Using Waste A Professors Invent Eco-Friendly Cement That Is 25% More Durable

Did you know that manufacturing one tonne of cement can release up to 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide? The ubiquitous material, which is used to construct most structures across the world, happens to be the third-largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.

According to a 2018 report by Chatham House (a London-based not-for-profit organisation), while the world has generated 8 billion tonnes of plastic, more than twice the amount of cement is produced every two years. Closer home, India produced 329 million tonnes (MT) of cement in 2020 and it is estimated that this will reach 381 MT by 2022.

While cement is the go-to construction material, it takes a mammoth toll on the environment. What the world needs, then, is widespread adoption of cement alternatives that are less harmful and greener.

Noting the alarming figures of cement production, the Civil Engineering faculty at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), Delhi and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Uttar Pradesh has developed an environment-friendly version of this material. It can replace around 5-20% of cement in the construction process. The technology recently received a patent from the Patent Office, Government of Australia, and already has a patent from the Government of India.

The formula for the green adhesive was invented by Dr Ibadur Rahman, Mohammad Arif, Professor Abdul Baqi, Dr M Shariq, Er Mohammad Gamal Al-Hagri and Er Amer Saleh Ali Hasan.

Dr Rahman started experimenting and decoding nano-based modified cement and concrete composite four years ago.

“Unfortunately, cement has become a critical ingredient in the construction of houses, roads, highways, embankments and so on. With growing population, there is an increasing need for housing and infrastructure. Thus, production levels will continue rising. Through our sustainable cement composite, we aim to reduce the use of the material, if not completely eliminate it, ” he tells The Better India.

Dr Rahman takes us through the benefits of this new variety of cement and what makes their invention stand out.

Benefits of the green cement
Fly ash, which consists primarily of oxides of silicon, aluminium iron and calcium, is a by-product of construction waste. Its particles can enter the lungs and trigger asthma, inflammation and immunological reactions.

The JMI team has reused fly ash in the eco-friendly mixture, alongside micro silica fume and nano-silica fume. Micro silica fume is a by-product of silicon or ferrosilicon metal.

“A major portion of our mixture consists of products that were otherwise going to cause carbon emissions. The invention focuses on the effect of cement replacement with our mixture in a combination of two additives. The combination of micro and nano-silica fumes improves the mechanical properties of concrete and eventually the microstructure,” says Dr Rahman.

Dr Rahman emphasises the durability of eco-friendly cement, which can be up to 25% more than that of conventional cement, depending on the proportions.

He adds that there are several additional advantages of this cement, such as restriction of the structural horizontal building expansion. In conventional concrete structures, if the columns are reduced to occupy less space, the strength will also decrease. However, if we add eco-friendly cement, then even if the dimension (width) of the building is reduced, the strength will be the same as desired, he says. This is beneficial in densely populated cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. “Our cement can also be used to retrofit old houses. It will provide strength and make the houses more earthquake resistant. There will be no room for microcracks and macrocracks to develop,” he explains.

Dr Rahman and his team are awaiting patents from South Africa, after which they will approach the construction industry for commercial selling.

NHAI debars Gayatri Projects from bids

New Delhi: The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on Thursday declared Hyderabad-based Gayatri Projects Ltd as a non-performer and has prohibited the firm to participate in the ongoing and future bids of NHAI till the defects on the current project are not completely rectified as per contract requirement.

NHAI said the construction firm was engaged in four-laning of Sultanpur to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and has repeatedly violated the conditions of the agreement.

“During audit by quality inspection team and regular inspection by NHAI officials, deficiencies in the project work were observed and were shared with the contractor for rectification,” NHAI said adding that upon non-compliance, a show-cause notice was issued to the firm.

According to NHAI, the reply given by the contractor explaining the deficiencies were found to be unsatisfactory. It said some major deficiencies in the project included: Cracks in concrete pavement at many places; poor progress of work and lack of safety measures on the project; and road signages and furniture missing; and compromising road safety of the users.

