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Home > Press > Convergence of Technologies

Abstract:
Following is the text of the President, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's address at the National Centre for Scientific Research in Demokritos, Greece today :

Convergence of Technologies

Demokritos, Greece and India | Posted on April 27th, 2007

"I am delighted to be here in this beautiful environment and address the scientists and technologists of the National Centre for Scientific Research (NCSR). I greet Dr. Dimitrios Niarchos, Director, NCSR and researchers of this important institution in Greece. I find that the Centre is carrying out scientific research in biology, material science, micro-electronics, informatics, tele-communications, nuclear technology, nuclear physics, radio isotopes and physical chemistry. The core competence of India and Greece can be identified by a joint task team which will enable establishment of collaborative ventures for synergizing the strengths of two nations leading to the design, development, production and marketing of products and systems in the world market.

India in transformation

India is well on its way to become a knowledge society. There is all round growth in all sectors of the economy namely agriculture, manufacturing and services. Today we have an opportunity to take the leadership in the knowledge revolution. Knowledge Revolution is indeed the foundation for leading India into a Developed Nation. For this, the time is ripe because of the ascending trajectory of the economy, availability of great institutions for capacity building of the human resource, abundant bio-diversity, and other natural resources and above all, our 540 million youth who are determined to make the nation prosperous, happy and a safe place to live well before 2020. With this background India is taking the lead in mobilizing and integrating national and international knowledge resources. Keeping this in mind, I would like to discuss with you on the topic, ‘Convergence of Technologies.'

Convergence of Technologies

Information technology and communication technology have already converged leading to Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Information Technology combined with bio-technology has led to bio-informatics. Now, Nano-technology is knocking at our doors. It is the field of the future that will replace microelectronics and many fields with tremendous application potential in the areas of medicine, electronics and material science. When Nano technology and ICT meet, integrated silicon electronics, photonics are born and it can be said that material convergence will happen. With material convergence and biotechnology linked, a new science called Intelligent Bioscience will be born which would lead to a disease free, happy and more intelligent human habitat with longevity and high human capabilities. Convergence of bio-nano-info technologies can lead to the development of nano robots. Nano robots when they are injected into a patient, my expert friends say, will diagnose and deliver the treatment exclusively in the affected area and then the nano-robot gets digested as it is a DNA based product.

Convergence of ICT, aerospace and Nano technologies will emerge and revolutionize the aerospace industry and electronics leading to nano computing systems. This technological convergence will enable building of cost effective low weight, high payload, and highly reliable aerospace systems, which can be used for inter-planetary transportation.

Till recently, silicon and its siblings were considered to be inefficient as sensors, actuators and for photosynthesis. Things are changing. The convergence of computers, communication and sensing into a single smart device and the ability to have mobile and communicate between them is leading the research and development in an important area of Sensor networks. This research is revolutionizing our monitoring systems be it in the area of environment and pollution control, be it in the area of agriculture for crop health monitoring or be it in the area of surveillance. The sensor networks are finding newer applications. This is another convergence of functions that will be very important in our future systems.

With this background of convergence of technologies, I would like to discuss some of the nanoscience and technology products in which India has made certain progress.

Products progress in Nano Science & Technology in India - some examples

a. Water: Nano tube filter - water purification

The scientists from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi have devised a simple method to produce carbon nanotube filters that efficiently remove micro-to nano-scale contaminants from water and heavy hydrocarbons from petroleum. Made entirely of carbon nanotubes, the filters are easily manufactured using a novel method for controlling the cylindrical geometry of the structure. The filters are hollow carbon cylinders several centimeters long and one or two centimeters wide with walls just one-third to one-half a millimeter thick. They are produced by spraying benzene into a tube-shaped quartz mould and heating the mould to 900°C. The nanotube composition makes the filters strong, reusable, and heat resistant, and they can be cleaned easily for reuse.

The carbon nanotube filters offer a level of precision suitable for different applications. They can remove 25-nanometer-sized polio viruses from water, as well as larger pathogens, such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The researchers believe this could make the filters adaptable to micro fluidics applications that separate chemicals in drug discovery.

b. Power: Gas flow induced generation of voltage from solids

Prof AK Sood, Professor of Physics at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and his student have studied, experimented and found that the liquid flow in carbon nano tubes can generate electric current. One of the most exciting applications to emerge from the discovery is the possibility of a heart pacemaker - like device with nanotubes, which will sit in the human body and generate power from blood. Instead of batteries, the device will generate power by itself to regulate defective heart rhythm. The Indian Institute of Science has transferred the exclusive rights of the technology to an American start-up Trident Metrologies. They will develop the prototypes and commercialize the gas flow sensors.

c. Drug delivery system

A research group headed by Professor A. N. Maitra of the University of Delhi's Chemistry Department has developed 11 patentable technologies for improved drug delivery systems using nanoparticles. Four of these processes have been granted U.S. patents. One of the important achievements at the initial stage of drug delivery research was development of a reverse micelles based process for the synthesis of hydrogel and ‘smart' hydrogel nanoparticles for encapsulating water-soluble drugs. This method enabled one to synthesize hydrogel nanoparticles of size less than 100nm diameter. This technology has been commercialized.

