their body and produce toxins.

The anti-anthrax vaccines available in market generate immune response against a Bacillus protein-protective antigen – a protein that helps in transport of bacillus toxins inside the cells. This means that immune response is triggered only when spores germinate in body and start producing bacterial proteins. Anyone vaccinated with such a vaccine would show no immune response to bacillus spores and only perform once spores germinate and release toxins.

Studies have, however, shown that when inactivated spores are injected in addition to vaccine, the protection towards bacillus is enhanced. Researchers from the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Mysore and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) decided to develop a single vaccine which is effective against both the toxin and its spores so as to provide complete protection.

For this, they stitched together portions of two genes: protective antigen protein and protein present in outer layer of spore. The protein thus produced was fusion of the two proteins and was injected into mice. After few days, scientists found that injected mice had high concentration of antibodies against fused proteins in its blood, showing immune response against the injected protein. It was found that these antibodies were also able to individually bind both protective antigen and spore protein demonstrating that the vaccine can produce immune response against both spores and the toxin.

“The ability of fused protein to generate protective immune responses against both spores and toxin suggests it as an efficient vaccine candidate against B. anthracis infection,” explained Joseph Kingston, a scientist at DRDL, while speaking to India Science Wire.

While antibiotics are also available, vaccines for anthrax are necessary as the infection can cause death within 2-3 days leaving no scope for diagnosis and treatment.

While discussing the future directions, Rakesh Bhatnagar, co-author of the study and a professor at JNU, said, “We intend to study protective efficacy of this vaccine against Bacillus spores and toxins in higher animal models.”

The research team also included Saugata Majumder, Shreya Das, Shivakiran S. Makam from DRDL and Vikas Kumar Somani from JNU. The research results have been published in journal Frontiers in Immunology.

Twitter handle: @AditiJain1987

(India Science Wire)

Indian scientists develop more potent Anthrax vaccine


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
A "magic moment"

Cryostat 60% complete


The cryostat is a vacuum-tight container that will completely surround the machine and provide an ultra-cool vacuum environment for the vacuum vessel and superconducting magnets. Welding operations are underway now on the cryostat base and lower cylinder, two of the four large sections that will be assembled and welded on site.


The assembly frames measure approximately 31 metres in width—two metres more than the cryostat sections themselves. These frames will act as support platforms while the segments are aligned and welded, and will be transported by special vehicles when the time comes to move the completed components out of the workshop.

On-site fabrication: Cryostat

In a 5,000-square-metre workshop on site, the Indian Domestic Agency is assembling the cryostat—a huge vacuum containment vessel that is also the single largest component of the ITER machine.

Completely surrounding the vacuum vessel and superconducting magnets, the 29 x 29 metre cryostat has two important roles to play—providing a vacuum environment to critical "cold" components (the magnets operating at 4.5 K and thermal shield operating at 80 K), and contributing structural reinforcement by supporting the mass of the machine and transferring horizontal and rotational forces to the radial walls.

The cryostat is a fully welded single wall stainless steel structure with a flat bottom, a rounded lid and wall thicknesses that range from 25 to 200 millimetres. A number of large openings provide access to vacuum vessel ports at three levels; others allow access for coolant pipework, cryo and current feedlines, and remote handling. Advanced welding techniques such as automated, all-position narrow groove gas tungsten arc welding have been specially developed for the fabrication of this challenging component.

Manufacturing will take place in three stages: the fabrication of 54 segments in India; their subsequent assembly at ITER into four large sections (base, lower cylinder, upper cylinder, top lid); and the final assembly and welding of the large sections in the Tokamak Pit.

The first on-site welding activities began in September 2016 on the cryostat base. In 2019, the project will celebrate two milestones: the completion of the lower cylinder in March and the completion of the base in July.

The assembly process

Cryostat segments fabricated in India are shipped according to need dates to the ITER site and stored in the Cryostat Workshop.

Beginning with the cryostat base—the first cryostat section needed in the Tokamak assembly sequence—and ending with the cryostat lid, the sections are assembled and welded on large assembly frames. These frames act both as support platforms during the welding activities and as support fixtures that interface with the transport vehicles when the time comes to move the completed components out of the workshop.

Using optical metrology techniques and strict dimensional control, operators carefully align the segments to be welded on the assembly frames. A small team of highly specialized technicians—working singly or in teams (one above, one below)—fill the gaps between each segment with weld material. Given the importance of high vacuum in the cryostat, each weld is verified through a variety of leak detection techniques.

In helium leak detection, one-metre sections of the weld to be verified are "enclosed" within leak-tight boxes positioned on opposite surfaces. Helium injected on one side of the weld can be detected—if it has filtered through a crack—by a mass spectrometer on the other side, thereby signalling a leak that must be repaired by grinding out the faulty weld and replacing it.

Three other quality assurance techniques will be used: radiographic and ultrasonic testing to detect the presence of flaws that could challenge the structural integrity of the welds, and liquid penetrant testing (LPT) for surface checks.

In total, the Indian Domestic Agency estimates that one kilometre of full penetration weld joints will have to be carried out to exacting standards for the sub-assemblies in the site workshop, followed by several hundred metres of weld joints to assemble the cryostat sections in the Tokamak Pit.

Since September 2016, on-site welding operations have been advancing on the cryostat base—a 1,250-tonne component formed from a tier 1 "disk" and a tier 2 vertical ring and pedestal. Tier 1 welding activities—with weld thicknesses ranging from 25 to 65 mm—and non-destructive weld examination and verification have ended, and work is underway on tier 2.

On an adjacent assembly platform, work has also been underway since 2017 on the 490-tonne lower cylinder. When all activities on the lower cylinder conclude, it will be moved from the Cryostat Workshop to a protected location on the platform to make room for the upper cylinder segments that will be arriving from India.

