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Prelims Booster

12th October – Prelims Booster

Fuel Cell Technology

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and KPIT successfully ran trials of India’s first Hydrogen Fuel Cell (HFC) prototype car running on an indigenously developed fuel cell stack at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune. The fuel cell is a low temperature PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) type Fuel Cell that operates at 65-75 degree centigrade, which is suitable for vehicular applications.

About Fuel Cells –

  • A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical potential energy (energy stored in molecular bonds) into electrical energy.
  • A PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) cell uses hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2) as fuel.
  • The products of the reaction in the cell are water, electricity, and heat.
  • This is a big improvement over internal combustion engines, coal burning power plants, and nuclear power plants, all of which produce harmful by-products.

Applications –

Due to the high energetic content of hydrogen and high efficiency of fuel cells (55%), this great technology can be used in many applications like transport (cars, buses, forklifts, etc)  and backup power to produce electricity during a failure of the electricity grid.

Advantages of the technology –

  • By converting chemical potential energy directly into electrical energy, fuel cells avoid the “thermal bottleneck” (a consequence of the 2nd law of thermodynamics) and are thus inherently more efficient than combustion engines, which must first convert chemical potential energy into heat, and then mechanical work.
  • Direct emissions from a fuel cell vehicle are just water and a little heat. This is a huge improvement over the internal combustion engine’s litany of greenhouse gases.
  • Fuel cells have no moving parts. They are thus much more reliable than traditional engines.
  • Hydrogen can be produced in an environmentally friendly manner, while oil extraction and refining is very damaging.

Anti-Radiation Missile

India’s first indigenous anti-radiation missile, Rudram, developed for the Indian Air Force, was successfully flight-tested from a Sukhoi-30 MKI jet off the east coast recently.

What is an anti-radiation missile?

  • Anti-radiation missiles are designed to detect, track and neutralise the adversary’s radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources, which are generally part of their air defence systems.
  • Such a missile’s navigation mechanism comprises an inertial navigation system — a computerised mechanism that uses changes in the object’s own position — coupled with GPS, which is satellite-based.
  • For guidance, it has a “passive homing head” — a system that can detect, classify and engage targets (radio frequency sources in this case) over a wide band of frequencies as programmed.
  • Officials said once the Rudram missile locks on the target, it is capable of striking accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between. Officials said the missile has an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.

Significance –

  • Rudram has been developed for the IAF’s requirement to enhance its Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability.
  • As one of the many aspects of SEAD tactics, anti-radiation missiles are used mainly in the initial part of air conflict to strike at the air defence assets of the enemy, and also in later parts, leading to higher survivability to a country’s own aircraft.
  • Neutralising or disrupting the operations of the adversary’s early warning radars, command and control systems, surveillance systems that use radio frequencies and give inputs for anti-aircraft weaponry, can be very crucial.
  • Scientists said modern-day warfare is more and more network-centric, which means it comprises elaborate detection, surveillance and communication systems that are integrated with the weapons systems.

Graded Response Action Plan

Some stricter measures to fight air pollution generally come into force in Delhi and its neighbouring National Capital Region (NCR) towns in October-November, as part of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP). The action plan has been in effect for three years in Delhi and NCR.

What is GRAP?

  • Approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government representatives and experts. The result was a plan that institutionalised measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates.
  • GRAP works only as an emergency measure. As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions.
  • The plan is incremental in nature — therefore, when the air quality moves from ‘Poor’ to ‘Very Poor’, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed.

Background –

  • GRAP has been successful in doing two things that had not been done before — creating a step-by-step plan for the entire Delhi-NCR region, and getting on board several agencies: all pollution control boards, industrial area authorities, municipal corporations, regional officials of the India Meteorological Department, and others.
  • The plan requires action and coordination among 13 different agencies in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan (NCR areas). At the head of the table is the EPCA, mandated by the Supreme Court.
  • GRAP was notified in 2017 by the Centre and draws its authority from this notification. Before the imposition of any measures, EPCA holds a meeting with representatives from all NCR states, and a call is taken on which actions have to be made applicable in which town.

Steps in GRAP –

  • When GRAP comes into force, diesel generator (DG) sets are no longer to be used in Delhi and the NCR towns of Noida, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Faridabad, and Gurgaon. The only exception is DG sets used for emergency and essential services.
  • Pollution control authorities begin night patrolling to check for dust and industrial emissions, as well as the burning of waste. Mechanised sweeping and frequent sprinkling of water on roads (to make the dust settle) have been directed.
  • These steps will be incremental. Levels of pollution are expected to rise as winter approaches — and as they do, more measures will come into force, depending on the air quality.
  • If air quality reaches the ‘Severe+’ stage, the response under GRAP includes extreme measures such as shutting down schools and implementing the odd-even road-space rationing scheme.

