New Delhi: In terms of
technological breakthroughs, it has been a mixed bag for India
this year. But the pride of place goes to Jugnu, one of the
world's tiniest nanosatellites, weighing only three kg, designed
and fabricated by the mechanical engineering department of the
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K).
The IITians, led by Shantanu Agarwal and Shashank Chintalagiri,
under professor N.S. Vyas, notched up a milestone in Indian space
technology by accomplishing the feat on their own and overcoming a
As the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) does not have an
ejection system for satellites below 10 kg, designing one for
Jugnu became imperative. Amrit Sagar stepped in and designed it
from scratch, doing the nation proud.
An ejection system makes space missions possible by separating the
satellite from the launch vehicle and placing it in a precise
orbit. The mechanism went through rigorous tests before
certification by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC),
The same IIT-K department came up with a matchbox-sized device to
monitor wear and tear of rail tracks in real time and prevent
derailment. It may possibly replace the bulky, box-like
contraption in current use by Indian Railways, which requires a
The size of the device makes it simpler to integrate it with the
existing railway infrastructure, according to Kshitij Deo, an M.
Tech in mechanical engineering, who developed the device with
three others of IIT-K.
The country caught the world's attention by launching the world's
cheapest ever android tablet, Aakash, costing only $35, in
October. Nerds from IIT-Rajasthan, the youngest of the lot,
working with London-based DataWind, came up with the amazing piece
The tablet, developed to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities
in an e-learning programme, features a seven-inch touch screen and
256 metabytes of RAM, a multi-media platform with Android 2.2
operating system and is capable of delivering high definition
video. China will be manufacturing a commercial version and
marketing it as the UbiSlate at a cost of $60.
If the Indian tablet made news, supercomputers were not far
behind. On May 2, the country's fastest supercomputer SAGA-220
became operational at the VSSC. It is capable of 220 TeraFLOPS or
220 trillion floating point operations per second. Scientists are
harnessing its peak power to solve complex space-related matters.
Meanwhile, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honoured an
Indian physicist, Mohammed Sami, by including his work among the
31 Nobel citations, known as the scientific document on the Nobel
Prize in Physics 2011. Sami co-authored the paper on dark matter
with Edmund J. Copeland and Shinji Tsujikawa at the
Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA),
Pune, in 2002-05.
Sami teaches physics at Jamia Millia Islamia. His research paper
postulates that the repulsive nature of dark energy, which makes
up for 70 percent of the universe, accelerates its expansion.
The year could well be designated as the solar year. A number of
initiatives were taken to popularise green energy. The union
government has undertaken to develop 48 cities as solar cities. A
master plan for Agra and Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) Thane and
Kalyan-Dombivli (Maharashtra), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Kohima (Nagaland)
and Aizawl (Mizoram) has been finalised.
Besides, hundreds of solar powered ATMs, developed by a
Chennai-based company, have been installed by the State Bank of
India in rural areas. More such ATMs have been ordered by banks,
including the Catholic Syrian Bank, Indian Bank, Corporation Bank
The first solar power plant came up in Sri City in Andhra Pradesh.
The technology, developed by the Indian subsidiary of the German
firm BELECTRIC, is expected to generate 1,660,000 kWh of clean
energy, supplying to 7,000 households annually.
While farmers remain a negleted lot, a quiet revolution is under
way in villages. Some of them are improving crop yields, using new
technologies, besides learning video-making skills, thanks to
Digital Green, a technology-based startup founded by Rikin Gandhi.
He has been named as a top young innovator by the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (MIT).
The Delhi-based company is active in over 200 villages across
Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh with the help of
seven NGOs, helping famers improve their productivity. Gandhi
plans to extend the programme to 1,200 villages over the next two
years across South Asia and Africa.
(Shudip Talukdar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)