Cryostat Assembly Facts :

  • Number of segments fabricated in India: 54
  • Sections assembled on site: cryostat base, lower cylinder, upper cylinder, top lid
  • Length of weld joints for in-workshop assembly (four sections): ~ 1,015 m
  • Length of weld joints for in-pit assembly: ~ 390 m
  • Diameter of sections: 30 metres (approximate)
  • Weight of each section: base: 1,250 tonnes; lower cylinder: 490 tonnes; upper cylinder: 430 tonnes; lid: 665 tonnes
  • Start of welding activities: 2016
  • Cryostat base completed: 2018
  • Cryostat base installed in pit: beginning Q1 2020
  • Procurement responsibility: India
  • Contractors: Larsen & Toubro Heavy Engineering Division, India (manufacturing design, fabrication and assembly); MAN Diesel & Turbo, Germany (Larsen & Toubro sub-contractor for on-site welding); SPIE Batignolles TPCI, France (Larsen & Toubro sub-contractor for the realization of the Cryostat Workshop)

When a seafaring vessel is launched, naval tradition requires that a bottle be broken on its hull to invite good luck. Although the ITER cryostat will never take to the sea, it is indeed a vessel—and a most spectacular one at that.

ITER Cryostat Group Leader Anil Bhardwaj gives a tour of the recently finalized base section. The 1,250-tonne cryostat base will be the first machine component to be lowered into the assembly pit in March 2020.

In the Cryostat Workshop, where the India-procured component is assembled and welded, ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot, India's Ambassador to France Vinay Mohan Kwatra, and the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, Anil Kakodkar, symbolically smashed a bottle of French champagne on a large chunk of steel representing the ITER cryostat.

The ceremony marked an important milestone in the fabrication of this strategic component: two sections—the base and lower cylinder—are now completed and fully accepted by the ITER Organization, the upper cylinder is being assembled and aligned prior to welding, and half a world away, in the manufacturer's facility, the last segment of the "top lid" is being finalized.

The ITER cryostat is essential to the ITER machine, providing structural support and also acting as a thermos to insulate the Tokamak's magnetic system, at cryogenic temperature, from the warmth of the outside environment.

It is the largest vacuum vessel ever built—30 metres high, 30 metres in diameter, for a pump volume of 8,500 cubic metres. It is also a highly complex structure which must remain absolutely leak tight despite hundreds of "penetrations" that give passage to thousands of feedthroughs and lines for cryogenics, water, electrical power, diagnostics systems, and more.

In his address to the assembled guests, ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot retraced the "formidable technological, industrial and human venture" that the manufacturing of such a unique object represents. "Designing, manufacturing, delivering, assembling and welding this one-of-a kind component has proved a huge challenge for everyone involved."

And everyone involved was there, either in person or through video conference from India: the ITER cryostat team; representatives of ITER India, which is responsible for the procurement of the cryostat; industrial giant Larsen & Toubro Ltd, in charge of forging and machining the elements of the cryostat at its Hazira facility and assembling them on site; and finally the German company MAN Energy Solutions, subcontractor to Larsen & Toubro for on-site welding.

The naval tradition of smashing a bottle of champagne on the hull of a seafaring vessel exceptionally (and temporarily) replaced the Indian ''coconut breaking'' ceremony that the Cryostat Workshop has often witnessed.

The fabrication of the ITER cryostat, said Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Indian Ambassador to France, represents "a major achievement for Indian manufacturing—whose capabilities are not always acknowledged as they should be." The Ambassador also stressed the unique nature of ITER, a project that is "not for the benefit of one partner or one country, but for the whole of humankind."

For Ujjwal Baruah, who recently succeeded Shishir Deshpande as Head of ITER India, the ceremony was "a magic moment," the culmination of a "long march" which began in 2012 with the signature of the Cryostat Procurement Arrangement with the ITER Organization.

"Through the innumerable challenges we have faced in the manufacturing of the ITER cryostat, we have learned and grown at every step," said Larsen & Toubro Heavy Engineering Joint General Manager Praveen Bhatt, speaking on behalf of the company's Senior Vice-President Y. S. Trivedi.

This "learning process" was also stressed by Rolf Bank, MAN Energy Solutions Head of Site for Deggendorf. The assembly and welding of the cryostat, he said, has made his company take "big steps forward in a whole new area of expertise."

In his opening address, ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot had resituated the fabrication of the cryostat in the broader picture of the ITER Project, which he characterized as "men and women working to the best of their ability in different parts of the world to achieve an utterly ambitious and difficult task—one that is essential for the future of our civilization."

Anil Kakodkar's keynote speech developed along the same lines. For the "father" of the Indian nuclear program, ITER "is our hope for the energy freedom of the world at large and for the development of the large part of humanity that is still undeveloped." The massive international effort that ITER represents is also "the new paradigm that humanity is desperately looking for."

One of the most respected scientific and moral figures in his country, the former chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission and former Secretary to the Indian Government hailed "the stupendous task in which you are engaged." But as he touched on climate change, he also warned: "Fusion must be available before the world reaches the cliff's edge."

Watch a video of the event here :


The best view in the house
Between the upper cylinder (under construction, background) and the base, there was just enough room to hold a small ceremony in the Cryostat Workshop. In the background, some of the welders from the MAN Energy Solutions (contractor to Larsen & Toubro) watches from high up in the scaffolding.


Lots to celebrate
The ITER Director-General is pictured with Praveen Bhatt, Joint General Manager for Larsen & Toubro; India's Ambassador to France, His Excellency Vinay Mohan Kwatra; and ITER's Prabhat Kumar, Deputy to the Site Construction Director.