Achievements of GRAP –

Three major policy decisions that can be credited to EPCA and GRAP are the closure of the thermal power plant at Badarpur, bringing BS-VI fuel to Delhi before the deadline set initially, and the ban on Pet coke as a fuel in Delhi-NCR.

Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus

Plants and viruses are constantly involved in a race to outdo one another, and their lives literally depend on this. A new study with researchers from National Centre of Biological Sciences (NCBSTIFR), Bengaluru, has discovered a new step in this arms race between the virus called Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus and the plants it attacks. The virus was isolated by the researchers from a plant named Synedrella nodiflora, and it was able to infect tobacco and tomato plant in their studies.

About the virus –

This virus is a representative of the Begomovirus family of viruses. “Begomoviruses are a large family with about 400 members. They infect economically important plants and are a major reason for crop loss.

What is this arms race?

  • The virus first attacks the plant, and the plant has defences that are actually counter-attacks – mechanisms that seek to destroy the virus. In turn, the virus develops a counter-counter-attack by trying to escape being destroyed by the plant’s mechanisms. In the case of the Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus, it happens this way: When the virus attacks the plant, it produces vein-clearing symptoms which make the plant look beautiful.
  • The fact, however, is that this does not make it better for the plant. It actually makes it difficult for the plant to produce flowers and fruits.
  • Without BetaC1, a viral protein, the virus will not be able to defeat the host attacks and also will not be able to completely infect the plant, as the virus will not be able to move through the veins of the plant.
  • In turn, the plant develops defence mechanisms to destroy the virus. It targets the protein called BetaC1 made by the virus which helps in successful infection and intracellular movement within the plant. Plants degrade BetaC1 protein of virus by tagging this protein with another smaller protein called ubiquitin.

How does the virus respond to it?

The virus uses the plant’s machinery to create a small modification of the BetaC1 protein. It adds a tiny protein called SUMO to the betaC1 protein in a process termed SUMOylation. BetaC1 hijacks the SUMO pathway machinery of the plants and makes itself a substrate for SUMOylation. Essentially, BetaC1 mimics or tricks the host SUMOylation machinery as if it is one of the host plant protein requiring SUMOylation.

Mullaperiyar Dam

The Tamil Nadu government has rebutted allegations made in the Supreme Court that the Supervisory Committee for Mullaperiyar dam “abdicated its duties” to evaluate the safety of the structure and water levels.

What is the issue?

  • The State countered allegations that the Supervisory Committee constituted by the top court in 2014 had “delegated” its duties to a sub-committee.
  • The court had sought a reply from the State on a petition filed by Joe Joseph and office-bearers of the Kothamangalam block panchayat in Kerala, expressing their apprehension about the lack of proper supervision of water levels in the over-a-century-old dam located along the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
  • The State explained that the sub-committee is chaired by the Executive Engineer, Central Water Commission (CWC), with headquarters in Kochi. It has members from both Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The sub-committee periodically inspects the dam, collects data on seepage, collects water samples from the lake and seepage water, conducts water quality tests on them and so on, and reports the details to the Supervisory Committee.

Argument of the Tamil Nadu government –

  • The sub-committee members do not have any powers to give direction to the States. It is only doing the job of collecting information and data pertaining to the dam once in every two months, and if required, more frequently, as per directions of the Chairman of the Supervisory Committee, and furnishing the same to the committee.
  • The sub-committee is only assisting the Supervisory Committee. This cannot be called the delegation of the authority of the Supervisory Committee.

Mullaperiyar Dam –

  • The Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district.
  • It is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu government for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts. According to a 999-year lease agreement made during the British rule, the operational rights were handed over to Tamil Nadu.
  • The dam intends to divert the waters of the west-flowing river Periyar eastward to the arid rain shadow regions of the Tamil Nadu.

Periyar River –

  • The Periyar River is the longest river in the state of Kerala with a length of 244 km.
  • It is also known as ‘Lifeline of Kerala’ as it is one of the few perennial rivers in the state.
  • Periyar River originates from Sivagiri hills of Western Ghats and flows through the Periyar National Park.
  • The main tributaries of Periyar are Muthirapuzha, Mullayar, Cheruthoni, Perinjankutti.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

The Supreme Court has sought a response from the country’s apex child rights body, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), to its request to eight States to “produce” children living in care homes before the local child welfare committees for their “immediate repatriation” with their families.

Details –

The NCPCR reportedly wrote to Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Mizoram, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Meghalaya in this regard. These States together have 1.84 lakh children in care homes. This accounts for over 70% of the children in care homes.

