India’s scientific developments in 2022
India’s scientific endeavours have grown with leaps and bounds in 2022. From launching the first privately-built rocket to developing the first intranasal Covid-19 vaccine, the scientific community has pushed the boundaries of innovation and ingenuity. Here are some of the biggest discoveries and findings that took place in 2022.
Successful launch of India’s first privately-built rocket
On November 18, India’s first privately-built rocket, Vikram-S, lifted off from the launchpad of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in Sriharikota. It heralded the advent of private stakeholders in the space sector that was previously dominated by ISRO.
The 6-metre tall vehicle reached an altitude of 89.5 kilometers followed by a splashdown into the Bay of Bengal five minutes after the launch.
The Hyderabad-based startup, Skyroot Aerospace’s success has galavanted the ambitions of other space-tech firms like Chennai’s Agnikul Cosmos which is planning to launch a smallsat launch vehicle capable of transporting 100kg of cargo to Low Earth Orbit; Pixsel which is building hyper spectral imaging satellites for global health monitor; and Dhruva Space which develops space engineering solutions.
ISRO’s foray into the commercial market
ISRO also made its mark in the commercial launch service market by launching 36 OneWeb Satellites on the LVM3 rocket in October. Also called GSLV Mark 3, the rocket is the heaviest ISRO has ever launched with its weight clocking at 5.7 tonnes.
These Low Earth Orbit satellites along with others in the same fleet will deliver high-speed, low-latency connectivity worldwide. It will provide connectivity across India, from towns, villages, schools and other hard-to-reach areas across the country from 2023 onwards.
India’s Mars orbiter craft bids adieu after 8 years
India’s first interplanetary mission, Mangalyaan, concluded its journey as the Mars Orbiter craft ran out of fuel and battery, ISRO scientists announced in October. Launched onboard PSLV-C25 on November 5, 2013, the spacecraft functioned for almost eight years, well beyond its designed capacity of six months.
The Mars Orbiter Mission carried five payloads which gathered data regarding surface geology, morphology, atmospheric processes, surface temperatures and atmospheric escape process. Its primary objective was to test the capability to operate with sufficient autonomy during the journey phase, Mars orbit insertion/capture and in-orbit phase around Mars. It captured over 1000 pictures of the red planet which is published in Mars Atlas.
Chandrayaan-2 assesses sodium content on Moon’s surface
Using Chrandrayaan-2’s large area soft X-ray spectrometer, scientists at ISRO mapped out the distribution of sodium on the Moon’s surface. There is a thin layer of sodium atoms that are weakly bound to the moon’s surface, the study found. Recent findings of sodium distribution on the moon would help understand the connection between the moon’s surface and its exosphere.
First nasal Covid-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech
Bharat Biotech developed the first intranasal vaccine for Covid-19 in 2022. It has been approved under Restricted Use in Emergency situation for ages 18 and above for the primary 2-dose schedule though there is no study on its efficacy data.
Named iNCOVACC, the vaccine is a replication-deficient recombinant adenovirus vectored vaccine with a pre-fusion stabilised spike protein. It has been developed in such a way so as to allow intranasal delivery through nasal drops. The vaccine is cost-effective to ensure distribution in low and middle-income countries.
Scientists can now tell if Tuberculosis treatment is working on patients
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science have found a way to determine whether TB treatment is working for a patient within the first couple of weeks as opposed to knowing two months after the start of the treatment. The RNA sequences from the patient’s blood cell was studied and researchers identified a signature sequence associated with the response to TB treatment involving nine genes.
The new biomarker would help patients get better treatment and reduce the risk of lung damage, especially in India, where over 2.4 million TB cases have been reported in 2019.
Indian researchers develop artificial photosynthetic system to capture solar energy
Researchers from IISER-Thiruvananthapuram and IIT-Indore have found a way to imitate photosynthesis and capture light for power conversion. They used an atom-precise nano-cluster which resulted in 93% energy transfer from the light spectrum. This harvested energy from sunlight could generate current with better yields than previous technology.
Arabian Sea face increased frequency and duration of marine heatwaves
Arabian Sea has faced prolonged heatwaves in the last decade. The number of marine heatwave days has increased significantly between 2000 and 2015 which is driven by the mean sea surface temperature of the sea. Though the heatwaves are influenced by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, climatic events are being aggravated by human-induced climate change which is resulting in extreme weather patterns and worsening water cycle.
Glaciers at Pangong in Ladakh retreated 6.7% since 1990
In the Pangong region of Ladakh, 87 glaciers have retreated by 6.7% since 1990, according to a recent research. This is mostly related to increased anthropogenic activity in glacial and periglacial habitats and atmospheric warming. According to studies, the melting of glaciers also causes the soil to retain less moisture, which affects the vegetation and, in turn, the region’s flora and wildlife.
New species of tree, corals, spider and honeybee discovered
Four new species of azooxanthellate corals have been discovered for the first time in Indian waters near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Azooxanthellate corals are a kind of corals that lack zooxanthellae and get their nutrition not from the light but rather by from various kinds of plankton. With the bulk of species reportedly seen from depths of 200 to 1000 metres, these coral groupings are deep-sea representatives.
From the Agasthyamala biosphere reserve in the southern part of the Western Ghats in the Thiruvananthapuram district, scientists have discovered a new species of evergreen tree of the genus Miliusa. The finding is unique because thus far, only two mature trees have been found in its native environment, underlining the need of conservation. The tree, grows to height of six to nine metres has drooping branches and has been named Miliusa agasthyamalana in honour of the place where it was discovered.
In the Western Ghats, a brand-new indigenous honeybee species has been found. Named Apis karinjodian or the Indian black honeybee, the discovery come 200 years after the last species was discovered in the Western Ghats. It has brought the total number of honeybee species in the world to 11. This species can be found in Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, and portions of Tamil Nadu, from the middle Western Ghats and Nilgiris to the southern Western Ghats. Based on the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria, it has been designated as near threatened.
Unique dinosaur egg poses new questions for evolution
A team of University of Delhi researchers discovered a remarkable set of fossilised dinosaur eggs, with one egg nesting within the other, at the Dinosaur Fossil National Park in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar District. While eggs-within-eggs are unusual phenomenon, they are so far known to occur solely in birds and have never been seen in reptiles. This research shows possible links between reptile and avian evolution. The egg has two continuous and spherical eggshell layers separated by a large gap, similar to that seen in birds. Until now, no egg-in-egg fossil egg had been discovered in dinosaurs or other reptiles such as turtles, lizards, and crocodiles.