The hands-on team from Larsen & Toubro
Over its 80 years of existence, Larsen & Toubro Ltd. has built solar and nuclear plants, ports and airports, supertankers and submarines and played a key role is putting into Mars orbit the Mangalyaan space probe. Still, there are challenges in the fabrication of the ITER cryostat that the company had never faced. This young team is at the centre of the cryostat project, including Project Manager Patel Chiarg (third from left).


The stakeholders
The stakeholders in cryostat manufacturing. From left to right: Larsen & Toubro Heavy Engineering representatives Mukesh Ahlavadi and Praveen Bhatt; MAN Energy Solution's Rolf Bank; Head of ITER India Ujjwal Baruah; and ITER Cryostat Group Leader Anil Bhardwaj. Larsen & Toubro Ltd offered a small 2D reproduction of the ITER cryostat to the guests.


Keynote address
The keynote address was given by invited guest Anil Kakodkar, nuclear physicist and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India. "ITER is our hope for the energy freedom of the world at large, for the development of a large part of humanity that is presently underdeveloped. ITER is the way to the new paradigm that the world is desperately looking for."


MAN Energy Solutions: happy to contribute to ITER
Rolf Bank, the Head of MAN Energy Solutions in Deggendorf, Germany, told the audience how his company was "happy to be part of the great ITER family," and to use its expertise in complex stainless steel structures and innovative welding technology to benefit the cryostat program.


Celebrating a formidable technological, industrial and human venture
The ITER cryostat is India's largest single procurement contribution to the ITER Project. Not surprising that for the ceremony marking the completion of the first two large sections many dignitaries travelled to ITER, including Indian nuclear physicist and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, Anil Kakodkar (seen giving the closing address in this photo); India's Ambassador to France, His Excellency Vinay Mohan Kwatra; Praveen Bhatt, Joint General Manager of Larsen & Toubro; and Ujjwal Baruah, Project Director of ITER India. Others had joined by video conference.


Pointing out the area where the cryostat base will interface with other structures such as the magnet coils or the walls. The ITER cryostat is the largest stainless steel high-vacuum chamber ever built (16,000 m³), and will provide the high vacuum, ultra-cool environment for the vacuum vessel and the superconducting magnets.

More : The assembly process


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
IIT Madras Developing New Techniques For Methane Extraction

The research is being funded by IITM and Department of Science and Technology (DST).

By Indo-Asian News Service | Updated: June 18, 2019 16:01 IST

IIT Madras Developing New Techniques For Methane Extraction

Chennai: The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) on Tuesday said its researchers are developing new techniques for extracting methane from natural gas hydrates. In a statement issued here, IIT-M said promising results from their research have been published recently in leading international journals such as Energy and Fuels and Applied Energy.

According to IIT-M, there has been worldwide interest in the development of techniques to extract methane gas trapped in ice-like crystalline cages called 'gas hydrates', which are present in shallow sediments along continental coastlines.

"Hydrates are particularly promising methane sources in India because nearly 1,900 trillion cubic meters of methane gas lie untapped in these cages within the waters of the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone," IIT-M said.

According to the institute, this methane is 1,500 times more than the country's current gas reserves. The Ministry of Earth Sciences reports that
Krishna-Godavari and Andaman basins have large amounts of gas hydrates.

The IIT Madras research towards developing techniques to extract methane from gas hydrates can enable indigenous supply of natural gas and potentially lighten the nation's natural gas import burden, the statement said.

The research is being headed by IIT-M Department of Ocean Engineering Professor (Petroleum Engineering) Jitendra Sangwai who studies state-of-the-art processes used to recover crude oil from offshore reservoirs in India. The other members of the research team are Pawan Gupta and Vishnu C.

The research is being funded by IIT-M and Department of Science and Technology (DST).

"Research is underway around the world to develop methods to extract methane from gas hydrates from both clayey and sand-dominated reservoirs. The Krishna-Godavari basin is a clayey reservoir while the off-shore Indian peninsular ones are a mix of both clayey and sandy.

"As gas hydrates are comparatively immobile and impermeable, they need to be dissociated into their constituent gas and water before the methane recovery from hydrate reservoirs is possible," Mr Sangwai was quoted as saying in the statement.

Four techniques are being studied in various laboratories for this dissociation - thermal stimulation, depressurisation, chemical injection and carbon dioxide injection.

Mr Sangwai's team analyses the combined effects thermal stimulation and depressurisation in one branch of study, and polymer injection in another.

In their study on thermal stimulation and depressurization, the IIT-M research team reported that the combination of the two processes is more efficient for methane production from clayey hydrate reservoirs than either soil types, individually.

This has been attributed to the relatively faster increase in volume available for the gas to expand upon application of heat, which results in faster decrease in pressure of the hydrate reservoir.

For the de-pressurisation process alone, the researchers also found that multi-step de-pressurisation is more efficient than the single-step de-pressurisation.

De-pressurisation is the most energy-efficient production approach for extracting gases from clayey hydrates and is possibly the most likely technology to mature in the near future, the statement said.

IIT Madras Developing New Techniques For Methane Extraction


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Audacious and unprecedented. I love it.:love:

The plan to mine the world’s research papers

A giant data store quietly being built in India could free vast swathes of science for computer analysis — but is it legal?

By Priyanka Pulla
17 July 2019


Carl Malamud in front of the data store of 73 million articles that he plans to let scientists text mine. Credit: Smita Sharma for Nature

Carl Malamud is on a crusade to liberate information locked up behind paywalls — and his campaigns have scored many victories. He has spent decades publishing copyrighted legal documents, from building codes to court records, and then arguing that such texts represent public-domain law that ought to be available to any citizen online. Sometimes, he has won those arguments in court. Now, the 60-year-old American technologist is turning his sights on a new objective: freeing paywalled scientific literature. And he thinks he has a legal way to do it.