Another technology has been transferred to industry deals with nanoparticle drug delivery for eye diseases. Traditionally, steroids have been used extensively in the treatment of ocular inflammatory disease and allergies. However, prolonged use of steroids has many side effects. The Delhi University group's process uses nanoparticles to encapsulate non-steroidal drugs. This process aims to improve the bioavailability of the drug on the surface of the cornea. The technology has been transferred to Chandigarh-based Panacea Biotech Ltd.

d. Microwave CNTs Production unit

Defence Materials and Stores, Research and Development Establishment (DMSRDE), Kanpur is synthesizing non-aligned, quasi-aligned and aligned CNT with a batch size of 50 grams using a fast synthesis process. It has a maximum operating temperature 12000 C. The CNTs will have applications in EM absorbers, composites, gas sensors, flow monitors, field emission devices.

e. Healthcare: Typhoid Detection Kit

Typhoid Detection Kit has been developed by Defence Research and Development Establishment, Gwalior using the nano sensor developed by Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Typhoid fever caused by Salmonella typhi is a major health problem and an important challenge to health authorities of third world countries due to unsatisfactory water supply, poor sanitary conditions, malnutrition, emergence of antibiotic resistant strains etc. According to an estimate the worldwide incidence to typhoid fever is 16 million cases annually and mortality rate is 600,000 individuals per year worldwide. In India, the morbidity due to typhoid varies from 102 to 2219/100,000 population in different parts of the country. In some areas typhoid fever is responsible for 2-5% of all deaths.

In India for routine diagnosis for typhoid disease Widal test is performed with single serum sample which does not provide the correct diagnosis of infection. Therefore a Latex agglutination based test has been developed at DRDE, Gwalior using recombinant DNA technology and immunological technique for rapid diagnosis of typhoid infection. The test detects "S" typhi antigen directly in patient's serum within 1-3 minutes which is very important for initiating early treatment and saving human life. The collaborative work between DRDO and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore has resulted in increasing the sensitivity of the test by 30 times by applying a small electric charge (1.5 V).

Possible areas of Cooperative Missions

Let me discuss some of the Indian national missions and the possible areas of research, design, development and production of products with reference to the areas of importance for development using nano science and technologies. Some of these technologies may be of interest to the scientists and technologists from NCSR.

Agriculture and food processing: We are in the mission of generating 400 million tones of food grains with reduced land, with reduced water and with reduced workforce. It is essential to take up agro food processing in a big way which will bring employment potential in rural areas. Some of the possible areas of research in agriculture and food processing are: Nano-porous zeo-lites for slow-release and efficient doses of water and fertilizers for plants, and of nutrients and drugs for livestock, nano-capsules for herbicide delivery, nano sensors for soil quality and for plant health monitoring. Nano-composites for plastic film coatings used in food packaging, antimicrobial nano-emulsions for applications in decontamination of food equipment, packaging or food processing are other important areas of research.

Infrastructure: India is aspiring to build hundred million houses within next ten years. The infrastructure development in metropolitan and tier-2 cities needs to be enhanced in the form of new bridges, airports, marketing complexes and industrial units. 40% of the rural areas need to be covered with all weather roads; we need to double the present national highways ratio per 100 square kilometer area.

Nano-science material and technology research can definitely provide a solution. Our research focus in the nano-material should be towards cheaper rural housing, surfaces, coatings, use of concrete with heat and light exclusion. Can we develop heat resistance nano-material to block ultraviolet and infra red radiation? We should also develop a nano-molecular structure to make concrete more robust to water seepage, with self cleaning surfaces and bio active coating.

Energy: Energy Independence is India's first and highest priority. We are determined to achieve this by the year 2030 through three different sources namely renewable energy (solar, wind and hydro power), electrical power from nuclear energy and bio-fuel for the transportation sector. Energy independence throws very important technological challenges to the world: The solar cell efficiency has to increase from the present 15% to 20% to 45 to 50% through intensified research on CNT based solar cells. For thorium reactors, as it is known, thorium is a non-fissile material. It has to be converted into a fissile material using Fast Breeder Technology. In the Bio-fuel area, the challenge is bio-fuel plantation for higher yield, esterification technologies for the higher output and the modification to automobile power plants. These three research areas definitely need intensive cooperation between Greece and India.

Safe Drinking Water: We have embarked on a mission for water purification, water de-toxification, water desalination through nano membranes and nano sensor for detecting contaminants and pathogens? How the nano-porous zeo-lites, nano-porous polymers can be used to design and develop products for water purification.

Healthcare: India has already patented the development of drug delivery system using nano-technology. Stem cell research in India is advancing in the field of cardiology, ophthalmology, diabetic research, endocrinology, oncology and immunology. It is essential to develop drug delivery system for stem cell implantation into the specific organs of the body related to the ailment using nano technology.

