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Nano-carbon: New India-made weapon against mosquitoes?

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Toxic smog has once again threatened to engulf the National Capital Region (NCR) as farmers in parts of Haryana and Punjab have begun to burn their crop residue. And the zika virus, spread by Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, has mysteriously raised its head in Rajasthan, having already infected about 90 people and worrying health officials. Now a team led by Sabyasachi Sarkar, visiting professor and nano-technologist at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) in Shibpur, West Bengal, has proposed a single solution to solve these twin problems.

The novel method (for simultaneous mosquito and smog control) has been reported in a recent issue of the Journal of Vector Borne Diseases. The female Aedes mosquitoes that spread dengue, chikungunya, and zika viruses, lay eggs in water bodies along the roadside and in decorative flower pots and vases in homes or offices. In laboratory studies, the researchers have now shown that water-soluble nano-carbon particles (wsNCP) dissolved in water prevent respiration of mosquito larvae, causing anoxia (lack of oxygen) and ultimately their death. In fact, the larvae exposed to these nano-particles fail to reach even the pupae stage — one step before becoming an adult mosquito.

“And interestingly, these nano-carbon particles, that are a potent new weapon against the Aedes mosquitoes, can be obtained from ‘controlled burning’ of crop residue,” Sarkar, formerly a chemistry professor at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur, told this correspondent.

 

The odorless nano-carbon thus produced is environment friendly and is non-toxic to humans. It has also been shown to be harmless to fish and other living species in water, the report says. For their study, the researchers collected a few Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae from a shallow pool near their institute and reared them in an aquarium containing “fluorescent” wsCNP at a concentration of three micro-grams per millilitre (3ig/ml). According to the report, “fluorescent imaging” of the entire life cycle of mosquitoes revealed that larvae exposed to the carbon nano-particles died even before attaining the pupae stage. The nano-particles displayed a unique property by getting deposited over the air tube of the larvae choking their respiration causing anoxia and death.

“Based on these observations it can be concluded that the use of non-toxic, wsCNP is safe to prevent growth of mosquitoes in water pots and other hot-spots around house-hold premises,” says the report. “These nano-particles could be economically produced and preserved in the solid form for a long time and can be used as and when required by people without any need to spray chemical insecticides or fogging,” Sarkar said. “Once added to water, being non-destructive, it may not require much replenishment.”

Sarkar said their study has incidentally shown a solution to the air pollution over the nation’s capital due to uncontrolled crop residue burning in neighboring states. “Under controlled burning of the crop residue, one can get tonnes of such nano products with little chemical modification,” Sarkar said. “This carbon based nano-powder so obtained can be distributed to the people for application on any suspected waterbody near homes, offices and schools.” However some experts are sceptical about nano-carbon emerging as a weapon against mosquitoes.

“This will work only in a petri-dish,” Payyalore Rajagopalan, former director of the health ministry’s Vector Control Research Centre in Puducherry told this correspondent in an email, adding: “But not in nature.”


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Tech-Film

Amazon Echo Input Goes on Sale in India, Brings Alexa to Your Dumb Speaker for Rs. 2,999

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Back in September 2018, Amazon added a suite of new products to its Echo line of devices and among them was the Echo Input, which was scheduled to launch in early 2019 in India. It seems as if Amazon has kept good on its promise as the Echo Input is finally on sale in India, at a price of Rs. 2,999. The device adds Alexa support to any of your existing speakers at home, either through a wired or Bluetooth connection. This lets you stream music from Amazon Prime Music, Saavn and TuneIn and starting today, Hungama and Gaana music streaming services too, with simple voice commands. Apart from Amazon, the Echo Input will also be available from offline retailers such as Croma, Vijay Sales and others.

To recall, the Amazon Echo Input was first introduced in September last year, and at around the same time, US-based e-commerce giant had announced it would be made available in India early next year – that time has come. Amazon had not detailed the Amazon Echo Input price in India back in September, and this is the first we’ve learned of it.

