All you need to know about: Ethanol Blending

The government has come up with a renewed focus on the practice of ethanol blending. Here is all you need to know about it.

  • What is ethanol blending?:
    • It is the practice of blending petrol with ethanol.
    • Ethanol is 99% pure.
  • How is ethanol derived?:
    • Sugarcane industry is one of the important sources of ethanol.
    • It is derived from biomass through the fermentation process using glucose derived from sugar(sugarcane, sugar beet, and molasses), starch(corn, wheat, grains) and cellulose(forest products).

 

Image result for ethanol blending

Ethanol Blending of Petrol

 

  • What are the advantages of ethanol blending?
    • It increases the octane rating(a standard measure of the performance of the engine) of the fuel and thus acts as an anti-knocking agent.
    • It reduces the emissions of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrocarbons.
    • Lead and other carcinogens will be reduced.
    • Better combustion of engine fuel.
    • It will reduce the overall demand of petrol. This will alleviate the import burden of petrol–>around 80 million litres of petrol could be saved annually.
    • Reduced pollution will also help in checking the pollution-related health problems like asthma, cardiovascular diseases among others.
    • Cheaper than petrol, thus, savings for the consumers.
    • The demand of ethanol will increase giving a boost to the sugarcane industry which is the major source for ethanol.
  • What are the disadvantages related to ethanol blending?:
    • As the demand of sugarcane will increase, the products of sugarcane will also become more expensive. Thus, sugar can become costlier. This could cut the savings indeed.
    • The plants of sugarcane, sorghum etc. which are used for deriving ethanol would be cut. These plants play an important role in carbon sequestration. Thus, the sinking of carbon which tackles pollution will be affected.
    • The processes involved in making the engines adaptable to ethanol blended petrol will put a burden on the automobile industry. This burden could be transmitted to the consumers in the form of increased cost of vehicles.
    • Oil companies also need to alter their processes which could be a humongous task.
  • What are the policy measures taken by the government till now?:
    • Auto fuel policy 2003 found mention of ethanol blending.
    • National Policy of Bio-fuels,2009: Petrol blended with at least 5% of ethanol.
    • Recently, the Ethanol Blending Programme saw a tweak with the percentage blending increased from 5% to 10%.
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Four New elements in the periodic table

Image result for new elements in periodic table

Who declares these elements?

International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry(IUPAC)

How are names of the elements decided?:

They are decided generally on the basis of the following:

  • A mythological concept or character.
  • A mineral or similar substance.
  • A place or geographical region.
  • A property of the element.
  • A scientist.

What are the names of the new elements so added?

  • Nihonium(Nh): 113
  • Moscovium(Mc): 115
  • Tenessine(Ts).:117
  • Oganesson(Og): 118

How did these new elements got this name?

  • Nihonium: 
    • Derived from the word “Nippon” meaning Japan in Japanese.
  • Moscovium:
    • From the Russian capital “Moscow”.
  • Tennessine:
    • On the state of Tennessee.
    • It is a state which is known for its pioneering research in the field of chemistry.
  • Oganesson:
    • On the name of Physicist Yuri Oganessian.

What is so special about Nihonium?:

Nihonium is the first element to be discovered in an Asian country.

Technology: Blockchains

Blockchains for a considerable time now has been a much discussed technology. Bitcoins too have hit headlines for multiple reasons, both good and bad.

In this article,we will explain in detail the concept of blockchains, bitcoins , their applications ,and importance.

What is the blockchain technology?:

A technology which facilitates peer-to-peer transactions without requiring any intermediaries like banks or any other Financial Institutions.

What is the need of a blockchain?

The other peer-to-peer transactions require a centralized system or an intermediary for transfer of money. This has a few limitations:

  • It is a slow process and may take a few days to complete.
  • A processing fee is charged by the intermediary, which makes the transactions a bit more expensive.
  • There arises a need of an intermediary. So, in areas with lower access to such intermediaries, cash transfer becomes difficult.

In order to cope up with these drawbacks, blockchain technology came into existence.

When did it come?:

This is actually interesting. Post the 2008 Lehman Financial crisis, a paper of blockchain technology became public. The Lehman crisis exposed the non-credibility of a centralized banking system. Thus, it was an opportune moment for the blockchain to popularize.

How it works?:

Before understanding the working , let us understand a few technicalities of the concept of blockchain:

  • Open Ledger:
    • A ledger generally means –> a book for financial transactions.
    • Consider a chain of four people, say, A,B,C,D amongst whom the transaction has to be carried out.
    • At the genesis, we assume that A has an amount of 10$ with himself.This information is already there in a database(which will later be clarified as the blockchain database).
    • Now, he wants to transfer 5$ to B. A transaction will be added in the database which validates the transfer of this amount. This will be linked to the previous transaction present in the database.
    • The same process continues for the rest. Now if B wants to transfer to C $3, then the transaction is validated* and added to the link of transactions in the database.
    • Now, if A wants to transfer 10$ to say, D, it will not be validated and added to the database. This is because A has only 5$ left with him.

(Imp.)*The question is – ” Who is deciding the validity of the transaction?”

Answer: As mentioned in the name, this is an “open” ledger system and thus, each party has the access to the database which contains the transactions taking place. So, anyone of them can validate or invalidate the sought transaction.

