Scientists formulate model to trace elusive exo-moons from JWST data

Scientists have developed a model to trace the so far elusive exomoons – natural satellites that revolve around exoplanets (planets orbiting stars other than the Sun) with the help of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), launched in December 2021. This may also help detect habitable exo-moons in the future and understand new worlds beyond our own.

So far, five thousand exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, have been discovered by using several ground-based and space telescopes such as Kepler, CoRoT, Spitzer, and Hubble space telescopes. However, the natural satellites or exomoon around any of these planets still remain untraced.

The Solar system is constituted of a large number of natural satellites with various sizes and mass, and many of them influence the ambient environment of the Solar planets. Therefore, a large number of exomoons are expected to be present, and they may play a crucial role in the habitability of rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of their host stars. While most exoplanets are detected through photometric transit method, signals from exo-moons are too weak to detect mainly because of their extremely small size.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, have demonstrated that the newly launched James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is sufficiently powerful to detect the transit signal of exomoons in the photometric light curves of moon hosting exoplanets.

Professor Sujan Sengupta and his graduate student Suman Saha have developed an analytical model that uses the radius and orbital properties of the host planet and its moon as parameters to model the photometric transit light curve of moon-hosting exoplanets by incorporating various possible orientations of the moon-planet-star system. 

The co-alignment or non-coalignment of the orbits of the planet and the moon are used as parameters (using two angular parameters), and they can be used to model all the possible orbital alignments for a star-planet-moon system. Using these generic models and the analysis of photometric transit light curves of exoplanets that is being obtained by JWST, a large number of exomoons can be detected in near future. According to the researchers, an exo-moon around a gas giant planet like Jupiter in the habitable zone of the host star where temperature is appropriate for water to exist in liquid state may harbour life. Under favourable alignment of moon-planet-star, such exomoon may also be detected by JWST. The research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, which is published by the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

Figure: Schematic diagram of moon hosting exoplanet and its model photometric transit

light curve.



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ARCI Scientists develop energy-efficient method for hydrogen production with less carbon footprint

Indian Scientists have developed a method to produce hydrogen with high purity (99.99%) from methanol-water mixture at ambient pressure and temperature that uses only one-third of the electrical energy required in water electrolysis.

With near-zero or zero end-use emissions and continually replenished fossil fuel resources, hydrogen can be an ideal sustainable energy carrier and would play an immense role in the near future. Hydrogen is gaining much attention due to its high specific energy value of 40 kWh/kg as compared to chemical fuels like gasoline, diesel, liquid petroleum gas (12-14 kWh/kg). The most abundant raw material containing hydrogen is water. It is also present in natural gas, petroleum, and biomass, and they can form the source for generation of hydrogen.

Water electrolysis and reformation of hydrocarbon like methane are common methods for production of hydrogen. For India’s energy transition to clean fuels, adoption of green hydrogen from renewable energy, integrated water electrolysis process to generate energy would bring in significant benefits.

Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, have developed a method which combines both the processes of electrolysis and reformation to produce hydrogen from methanol-water mixture by electrochemical methanol reformation (ECMR) at ambient pressure and temperature. The main advantage of this process is that the electrical energy needed to produce hydrogen is 1/3rd of water electrolysis (Practical water electrolysis requires 55-65 kWh/kg of hydrogen). This technology has been patented by ARCI (Indian Patent 338862/2020 and 369206/2021).

In the ECMR process, which uses polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM), hydrogen can be produced at a lower temperature (25-60oC) and pressure, unlike chemical reformation. Hydrogen separation or purification steps are not required since it is being well separated from CO2 by polymer membrane used in the system. ARCI team is working on this technology and have developed an electrolysis unit of upto 5.0 kg/day capacity to produce hydrogen. The corresponding energy requirement for the electrolyser stack is around 17 kWhr/kg. The hydrogen thus produced by ARCI is highly pure (99.99%) and can be directly used in PEM fuel cells to generate power of about 11-13 kW.

The core components of the PEM-based ECMR electrolyser stack were fabricated indigenously and integrated with other components in the system. The electrolyser stack was fabricated using exfoliated graphite material as reactant flow field plate. Use of carbon materials as bipolar plates has been one of the significant achievements in replacing the titanium plates, which is otherwise normally used in electrolyser unit assembly, offering a conservative cost-benefit.