Over the past year, Malamud has — without asking publishers — teamed up with Indian researchers to build a gigantic store of text and images extracted from 73 million journal articles dating from 1847 up to the present day. The cache, which is still being created, will be kept on a 576-terabyte storage facility at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. “This is not every journal article ever written, but it’s a lot,” Malamud says. It’s comparable to the size of the core collection in the Web of Science database, for instance. Malamud and his JNU collaborator, bio-informatician Andrew Lynn, call their facility the JNU data depot.

No one will be allowed to read or download work from the repository, because that would breach publishers’ copyright. Instead, Malamud envisages, researchers could crawl over its text and data with computer software, scanning through the world’s scientific literature to pull out insights without actually reading the text.

The unprecedented project is generating much excitement because it could, for the first time, open up vast swathes of the paywalled literature for easy computerized analysis. Dozens of research groups already mine papers to build databases of genes and chemicals, map associations between proteins and diseases, and generate useful scientific hypotheses. But publishers control — and often limit — the speed and scope of such projects, which typically confine themselves to abstracts, not full text. Researchers in India, the United States and the United Kingdom are already making plans to use the JNU store instead. Malamud and Lynn have held workshops at Indian government laboratories and universities to explain the idea. “We bring in professors and explain what we are doing. They get all excited and they say, ‘Oh gosh, this is wonderful’,” says Malamud.

But the depot’s legal status isn’t yet clear. Malamud, who contacted several intellectual-property (IP) lawyers before starting work on the depot, hopes to avoid a lawsuit. “Our position is that what we are doing is perfectly legal,” he says. For the moment, he is proceeding with caution: the JNU data depot is air-gapped, meaning that no one can access it from the Internet. Users have to physically visit the facility, and only researchers who want to mine for non-commercial purposes are currently allowed in. Malamud says his team does plan to allow remote access in the future. “The hope is to do this slowly and deliberately. We are not throwing this open right away,” he says.

The power of data mining

The JNU data store could sweep aside barriers that still deter scientists from using software to analyse research, says Max Häussler, a bioinformatics researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). “Text mining of academic papers is close to impossible right now,” he says — even for someone like him who already has institutional access to paywalled articles.

Since 2009, Häussler and his colleagues have been building the online UCSC Genome Browser, which links DNA sequences in the human genome to parts of research papers that mention the same sequences. To do that, the researchers have contacted more than 40 publishers to ask permission to use software to rifle through research to find mentions of DNA. But 15 publishers have not responded or have denied permission. Häussler is unsure whether he can legally mine papers without permission, so he isn’t trying. In the past, he has found his access blocked by publishers who have spotted his software crawling over their sites. “I spend 90% of my time just contacting publishers or writing software to download papers,” says Häussler.

Chris Hartgerink, a statistician who works part-time at Berlin’s QUEST Center for Transforming Biomedical Research, says he now restricts himself to text-mining work from open-access publishers only, because “the hassles of dealing with these closed publishers are too much”. A few years ago, when Hartgerink was pursuing his PhD in the Netherlands, three publishers blocked his access to their journals after he tried to download articles in bulk for mining.

Some countries have changed their laws to affirm that researchers on non-commercial projects don’t need a copyright-holder’s permission to mine whatever they can legally access. The United Kingdom passed such a law in 2014, and the European Union voted through a similar provision this year. That doesn’t help academics in poor nations who don’t have legal access to papers. And even in the United Kingdom, publishers can legally place ‘reasonable’ restrictions on the process, such as channelling scientists through publisher-specific interfaces and limiting the speed of electronic searching or bulk downloading to protect servers from overload. Such limits are a big problem, says John McNaught, deputy director of the National Centre for Text Mining at the University of Manchester, UK. “A limit of, say, one article every five seconds, which sounds fast for a human, is painfully slow for a machine. It would take a year to download around six million articles, and five years to download all published articles concerning just biomedicine,” he says.

Wealthy pharmaceutical firms often pay extra to negotiate special text-mining access because their work has a commercial purpose, says McNaught. In some cases, publishers allow these firms to download papers in bulk, thus avoiding rate limits, according to a researcher at a pharmaceutical firm who did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the media. University academics, however, frequently restrict themselves to mining article abstracts from databases such as PubMed. That provides some information, but full texts are much more useful. In 2018, a team led by computational biologist Søren Brunak at the Technical University of Denmark in Lyngby showed that full-text searches throw up many more gene–disease links than do searches of abstracts (D. Westergaard et al. PLoS Comput. Biol. 14, e1005962; 2018).

Carl Malamud and Andrew Lynn oversee the project at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi to extract text and images from 73 million research papers.Credit: Smita Sharma for Nature

Scientists must also overcome technical barriers when mining articles. It is hard to extract text from the various layouts that publishers use — something that the JNU team is struggling with right now. Tools to convert PDFs to plain text don’t always distinguish clearly between paragraphs, footnotes and images, for instance. Once the JNU team has done it, however, others will be saved the effort. The team is close to completing the first round of extraction from the corpus of 73 million papers, Malamud says — although they will need to check for errors, so he expects the database won’t be ready until the end of the year.

A world of possibilities

Early enthusiasts are already gearing up to use the JNU depot. One is Gitanjali Yadav, a computational biologist at Delhi’s National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) and a lecturer at the University of Cambridge, UK. In 2006, Yadav led an effort at NIPGR to build a database of chemicals secreted by plants. Called EssOilDB, this database is today scoured by groups from drug developers to perfumeries looking for leads. Yadav thinks that “Carl’s compendium”, as she calls it, could give her database a leg-up.

To make EssOilDB, Yadav’s team had to trawl PubMed and Google Scholar for relevant papers, extract data from full texts where they could, and manually visit libraries to copy out tables from rare journals for the rest. The depot could fast-forward this work, says Yadav, whose team is currently writing the queries they will use to extract the data.