Amazon Echo Input launch offers

 

Amazon has tied up with some speaker manufacturers to bundle the Echo Input with certain products. The JBL Go 2 speaker bundle gets you a flat Rs. 1,499 discount where as you can get the Echo Input for free if you buy the newly launched Ultimate Ears Boom 3 or the Bose SoundLink Revolve. You can check out the offers on right side of the page, just below the ‘Buy Now’ button.

Amazon Echo Input specifications

The Echo Input measures just 12.5mm in thickness and looks a bit like a hockey puck. There are two buttons on the top for switching the microphone off and triggering Alexa, respectively. You also get a four-microphone array on the Input which is said to recognise your voice across a room, even with music playing. There’s a single LED light on the top and a 3.5mm headphone socket and a Micro-USB port on the side for connectivity and power.

It also features dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fiac for connecting the device to you home Wi-Fi. Setting up the Echo Input requires the Alexa app, which is available on both Android and iOS. The Echo Input ships with a 5W power adapter, Micro-USB cable, auxiliary cable and a quick start guide.

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Novel technology cleans water using bacteria

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Researchers, led by one of Indian-origin, have developed a new technology that can clean water twice as fast as commercially available ultrafiltration membranes, an advance that brings hope for countries like India where clean drinking water is a big issue.

According to a team from the Washington University in St. Louis, more than one in 10 people in the world lack basic drinking water access, and by 2025, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas.

The team led by Srikanth Singamaneni, Professor at the varsity, developed an ultrafiltration membrane using graphene oxide and bacterial nanocellulose that they found to be highly efficient, long-lasting and environment-friendly.

 

The membrane technology purifies water while preventing biofouling, or build up of bacteria and other harmful micro-organisms that reduce the flow of water.

For the study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they used bacteria to build such filtering membranes.

The Gluconacetobacter hansenii bacteria is a sugary substance that forms cellulose nanofibres when in water.

The team then incorporated graphene oxide (GO) flakes into the bacterial nanocellulose while it was growing, essentially trapping GO in the membrane to make it stable and durable.

They exposed the membrane to E. coli bacteria, then shone light on the membrane’s surface.

After being irradiated with light for just three minutes, the E. coli bacteria died. The team determined that the membrane quickly heated to above the 70 degrees Celsius required to deteriorate the cell walls of E. coli bacteria.

While the bacteria are killed, the researchers had a pristine membrane with a high quality of nanocellulose fibres that was able to filter water twice as fast as commercially available ultrafiltration membranes under a high operating pressure.

When they did the same experiment on a membrane made from bacterial nanocellulose without the reduced GO, the E. coli bacteria stayed alive.

While the researchers acknowledge that implementing this process in conventional reverse osmosis systems is taxing, they propose a spiral-wound module system, similar to a roll of towels.

It could be equipped with LEDs or a type of nanogenerator that harnesses mechanical energy from the fluid flow to produce light and heat, which would reduce the overall cost.

If the technique were to be scaled up to a large size, it could benefit many developing countries where clean water is scarce, the researchers noted.

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Google loon balloon web service taps board to lift business

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Loon, the balloon-borne rural internet service from Google parent Alphabet Inc, has recruited three wireless-industry leaders to help the company’s yearslong effort to get the business off the ground. Wireless pioneer and Nextel Partners Inc co-founder Craig McCaw, former Verizon Communications Inc executive Marni Walden, and Ian Small, a former Telefonica SA executive, will serve as Loon’s new three-member advisory board. They’ll help the fledgeling company sign on partners and expand to new areas.

Loon started as a project inside Google’s X research arm to deliver internet access to rural areas. As of last year, it planned to offer service in Kenya. Using antennas held aloft by large balloons 12 miles (20 kilometres) above Earth, well beyond the paths of aeroplanes, Loon can beam coverage over a wide area and relay the signals to ground stations operated by wireless carriers.

When first conceived, Loon was considered a potential threat to wireless carriers, but in recent years the company has wooed established providers as partners. Other companies including Facebook Inc have been working on ways to get more people connected to the internet. Instead of balloons, Facebook has tested solar-powered drones and satellites.

 

“We quickly realized that as a business with the mission of connecting people everywhere, our path to success is to partner with those who have significant experience connecting people every day,” Loon Chief Executive Officer Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post.

 

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