NHAI said it has launched quality checking drive where all the projects are being checked by special teams of experts being sent from headquarters.

The quality inspections are not only ensuring adherence to standards, but also verifying compliance to contractual obligations on part of contractors and consultants, it added.

NHAI said enforcement of such quality control measures will increase the accountability of contractors to deliver good-quality national highway projects.

ISRO Offers A Five-Day Machine Learning Course For Free

Interested candidates must have basic knowledge of remote sensing and GIS.

The Indian Space Research Organisation has announced a five-day free course on machine learning, between July 5 -9. The course is being offered as part of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing’s (part of ISRO) outreach program. Central and state government employees, researchers, professionals, and those attached with NGOs can attend the course. Interested candidates must have basic knowledge of remote sensing and GIS.

The short course is designed for professionals engaged in remote sensing data processing in different applications which involves extracting a specific class of interest.

The course content is planned as follows:

July 5: Remote Sensing and its sensors of various resolutions. Radiometry and Geometric corrections and Basic understanding of Image

July 6: Basic classifier to machine learning-A journey

July 7: Methods in machine learning: Supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement.

July 8: Fuzzy based machine learning with application in temporal data processing

July 9: Network-based learning algorithms – ANN to CNN/RNN

ISRO Offers A Five-Day Machine Learning Course For Free
08/06/2021
Interested candidates must have basic knowledge of remote sensing and GIS.

The Indian Space Research Organisation has announced a five-day free course on machine learning, between July 5 -9. The course is being offered as part of the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing’s (part of ISRO) outreach program. Central and state government employees, researchers, professionals, and those attached with NGOs can attend the course. Interested candidates must have basic knowledge of remote sensing and GIS.

The short course is designed for professionals engaged in remote sensing data processing in different applications which involves extracting a specific class of interest.

Register for AWS ML Fridays | Hands-on Workshops on Machine Learning

The course content is planned as follows:

July 5: Remote Sensing and its sensors of various resolutions. Radiometry and Geometric corrections and Basic understanding of Image

July 6: Basic classifier to machine learning-A journey

July 7: Methods in machine learning: Supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement.

July 8: Fuzzy based machine learning with application in temporal data processing

July 9: Network-based learning algorithms – ANN to CNN/RNN

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The course materials such as lecture slides, recordings of the classes, handouts of the demonstrations, etc will be made available to the students and the full video lectures will be uploaded on YouTube.

Candidates can attend the course live via any web browser through the e-class portal of IIRS Dehradun. The participants can also attend the live workshop via IIR’s YouTube channel of IIR.

For receiving the course completion certificate, a student must have attended 70 percent of the sessions via the e-class portal. Students attending the class via IIR’s YouTube channel should mark their attendance via an offline session made available after 24 hours post the class.

All the information regarding registration and the course is available here. For further clarification, students may contact Dr Anil Kumar, course coordinator and head, PRSD, at 0135-2524114 or email him at: anil@iirs.gov.in

Pakistan spies ring illegal Indian telephone exchanges for secret information

File Photo of Indian Army
    DEFENCE INDIA

Synopsis
The entire racket was busted by the Military Intelligence wing of the Army's Southern Command which had intercepted the call received at the Army installation in eastern India a few weeks back. During the call, a spy from Pakistan was asking about...

A call from a Pakistani spy agency to an Army installation in eastern India has led to the unravelling of an illegal telephone exchange in Bengaluru, raising questions whether similar systems were operational in other parts of the country, officials said on Thursday.

The entire racket was busted by the Military Intelligence wing of the Army's Southern Command which had intercepted the call received at the Army installation in eastern India a few weeks back.
During the call, a spy from Pakistan was asking about general details while posing as a senior officer.

On further investigation, the intelligence sleuths found that some other offices located in various formations such as the Movement Control Office (MCO) as well as the Principal Comptroller of Defence Account (PCDA) were also receiving such calls seeking details from them.

A deeper probe led to uncovering of the scam in which Pakistan-based intelligence operatives exploited such illegal exchanges to route their calls to connect with Indian citizens and obtain information of military installations.