Aerospace: Emerging technologies such as MEMS, Nano, Information technology, biotechnology, space research, Hypersonic, High power lasers and microwave will be dominating the future in every field and applications. The advancements in material science and technology will give a major thrust to the realization of advanced aerospace systems. We are today at the convergence of Nano, Bio and Information technologies, that will lead to new generation aerospace devices and products.

Molecular nano technology has enormous potential for future aerospace systems. Research has shown that newly discovered class of molecules, particularly carbon nano tubes built from graphite sheets curved into a wide variety of close shapes, may lead to tougher, high temperature materials that can survive in vacuum and other harsh environments. Carbon nano tubes are normal form of carbon with remarkable electrical and mechanical properties. It is hoped that such materials could revolutionize electronic design and open the space frontier by radically lowering the cost of launch to orbit.

Carbon Nano Tubes reinforced with polymer matrix will result in composites which are super strong, light weight, small and intelligent structures in the field of material science. This has tremendous aerospace applications.

ICT: Molecular switches and circuits along with nano cell will pave the way for the next generation computers. Ultra dense computer memory coupled with excellent electrical performance will result in low power, low cost, nano size and yet faster assemblies. This will result in the small scale assembly of computers, tablet PCs, display systems etc.

Collaborative Programme in Nano Science and Technology

Next ten years will see nano technology playing the most dominant role in the global business environment and is expected to reach $ one trillion. In this scenario, with the core competence of NCSR and Indian R&D institutions, we can create vertical missions under a joint venture organisation for at least 10 nano technology products in Water, Energy, Agriculture, Healthcare, Space and Defence and ICT sectors. In these identified vertical missions, R&D institutions, Universities, private and public Industries from Greece and India should work together for faster design, development and production of products for world market.

In order to achieve this mission, we need to connect all the relevant institutions participating in this mission using the high bandwidth fiber optics network into a Knowledge Grid specially established for the nano technology mission of Greece and India.

Conclusion

Since, I am in the midst of scientists and technologists of National Centre for Scientific Research, I would like to share some of the research areas where Greece and India can work together.

1. In the energy sector, increasing the solar photovoltaic cell efficiency from the existing 15% to 45% using silicon as a base with Carbon Nano Tube is an important research challenge. Scientists in reputed laboratories in the world have established the fact that the alignment of the CNT with the polymer composites substrate is the key issue and this aligned CNT based PV cells would give very high efficiency in photovoltaic conversion. The polymer composites increase contact area for better charge transfer and energy conversion. In this process, the researchers could achieve the efficiency of about 50% at the laboratory scale. The intensity of research in Indian research institutions has to be enhanced to realize commercial production of CNT based Photovoltaic cells.

2. India has to go for nuclear power generation in big way using thorium based reactors. Thorium, a non fissile material, is available in abundance in our country. Intensive research is essential for converting thorium for maximizing its utilization and generating electric power through thorium based reactors.

3. Proteomics is the study of all the proteins expressed by the genome of a cell. It is the logical extension of genomics. Proteomics helps to understand the basic biological processes critical to normal cellular functions as well as the development of diseases. It identifies the essential components of these processes and exploits these components as targets in the development of new methods to prevent or treat diseases. The type of work involved is huge and challenging, and much bigger than the Human genome programme. There is a national programme in proteomics. This has to be given thrust with cooperation of International Scientific community.

4. There is much research and development and progress in testing of vaccine in the country for prevention of HIV/AIDS disease. It is indeed a big challenge for life science scientists to have an integrated vaccine development leading to production in three years time.

5. Stem cell research through three areas such as Adult stem cells, umbilical cord stem cells, and embryonic stem cells has to be pursued on a mission mode for finding cure for many diseases.

6. In many places in our planet, we experience severe earthquakes resulting in loss of life, loss of wealth and in some cases it destroys the decades of progress made by the country and its valuable civilizational heritage. India has earthquake problems periodically in certain regions. Greece also has earthquake problems. It is essential for us to work on mission mode research for forecasting the earthquake using multiple parameters using precursors such as pre-shock conditions, electromagnetic phenomena prior to final rupture and atmospheric and ionospheric anomalies.

7. The quantum of rainfall in a particular area for a particular cloud condition within a specified duration is not being determined by the present monsoon prediction system. Heavy rains in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad in our nation during the last few years and Katrina hurricane in US has created enormous loss of life and property. This brings out the necessity for global monsoon research for determining intensity and quantum of rain in a particular cloud condition through a validated prediction system with detailed research. With this system scientists should be able to provide the information for the particular cloud condition, how much rain will come in what period through the use of Polorimetric radar.

Solutions to these seven research areas: first two relating to solar power and nuclear power area, third relating to healthcare, fourth relating to HIV/AIDS, fifth relating to stem cell research, sixth relating to forecasting of earthquake and seventh relating to precision forecasting of rain content for particular cloud condition are challenging areas for the young researchers in Greece and India.

My greetings to all the members of National Centre for Scientific Research and my best wishes to all of you in your mission of promoting scientific discoveries, technological inventions and innovations for societal transformation.

May God bless you."

####

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