About NCPCR –

  • The NCPCR is a body that works towards achieving a child rights-centric approach in all the laws, programmes, policies and administrative mechanisms in India. It functions under the Ministry of Women & Child Development of the central government.
    • It strives to ensure that all laws and policies in the country are in consonance with the rights of children as emphasised by the Indian Constitution as well as with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
    • A child is defined as any person between the ages of 0 and 18 years.
    • The Commission acknowledges the universality and inviolability of child rights.
    • It focuses on children that form a part of the most vulnerable sections of society.
    • The Commission sees every right of the child as equally important and hence, does not grade the rights according to importance.
    • The Commission is also mandated with responsibilities under two other acts, namely – Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, and Right to Education Act, 2009.
  • The NCPCR has been constituted by the Government as an act of Parliament as mentioned above. Hence, it is a statutory organisation. It consists of the following members:
    • Chairperson – Person of eminence and who has an exemplary record of work in child welfare.
    • Six members – A minimum of two women members, Should have experience in the following fields – Education, Child health, care, welfare or child development, Juvenile justice or care of neglected or marginalised children or children with disabilities, Elimination of child labour or children in distress, Child psychology or sociology, and Laws relating to children.

MCQs

1. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Fuel Cell Technology’?

  1. It is a device that converts chemical potential energy into electrical energy.
  2. Fuel Cell is a proton exchange membrane cell that uses hydrogen gas and oxygen gas as fuel.
  3. The products of the reaction are water, electricity and heat.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – A fuel cell is a device that converts chemical potential energy (energy stored in molecular bonds) into electrical energy. A PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) cell uses hydrogen gas (H2) and oxygen gas (O2) as fuel. The products of the reaction in the cell are water, electricity, and heat. This is a big improvement over internal combustion engines, coal burning power plants, and nuclear power plants, all of which produce harmful by-products.

2. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Anti-Radiation Missiles’?

  1. These missiles are designed to detect, track and neutralise the enemy’s radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources.
  2. The limitation of RUDRAM missile tested by the DRDO is that it has a ‘passive homing head’ which makes it difficult for the missile to attack the radio source if the radiation sources are switched off by the enemy in between the operations.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – A

Explanation – Anti-radiation missiles are designed to detect, track and neutralise the adversary’s radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources, which are generally part of their air defence systems. Such a missile’s navigation mechanism comprises an inertial navigation system — a computerised mechanism that uses changes in the object’s own position — coupled with GPS, which is satellite-based. For guidance, it (RUDRAM in this case) has a “passive homing head” — a system that can detect, classify and engage targets (radio frequency sources in this case) over a wide band of frequencies as programmed. Officials said once the Rudram missile locks on the target, it is capable of striking accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between. Officials said the missile has an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet.

3. ‘Graded Response Action Plan’ relates to the –

  1. An emergency response system in terms of tackling coronavirus pandemic in metro cities
  2. India’s recently launched national digital infrastructure to track the supply chains of vaccines
  3. A tracking system focusing on the three-phase trial mechanism of vaccines being conducted in India at several locations
  4. None of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – Graded Response Action Plan i.e. a plan to fight air pollution in Delhi and its neighbouring National Capital Region (NCR) towns was approved by the Supreme Court in 2016, the plan was formulated after several meetings that the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) held with state government representatives and experts. The result was a plan that institutionalised measures to be taken when air quality deteriorates. GRAP works only as an emergency measure. As such, the plan does not include action by various state governments to be taken throughout the year to tackle industrial, vehicular and combustion emissions. The plan is incremental in nature — therefore, when the air quality moves from ‘Poor’ to ‘Very Poor’, the measures listed under both sections have to be followed.

4. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct?

  1. Mullaperiyar Dam is located in Tamil Nadu at the confluence of Mullayar and Periyar rivers.
  2. It is operated and maintained by the Tamil Nadu government for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts.
  3. The dam intends to divert the waters of the west-flowing river Periyar eastward to the arid rain shadow regions of Tamil Nadu.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Answer – B

Explanation – The Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district. It is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu government for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts. According to a 999-year lease agreement made during the British rule, the operational rights were handed over to Tamil Nadu. The dam intends to divert the waters of the west-flowing river Periyar eastward to the arid rain shadow regions of the Tamil Nadu.

5. Periyar river is located in the state of –

  1. Tamil Nadu
  2. Kerala
  3. Both (a) and (b)
  4. Karnataka and Kerala

Answer – B

Explanation – The Periyar River is the longest river in the state of Kerala with a length of 244 km. It is also known as ‘Lifeline of Kerala’ as it is one of the few perennial rivers in the state. Periyar River originates from Sivagiri hills of Western Ghats and flows through the Periyar National Park. The main tributaries of Periyar are Muthirapuzha, Mullayar, Cheruthoni, Perinjankutti.

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