Srinivasan Ramachandran, a bioinformatics researcher at Delhi’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, is also excited by Malamud’s plan. His team runs a database of genes linked to type 2 diabetes; they’ve been crawling PubMed abstracts to find papers. Now he hopes the depot could widen his mining net.

And at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, a team called the Knowledge Futures Group says it wants to mine the depot to map how academic publishing has evolved over time. The group hopes to forecast emerging areas of research and identify alternatives to conventional metrics for measuring research impact, says team member James Weis, a doctoral student at MIT Media Lab.

A career unlocking copyright

Malamud only recently had the idea of extending his activism to academic publishing. The founder of a non-profit corporation called Public Resource, based in Sebastopol, California, Malamud has focused on buying up government-owned legal works and publishing them. These include, for instance, the state of Georgia’s annotated legal code, European toy-safety standards and more than 19,000 Indian standards for everything from buildings and pesticides to surgical equipment.

Because these documents are often a source of revenue for government agencies, some of them have sued Malamud, who has argued back that documents which have the force of the law cannot be locked behind copyright. In the Georgia case, a US appeals court cleared him of infringement charges in 2018, but the state appealed, and the case is with the US Supreme Court. Meanwhile, a German court ruled in 2017 that the publication of toy standards by Public Resource, including a standard on baby dummies (pacifiers), was illegal.

But Malamud has enjoyed victories, too. In 2013, he filed a lawsuit in a US federal court asking the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to publish the forms it collected from tax-exempt non-profit organizations — data that could help to hold these organizations to account. Here, the court ruled in Malamud’s favour, prompting the IRS to release the financial information of thousands of non-profit organizations in a machine-readable format.

In early 2017, aided by the Arcadia Fund, a London-based charity that promotes open access, Malamud turned his attention to research articles. Under US law, works by US federal government employees cannot be copyrighted, and Public Resource says it has found hundreds of thousands of academic articles that are US government works and seem to defy this rule. Malamud has called for such articles to be freed from copyright assertions, but it’s not clear whether that would hold up in court. He has posted his preliminary results online, but has put further campaigning on hold, because the project prompted him to take on a wider mission: democratizing access to all scientific literature.

Opportunity in India

A trigger for this mission came from a landmark Delhi High Court judgment in 2016. The case revolved around Rameshwari Photocopy Services, a shop on the campus of the University of Delhi. For years, the business had been preparing course packs for students by photocopying pages from expensive textbooks. With prices ranging between 500 and 19,000 rupees (US$7–277), these textbooks were out of reach for many students.

Rameshwari Photocopy Services in New Delhi was taken to court for copying parts of textbooks, and won.Credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty

In 2012, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Taylor and Francis filed a lawsuit against the university, demanding that it buy a license to reproduce a portion of each text. But the Delhi High Court dismissed the suit. In its judgment, the court cited section 52 of India’s 1957 Copyright Act, which allows the reproduction of copyrighted works for education. Another provision in the same section allows reproduction for research purposes.

Malamud has a long association with India: he first travelled there as a tourist in the 1980s, and he wrote one of his first books, on database design, on a houseboat in Srinagar. And around the same time that he heard about the Rameshwari judgment, he had come into possession (he won’t say how) of eight hard drives containing millions of journal articles from Sci-Hub, the pirate website that distributes paywalled papers for anyone to read. Sci-Hub itself has lost two lawsuits against publishers in US courts over its copyright infringements, but despite those judgments, some of its domains are still working today.

Malamud began to wonder whether he could legally use the Sci-Hub drives to benefit Indian students. In a 2018 book about his work called Code Swaraj, co-authored with Indian tech entrepreneur Sam Pitroda, Malamud writes that he imagined showing up on Indian campuses in the equivalent of an American taco truck, ready to serve the articles up to those who wanted them.

Ultimately, he zeroed in on the idea of the JNU text-mining depot instead. (Malamud has also helped to set up another mining facility with 250 terabytes of data at the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, which isn’t in use yet.) But he is cagey about where the depot’s articles come from. Asked directly whether some of the text-mining depot’s articles come from Sci-Hub, he said he wouldn’t comment, and named only sources that provide free-to-download versions of papers (such as PubMed Central and the ‘Unpaywall’ tool). But he does say that he does not have contracts with publishers to access the journals in the depot.

Is it legal?

Malamud says that where he got the articles from shouldn’t matter anyway. The data mining, he says, is non-consumptive: a technical term meaning that researchers don’t read or display large portions of the works they are analysing. “You cannot punch in a DOI [article identifier] and pull out the article,” he says. Malamud argues that it is legally permissible to do such mining on copyrighted content in countries such as the United States. In 2015, for instance, a US court cleared Google Books of copyright infringement charges after it did something similar to the JNU depot: scanning thousands of copyrighted books without buying the rights to do so, and displaying snippets from these books as part of its search service, but not allowing them to be downloaded or read in their entirety by a human.

The Google Books case was a test of non-consumptive data mining, says Joseph Gratz, an IP lawyer at the law firm Durie Tangri in San Francisco, California, who represented Google in the case and has previously represented Public Resource. Even though Google was displaying snippets, the court ruled that the text was too limited to amount to infringement. Google was scanning authorized copies of books (from libraries in many cases), even though it did not ask permission. Copyright holders might argue that if Sci-Hub or other unauthorized sources supplied the JNU depot, the situation would be different from the Google Books case, Gratz says. But a case involving unauthorized sources has never been argued in American courts, making it hard to predict the outcome. “There are good reasons why the source shouldn’t matter, but there may be arguments that it should,” says Gratz.