But, if we see here, then a central database has been created. So, this can’t be the concept underlying the blockchain as it seeks to do away with centralization. Thus, we need o understand a bit modified version of this concept.

  • Distributed Open Ledger:
    • As the name suggests, now, instead of a centralised ledger, we have a system in which each of the parties is holding with it a copy of ledger, thereby, making it a distributed open ledger.
  • The key concept–Miners and Cryptocurrency(this governs the working of a blockchain):
    • Now suppose, B wants to make a transaction of 5$ to C.
    • A and D have the ledger(database) with them(distributed system).So, obviously , anyone of them can validate the transaction if it is truly valid.
    • A and D are special nodes which are holding the ledger. These are called miners. 
    • Key point: Now, miners(A & D) will compete with each other in order to validate and add to their respective ledgers, the given transactions
    • Why to compete? :
      • This is because the one who wins gets a financial reward. In the case of a blockchain , this reward is a cryptocurrency.The best example of such a cryptocurrency is the bitcoin.
    • What kind of competition?:
      • To take the transaction and lock with their ledger requires a competition.
      • The competition will be for a key called “validation key”.
      • This validation key is achieved by solving a cryptographic(coded) puzzle.
      • The one who finds the validation key first gets the financial reward.
    • Synchronization takes place after every such competed validation.
    • Each of the miner is a block—> a chain of them–>blockchain.

Now, look at the image below to understand the summary of the whole transaction.

 

Image courtesy: Blockgeeks

 

In short:

Blockchain is an open ledger technology which is:

  • Public
  • Distributed
  • Synchronised
  • secured through cryptography.

In the next, we will cover the bitcoins comprehensively.

 

 

What are the Gravitational Waves?

A few months ago, the scientists discovered what they termed as the gravitational waves. It is said by the scientists that the presence of these waves was predicted by the great scientist, Albert Einstein. The discovery is considered to be a major breakthrough in the research of black holes and eventually, the formation of the universe.

What are gravitational waves?

  • These are disturbances or ripples in the space and time.
  • An analogy to understand: When you move your hands through a still pool of water, waves are formed and follow their path. A similar phenomenon takes place in the fabric of space and time.

 

Image result for gravitational waves

Who discovered these waves first?

Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory(LIGO) in the U.S was the first to corroborate Einstein’s prediction on the presence of such waves.

What is the cause of these waves?

Mainly caused by the massive accelerating objects like black holes or neutron stars.

Also, catastrophic events like:

  • colliding black holes.
  • the collapse of stellar cores or stars called supernovae.
  • the coalescing of the neutron stars or white dwarf stars.
  • unstable rotation of neutron stars (which might not be perfect spheres).
  • remanents of the gravitational radiations created by the birth of the universe.

What are the characteristic features of the waves?:

  • Travel with the speed of light.
  • They are very tiny and delicate to be detected.
  • Do not interact with matter and travel through the universe unhindered.

What is the significance of this discovery?

  • Since they are unimpeded waves, they will carry information about their origin without any distortions. This will help in tracing the origin of the universe.
  • Improved methods for estimating the distances of galaxies.
  • Mapping the abundance of black holes and frequency of their mergers.
  • Would help in tracing the cosmic information like that of the supernova.

 

 

Science and Technology: Mitochondrial Donation(3 parent-baby)

About:

  • The DNA of three persons is involved in the birth of a young one.
  • This is believed to be a scientific miracle to win over the genetic disorders in a parent due to which the couple is not able to beget a child or even if a child is born, it may not live for long.
  • Recently, a Jordanian Couple begot such a child in Mexico through a third person(a woman)–> Thus, the child is a Jordanian- Mexican child.

Diagram showing structure of a cell

How it works?:

Without going into scientific details, we will have a generalist insight of how it works.

  • Suppose, the mother in a couple has the defective mitochondria.
  • Due to this, they are not able to beget a child or beget a defective child which doesn’t live for long.
  • Now, in order to beget a child, they involve yet another woman with the mitochondria in the right state.
  • The process goes like this:
    • Eggs from the mother(which is defective) and the woman are collected.
    • Woman’s(donor’s) nucleus from her egg is removed and destroyed.
    • The nucleus(which comprises the maximum portion of DNA) from mother’s egg is removed and placed in the woman’s egg.
    • Now this egg can be fertilized by the father’s sperm.

 

egg repair.png

 

 

Ethical Concerns

  • Genetic alterations may take place. This can lead to the production of the designer (rather than the natural ones).
  • Commercialisation of this technique of not regulated well may lead to exploitation of the donors.
  • According to Western Philosopher Kant, human beings must not be treated as means but ends in themselves. This technique uses the donor woman as means and thus, violates Kantian ethics. 
  • The religious class would also reject such techniques on the basis of being unnatural.

Health Concerns:

  • Genetic disorders may take place.
  • There are concerns of the impeccable performance of the operation, that is, without harming any individual involved.
  • There are doubts about the longevity of the children begot from such techniques.
  • There are concerns about congenital disorders in the newborns.

Way Ahead:

  • Legalizing the technique only after taking into account the concerns of all categories of persons.
  • Sufficient regulatory measures and legal safeguards to ensure that the technique is not misused and no exploitation of the donor takes place.