ARCI team has developed the indigenous process for fabricating the core components like Membrane Electrode Assembly (MEA), bipolar plates, and several process equipments. This method will significantly reduce the hydrogen cost compared to the water electrolysis method and can be easily integrated with renewable energy sources. ARCI is working with industry partners for integration with renewable energy sources like PV.

Patent details : (Indian Patent 338862/2020 and 369206/2021).

For more details contact Dr. R. Balaji Senior Scientist, Centre for Fuel Cell Technology, ARCI [rbalaji(at)arci(dot)res(dot)in].

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Hong Kong – Hong Kong scientists receive State Natural Science Awards

Hong Kong scientists receive State Natural Science Awards


     Hong Kong researchers have won three second-class awards in the 2020 State Natural Science Awards (SNSAs) announced by the National Office for Science and Technology Awards in Beijing today (November 3).
     The Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, said, “The awards received by the Hong Kong researchers again highlight our excellent strength in basic and applied research, and bring great motivation to their fellow researchers. We congratulate the awardees on their achievements and hope they will continue to scale new heights in their research, and foster more talented young people in the future.”
     The SNSAs are one of five categories of awards under the State Science and Technology Awards organised by the State Council. As China’s most prestigious award in the field of natural science, the SNSAs aim to reward individuals and organisations for academic excellence in basic and applied research in natural science.
     Two of the three projects which won second-class awards in the 2020 SNSAs were nominated by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government. Details are as follows:
     Professor Yu Jun of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) was awarded for her research project on “Integrative Research on Natural History, Mechanism, Potential Diagnostic and Therapeutic Targets for Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and its related Hepatocellular Carcinoma”. Other core members of the CUHK research team for the project include Professor Vincent Wong, Professor Henry Chan, Professor Zhang Xiang and Professor Joseph Sung.
     The 18-year-long project involves the systematic research on the understanding of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) with major breakthroughs in the key mechanism, therapeutic targets, non-invasive diagnosis and natural history of this disease. These breakthroughs include (1) systematically elucidating for the first time the key molecular mechanisms and clinically applicable therapeutic targets of the progression from simple steatosis to steatohepatitis (NASH) / liver fibrosis; (2) revealing for the first time the mechanism of NASH progression to NAFLD-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and discovering their therapeutic targets; (3) identifying for the first time multiple diagnostic biomarkers, inventing a clinical scoring system, and establishing a robust platform for non-invasive diagnosis of NASH / liver fibrosis; and (4) elaborating the natural history of NAFLD and its associated risk factors and formulating international guidelines for NAFLD prevention and treatment. The findings of the series of studies on NAFLD and NAFLD-related HCC has remarkably improved public understanding of the occurrence, development and risk factors of these diseases, and followed by identification of potential therapeutic targets. Moreover, the project pushed forward the research and development of prevention, non-invasive early diagnosis, assessment and treatment for NAFLD and created a profound impact on the development of NAFLD-related basic research and its clinical translation.
     Professor Charles Ng of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) was awarded for his research project on “State-dependent Constitutive Framework for Unsaturated Soils and its Applications”. Other core members of the research team included Professor Lee Chack-fan of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Professor Dai Fuchu of Beijing University of Technology, Professor Abraham Chiu of Shantou University and Dr Zhou Chao of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
     Unsaturated soils are a complex three-phase (i.e. solid, water and gas) material which is the carrier for all buildings and the composing material for slopes. The moisture condition and stress state of unsaturated soils are affected by climate change and human engineering activities which would in turn greatly affect their engineering properties. The project team has conducted systematic and thorough research on unsaturated soils, and discovered for the first time the stress dependency of seepage characteristics, suction-path dependency of deformation behaviour and suction dependency of dilatancy and strength. Based on these important findings, the project team has developed a novel state-dependent elasto-plastic constitutive framework for analysing seepage-deformation-stability coupled man-made and natural problems commonly occurring in unsaturated soils. The research outputs provide a profound theoretical basis for the scientific design and safe construction of slopes, landfill covers and pavements, and helped societies face challenges such as climate change.
     Meanwhile, the project “The Emeishan Large Igneous Province and its Mantle Plume Origin” in which Dr Wang Yan of HKU participated also won a second-class award. It was nominated by institutions in the Mainland.
     The HKSAR Government was invited by the National Office for Science and Technology Awards to submit nominations from the HKSAR. The nominations were co-ordinated by the Education Bureau with the assistance of the Beijing-Hong Kong Academic Exchange Centre.