The question of the facility’s legality in the United States might not even be relevant, because international researchers would be getting results from a depot that sits in India, even if they are accessing it remotely. So Indian law is likely to apply to the question of whether it is legal to create the corpus, says Michael W. Carroll, a professor at the American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington DC.
Here, India’s copyright laws might help Malamud — another reason why the facility is in New Delhi. The research exemption in section 52 means that the JNU data depot’s actions would be considered fair under Indian law, argues Arul George Scaria, an assistant professor at Delhi’s National Law University. Not everyone agrees with this interpretation, however. Section 52 allows researchers to photocopy a journal article for personal use, but doesn’t necessarily allow the blanket reproduction of journals as the JNU depot has done, says T. Prashant Reddy, a legal researcher at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy in New Delhi. That entire articles aren’t shared with users does help, but the mass reproduction of text used to create the database puts the facility in “a legal grey zone”, Reddy says.

Risky business

When Nature contacted 15 publishers about the JNU data depot, the six who responded said that this was the first time they had heard of the project, and that they couldn’t comment on its legality without further information. But all six — Elsevier, BMJ, the American Chemical Society, Springer Nature, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences and the US National Academy of Sciences — stated that researchers looking to mine their papers needed their authorization. (Springer Nature publishes this journal; Nature’s news team is editorially independent of its publisher.)

Malamud acknowledges that there is some risk in what he is doing. But he argues that it is “morally crucial” to do it, especially in India. Indian universities and government labs spend heavily on journal subscriptions, he says, and still don’t have all the publications they need. Data released by Sci-Hub indicate that Indians are among the world’s biggest users of their website, suggesting that university licences don’t go far enough. Although open-access movements in Europe and the United States are valuable, India needs to lead the way in liberating access to scientific knowledge, Malamud says. “I don’t think we can wait for Europe and the United States to solve that problem because the need is so pressing here.”

The plan to mine the world’s research papers


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
IIT-D researchers develop software for predicting, optimising glass compositions

1 min read . Updated: 02 Aug 2019, 07:07 PM IST PTI
  • Researchers at IIT Delhi have developed a first of its kind machine learning software — Python for Glass Genomics (PyGGi) — for predicting and optimising glass compositions
  • PyGGi will allow researchers and companies to easily predict glasses with superior properties like scratch resistance and crack resistance at the tap of a button

The main aim of PyGGi is to reduce the cost in predicting new glasses for tailored applications. (Pixabay)

New Delhi: How many of us have wished for mobile phone screens, glass utensils or window panes that resist damage? Glass makers also wish they had a mechanism for predicting glass compositions to develop products with tailored properties. IIT Delhi researchers have a solution.

Despite two thousand years of usage, developing glasses with tailored properties is still an open challenge and to address this problem, researchers at IIT Delhi have developed a first of its kind machine learning software — Python for Glass Genomics (PyGGi) — for predicting and optimising glass compositions.

PyGGi will allow researchers and companies to easily predict glasses with superior properties like scratch resistance and crack resistance at the tap of a button.

"Understanding and predicting the composition–structure–property relationship is the key to developing novel glasses such as bullet proof and scratch resistant glasses," said N M Anoop Krishnan, a professor at IIT Delhi who is one of the Project Investigators (PI).

"Data-driven approaches such as machine learning and artificial intelligence can exploit our existing knowledge to predict glasses for tailored applications. PyGGi is a software package developed using python, for predicting and optimising the properties of inorganic glasses," he added.

The main aim of PyGGi is to reduce the cost in predicting new glasses for tailored applications.

"PyGGi will be constantly updated and upgraded to meet the industrial and academic challenges in the field of glass science. We are also open to developing raw modules based on user requirements. These modules can be exclusively given to users who support the research in PyGGi," said professor Hariprasad Kodamana.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

IIT-D researchers develop software for predicting, optimising glass compositions


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
IIT-Hyderabad developing tech for bio-compatible implants

Special Correspondent : SANGA REDDY
July 02, 2019 00:17 IST

To help in early detection of malfunction, avoid reverse surgery

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad (IIT-H) are developing new technologies for bio-compatible implants that will enable early detection of malfunctions through non-invasive monitoring and diagnosis. Early detection of premature failure or malfunctioning prosthetic implants without surgery can help patients avoid reverse surgery, a remedial measure more expensive and painful than first time surgery.

Eco-friendly material

For this purpose, a bio-compatible implant with sensing property and high hardness will be the best choice.

The piezoelectric/ferroelectric material can detect change in the mechanical energy due to its dimensional change during the functional period.

To avoid the reverse surgery, an eco-friendly and hard ferroelectric material can be effective choice as an implant instead of other available ceramic or steel-based implants.

Researchers have shown that reducing particle sizes of the ferroelectric material results in improvements in mechanical properties without compromising on their electric characteristics, making them suitable for bio-compatible implants.

Their work has recently been published in the Journal of American Ceramic Society. The study is being led by Saket Asthana, head professor, Advanced Functional Materials Laboratory, Department of Physics, IIT-H.

His team is studying lead-free ferroelectric ceramics for use in orthopaedic implants.

“Most importantly, this eco-friendly material is synthesised by normal solid state reaction method instead of sophisticated technique, which may reduce the cost of processing of this material. This finding can show the pathway of using this kind of ceramics in prosthetic applications; the piezoelectric property makes them detectable from outside, which enables non-invasive monitoring and diagnosis. An extensive research in collaboration with medical team is necessary to come with real time and practical application of these materials,” said Dr. Asthana.

“Piezoelectric and ferroelectric ceramic materials have the potential to be used in prosthetic implants, but the benefit of electrical stimulation is offset by poor mechanical properties like hardness and toughness,” Dr. Saket said adding that many piezoelectric materials contain lead, which is toxic and is banned by most countries in the world.

There is, thus, a quest for lead-free piezo and ferroelectric ceramics for a range of applications, including biomedical.

The improvement of mechanical properties of lead-free ceramics without compromising on the ferro/piezoelectric properties has been challenging.

Dr. Asthana’s team meets this challenge through materials engineering; the researchers reduce the particle sizes of lead-free ferroelectric powders before compacting them into solid items to improve the mechanical properties of the ceramics.

IIT-Hyderabad developing tech for bio-compatible implants


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Divide By Zero Launches AION500 MK3 - World's Fastest 3D Printer

By siliconindia | Friday, 05 July 2019, 00:09 IST

One of India’s largest 3D printer manufacturer, Divide By Zero has unveiled the AION500 MK3 - the fastest polymer extrusion based 3D Printer in the world, at the Automotive Engineering Show in Chennai.

Speaking at the launch, CEO & Founder Swapnil Sansare expressed “3D printing technology has been in the industry for the past 30 years and we all are fascinated by its potential, however, speed has been a drawback – until today. AION500 MK3 is 3X faster than conventional CNC machines. The printing speed is 10x more than any polymer extrusion-based platform anywhere in the world. Basically, you can now print the anatomical model of a human skull in minutes. Companies need not wait for a week for their orders when they can have it in mere hours.” He adds “The RoI for this machine is barely 4 months”.

Powered with DBZ’s revolutionary Patented ‘AFPM’ Technology AION500 MK3 can print 10X faster than any 3D printer without losing on mechanical properties, surface finish, and accuracy. Years of research has helped the team at DBZ to develop a high-speed, high throughput 3D printing solution which is built to revolutionize the industry worldwide and overcome the barriers of speed, time and cost. The added salient features of AION500 MK3 are –

- 1.5G Acceleration on Servo Gantry

- 1.5m/s Travel Speed

- All new dual drive Liquid Cooled Print Head

- 10-micron positional accuracy

This is a breakthrough which the Rapid Prototyping industry was yearning for since last decade.

Another unexplored arena is the demand for customized ‘Jigs and Fixtures’. 3D Printing has the potential of radically changing the face of on-demand JIG - Fixture manufacturing but due to the questions related to speed, strength, and affordability, this industry wasn’t able to reap the benefits. However, this Next-Gen Industrial Grade Workhorse has the power to complete the old school 3D Printing and actually make Rapid Prototyping ‘Rapid’.

DBZ is the preferred premium brand of 3D Printers in India across sectors like Automotive, FMCG, Jigs and Fixtures Manufacturers, Defence and Government Institutions and education institutes. Purely because the machines are professional, affordable and adhere to international quality standards. DBZ has around 600 installations all across the country and is the 1st company to export machines abroad.


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Govt of Kazakhstan keen to join hands with Midhani to produce bio-implants

Updated on June 18, 2019

The Government of Kazakhstan has evinced interest in collaborating with MIDHANI to produce, on a commercial scale, bio-implants which have been beneficial to patients.

A team from the Hyderabad-based Midhani, a public sector undertaking, is in the former Soviet Union nation for discussions with UKTMP, a representative firm of the country, according to Dinesh Kumar Likhi, its Chairman & Managing Director.

Midhani, which is the main supplier of speciality materials for the defence, space and nuclear sectors, has made a range of bio-implants from titanium alloys and special grade stainless steel that have been certified by the Drug Controller of India.

Since 2001, the undertaking has been generating a revenue of a paltry Rs 1 crore on average, on account of business challenges as well as regulatory hurdles.

The market for titanium and stainless steel derived implants is estimated at Rs 1,000 crore, of which 50-60 per cent is accounted for by imports. Sensing the huge potential, Midhani has decided to focus on this vertical in collaboration with Hindustan Antibiotics Ltd (HAL), Lekhi told newspersons here today.

The two public sector undertakings signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at a function here. HAL, the Pune-headquartered antibiotics maker, with its nationwide dealer network and experience in pharma products, would be able to market these products well, said Nirja Saraf, its Managing Director.

Midhani makes over 130 types of implants, mostly using titanium alloys. These include shoulder prosthesis, hinged knee joints and total femur prosthesis.

The two firms are targeting a turnover of at least Rs 5 crore per annum to begin with. HAL will make the implants based on the high quality material that Midhani provides, and will market it through its network. The two partners have also decided to get the products tested and established scientifically, so that they can be pitched for export in the future.

A big challenge would be to bring down the cost of titanium alloy below that of the widely used stainless steel, and also convince medical practitioners about their efficacy and utility in the competitive market, Likhi said.

Govt of Kazakhstan keen to join hands with Midhani to produce bio-implants


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Nalco, MIDHANI form JV to set up high-end aluminium alloy plant

Updated: August 8th, 2019, 19:51 IST

New Delhi: State-owned National Aluminium Co Ltd (Nalco) has entered into a pact with Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd (MIDHANI) to incorporate a joint venture to set up high-end aluminium alloy plant.

The board of the joint venture (JV) will have a maximum of 12 members with both the companies nominating minimum two directors each to the board,Nalco said Thursday in a filing to the BSE.

“We would like to inform you that a joint venture agreement was signed August 7, 2019 with Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd (MIDHANI) to incorporate a joint venture company (JVC) with an objective for setting up of high-end aluminium alloys plant for manufacturing of plates, sheets,” the statement said.

Nalco and MIDHANI will initially subscribe for shares in the JVC in equal proportion that is 50 per cent each. “JVC may agree to induct a technology partner/technology associate/technology provider with shareholding up to a maximum of 10 per cent of the total paid up equity in the JVC during incorporation or else may dilute up to 10 per cent of the total paid up equity (in equal proportion) to them,” the filing said.


Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Indian government uses tech for crop analysis

Among some of the piloted technologies are satellite data, artificial intelligence, and modelling tools.

by Samaya Dharmaraj
5 August, 2019

The Department of Agriculture, through the Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre carried out pilot studies for the Optimisation of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) in several states in India.

The Ministry of Agriculture in a press statement said that the Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana) envisages the use of improved technology to reduce the time gap for settlement of framers’ claims.

The studies used various technologies, including satellite data, AI, and modelling tools to reduce the number of CCEs required for the insurance unit level for yield estimation. The studies were launched to address the major issue of the need to carry out large numbers of CCEs for calculation of yield data vis-à-vis claims at the village council (gram panchayat) level. The results are being evaluated to provide recommendations for their implementation in the upcoming seasons.

Also, an Expression of Interest (EOI) was floated with a view to use technology-based assessment of yield with minimum use of CCEs for the Kharif 2019 season. 46 agencies participated in the EOI, out of which 26 agencies have been shortlisted through technical assessments.

The government is using satellite imagery to assess the crop area, crop condition, and crop yield at district levels. This is done through forecasting agricultural output using space, agrometeorology and land-based observations, and coordinated horticulture assessment and management using geo-informatics.

Furthermore, satellite data is also being used for drought assessment; to assess the potential area for growing pulses and horticultural crops.

To ensure better transparency, accountability, timely payment of claims to the farmers, and to make the schemes more farmer-friendly, the government comprehensively revised the Operational Guidelines of the PMFBY, which became effective from the Rabi 2018-19 season.

Also, the provision of a 12% interest rate per annum will be paid by the Insurance Company to farmers for delays in settlement claims beyond 10 days of the prescribed cut-off date.

OpenGov reported earlier that the Indian government recently piloted an AI-powered tool for crop cutting and yield estimation also under the PMFBY.

The scheme aims to cut down the cost of farming while increasing productivity. It will also help farmers get better prices for their crops. This cutting-edge technology can be leveraged to provide information and advisory services to farmers, the government has said.

AI can be used in multiple domains of agriculture such as weather, crop and price forecasting, and yield estimation. Furthermore, AI may reduce the cost of production through the precise application of agricultural inputs like fertilizers, chemicals, and irrigation.

Through the PMFBY, the government has launched several pilot studies for the optimisation of crop cutting experiments, in which AI was used for optimisation and yield estimation.

the scheme is a significant departure from age-old traditional farming practices in India that has resulted in low yields and dependency on unpredictable monsoon rains. This has kept Indian farming at subsistence level.

The inadequacy of monsoon rains in the country has resulted in crop failure and has led to an increase in farmer suicides. The government hopes that AI and related technology will change the farming industry. AI tools could help Indian farmers to choose the right crop and minimise risks.

Indian government uses tech for crop analysis
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Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Machine Learning based Model for Prediction of Lattice Thermal Conductivity with Unprecedented Accuracy

In this work, the high-throughput screening is coupled with the machine learning to develop a prediction model on a dataset, which is independent of any particular class and uses only four descriptors related directly to the physics of lattice thermal conductivity. By employing physically meaningful conditions, high-throughput screening was carried on the dataset. The screening resulted in several ultralow and ultrahigh lattice thermal conductivity compounds.

High-throughput screening still requires the explicit evaluation of lattice thermal conductivity, developmentof the prediction model using machine learning was carried out. The significant contribution of our work was the preparation of data having as much variability as possible. The dataset in our case covers elements from several groups of the periodic table, including 6 crystal systems, two orders of magnitude variation in mass and volume, three orders of magnitude variation in lattice thermal conductivity.For finding the descriptors, an extensive property map was generated, which includes harmonic and quasi-harmonic properties such as phonon dispersion and Grüneisen parameter. From this property map, simple four descriptors were identified related to the physics of lattice thermal conductivity, namely maximum phonon frequency, integrated Grüneisen parameter, average atomic mass, volume. Using these four descriptors, the machine learning model was developed, which predicts the log-scaled lattice thermal conductivity with root mean square error of 0.21 (Figure a).


Figure: Scatter plot for DFT calculated versus (a) ML-predicted κland (b) Slack model predicted κl

As the quasi-harmonic properties also appear in the Slack model, which is a very popular physics based model for the prediction of lattice thermal conductivity, it is employed on our dataset for the comparison. The Slack model severely overestimates the lattice thermal conductivity (Figure b), highlighting the exceptional performance of developed machine learning model.

Indian Institute of Science
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Team StratFront
Feb 16, 2019
Tripura, NE, India
Robot That Can Hold Objects Like Human Hand Developed By IIT-Madras

The multimodal robotic system named "GraspMan" comprises a pair of graspers (machine-equivalent of human hands) that enable it to conform to the geometry of an object being grasped.

Science | Press Trust of India | Updated: August 14, 2019 19:38 IST

The robot, developed in IIT-Madras, is called GraspMan

Chennai : Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have developed a robot with grasping and locomotion abilities like a human hand that can be used for industrial purposes and in search and rescue operations, the premier institute said on Wednesday.

The multimodal robotic system named "GraspMan" comprises a pair of graspers (machine-equivalent of human hands) that enable it to conform to the geometry of an object being grasped.

"The motivation behind this research is to make a robot, with minimum design for specific tasks, capable of navigating and manipulating across different environments," Head of the research team Prof. Asokan Thondiyath said in a statement in Chennai.

Research scholar Nagamanikandan Govindan, a member of the team, said, "...The combination of locomotion and manipulation gives it an interesting features such as the ability to hold an object and walk, arm-swinging like baboons (brachiation)."

In industrial use, it can climb on pipes, hold them and assemble. Besides, in can aide machines used in search-and-rescue operations and locomotory applications, he added.

Robot That Can Hold Objects Like Human Hand Developed By IIT-Madras
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