Scientists from four BRICS countries to carry out genomic sequencing and mathematical modelling of the COVID-19 pandemic

Indian Scientists, in partnership with Scientists from China, Russia and Brazil, will carry out genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 and studies on the epidemiology and mathematical modelling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will help trace genetic mutations, recombinations as well as distribution of the virus and also make projections about the future of its spread. 

A whole-genome sequencing is required for identification of genetic mutations and recombinations of the virus, while epidemiological studies can help assess its distribution. Mathematical modelling is required to assess its future spread.

Keeping this in mind, a research plan has been made by including expertise of scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds. A consortium consisting of Dr Ch Sasikala, Professor, Centre for Environment, Institute of Science and Technology, Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University Hyderabad, Yuhua Xin, Professorate Senior Engineer Institute of Microbiology, Chinese  Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, Ivan Sobolev,   Senior Researcher, Federal Research Center of Fundamental and Translational Medicine, Timakova, Russia, Dr Marilda Mendonça Siqueira, Respiratory Viruses and Measles Laboratory, Oswaldo Cruz Institute, Fiocruz., Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will carry out different arms of this BRICS-Multilateral Research and Development Project.

Under this research supported by the Department of Science and Technology, India and Brazil sides will assess distribution of SARS-CoV-2 in environmental samples through metagenome analysis for wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) surveillance. Chinese and Russian scientists will carry out the Real-Time PCR detection of SARS-CoV-2 in biological material (nasopharyngeal swabs) from patients with symptoms of respiratory diseases and investigate the genomic variability, comparative genomics and phylogenetic analysis.

The genomic, metagenomic and epidemiological data from India, China, Russia and Brazil will be integrated to develop mathematical models for mutations analysis, population genetics, phylogenetic relationship, recombination analysis and risk evaluation to reveal spread network and dynamics of the virus. This can help trace spread routes and dynamics of the virus. The database developed by the different groups will also compare the distribution and survival of the virus in the different regions and establish the surveillance of the relevant early warning system.

The collaborative research plan has been developed considering the strengths of international collaborators from the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences of China, Federal Research Centre of Fundamental and Translational Medicine of Russia and Respiratory Virus and Measles Laboratory, Oswaldo Cruz Institute of Brazil. The study will provide a common platform to share and analyse the data of four different countries and understand the spread routes and transmission dynamics of virus.

For further details, Dr Ch Sasikala (; can be contacted.

To know more about BRICS STI Framework Programme, visit (



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Technologists and Scientists are the Architects of Modi’s new India, says Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh

  • Field Trial of Broken Rail Detection System (BRDC)  with DMRC satisfactory
  • Production of Automatic Weather Observation System for Airports in the last stage          

Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh said that technologists and scientists are the true architects of New India envisaged by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Dr Jitendra Singh was addressing the scientists and staff members of Central Electronics Ltd (CEL) under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) at Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh today.

Stating that CEL is the premier institution for research & development of Electronics in the country, the Minister recalled the achievement of the Enterprise in developing Solar Cell indigenously for the first time in India way back in 1977, when hardly anybody had heard of Solar Energy. The contribution made by CEL by providing varied electronics components and equipment to the Armed Forces and Indian Railways is indeed praise-worthy, the Minister added.

The Minister emphasised on the need to spread awareness about the applications of incredible work being done in this institute and also engage the stakeholders including industry, StartUps and concerned agencies in public as well as private sector.

During a brief presentation before the Minister, the CMD of CEL Chetan Prakash Jain informed that the innovative Broken Rail Detection System(BRDC) developed by CEL is undergoing field trials with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and the outcome of the same is satisfactory. Showing keen interest in the system, the Minister said that once fully operational, the above system can be replicated by the Indian Railways too.

Sh Jain informed the Minister that CEL has orders worth Rs.1057 Crore in hand and production of Automatic Weather Observation System to be used by airports is in the last stage of completion. Production of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based security and surveillance systems for one of the gates and adjoining areas of Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya is nearing completion, the Minister has been informed.

On his maiden visit to CEL after assuming charge as Union Minister of Science &Technology Dr.JitendraSingh, inaugurated the E-Office system of CEL, as part of Digital India. The Minister visited different production units and monitoring centres in CEL premises like Microwave Electronics Division, Laser Fence Monitoring Station, Weather Monitoring System and Solar Photovoltaic unit.

Established in 1974, Central Electronics Ltd. (CEL) is focused on the commercial exploitation of indigenous technologies developed by national laboratories and R&D institutions in the country.



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