The officials said Pakistani intelligence operatives have adopted the modus operandi of investing in illegal call exchanges that switch Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls to normal Indian mobile calls.


To execute this illegal operation, SIM boxes are used which run a parallel illegal telephone exchange.

The officials explained that a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) box, also known as a SIM bank, is a hardware-based device used in the telecom sector for termination of direct Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) communication.

An operator uses a technology called ‘migration’ of the SIM cards, wherein the registration of the SIM cards jumps on different GSM modules with a specific frequency, leading to multiple GSM gateways located throughout a city or a town, and the system creates an illusion of a real user’s movement by showing the call being conducted from different gateways.

This helps in prevention of a SIM card from being blocked by service providers or detected by government agencies.

Operation of these illegal exchanges not only incurs losses to the cellular networks but also to the government as it is an un-registered operation, and the money generated is un-accounted and non-taxable which can further be utilised to support anti-national activities without leaving any money trail.

The officials said the “adversary nation” has been found using these illegal SIM boxes often to obtain sensitive information and maintain contact with their agents who have penetrated into the country.

The racket came to light after the anti-terror cell of the Bengaluru Police, with the help of Military Intelligence of the Southern Command, arrested two men who ran an illegal phone exchange, converting international calls to local ones, causing a huge revenue loss and posing a threat to national security.

Thirty-two SIM box devices, which can use 960 SIM cards at a time, were seized from them, they said.

Ibrahim Mullatti Bin Mohammed Kutty, hailing from Malappuram in Kerala, and Gautham B Vishwanathan from Tirupur in Tamil Nadu had placed the 32 devices at six areas of the city to carry out their illegal activities.

After termination of a VoIP call, the same call is further generated to the destination phone with the number appearing as that of an Indian number.

The Indian Army has issued many advisories and drafted SOPs to prevent leaks through such means. However, a lot of civilian staff still fall prey to the con.

Giant sinkhole at Mexico farm swallows family home


International

India

Aerial view of a giant sinkhole on June 9, 2021 in Santa María Zacatepec, Mexico. The giant sinkhole is located 20 kilometers northwest from the capital city Puebla, and has damaged a house built near the place where it appeared. Farmers of the surroundings have been affected since they are not allowed to enter their fields due to the warning perimeter set up by the authorities. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

A large sinkhole that appeared in late May at a farm in central Mexico has grown larger than a football field, begun swallowing a house and trapped two dogs in its depths.

The government of the central state of Puebla responded on Thursday to emotional requests from animal lovers to try to rescue the two dogs, who are trapped on a ledge on the sheer sides of the hole dropping 15 meters to water.

Because the loose soil at the edges keeps collapsing into the water at the bottom of the pit, it would be dangerous to try to rescue the animals. But officials said they have been throwing food down to the two pups, who are named Spay and Spike.

In a responsible way, the rescue of Spay and Spike, who fell into the sinkhole in Santa María Zacatepec, is being analysed,” the state government said in a statement. “Despite the risky conditions and taking all precautions, the dogs have been fed.”

Pressure built on officials to do something. The dogs, which were apparently playing in the farm field surrounding the sinkhole, fell in about four days ago.

A non-profit animal rescue squad volunteered to attempt to bring the dogs up. The unit proposed sending a rescuer down on a rope and said the animals might have to be tranquilised so that they could be caught and pulled up.

The sinkhole is now over 125 meters across in some places, and may be 45 meters at its deepest point. It is hard to tell, because water fills the crater.

The Mexican government has sent in soldiers to keep people 600 meters away from the edge of the hole, which is 15 meters deep.

“It’s a very hard time for us. It hurts, because this is all that we have,” said Magdalena Xalamigua Xopillacle, whose brick and cinderblock house was slowly collapsing into the sinkhole. “At times we feel sick from so much sadness.”

Some residents believe the sinkhole is the result of excessive ground water extraction by factories or a water bottling plant in the area. But the bottom of the hole is filled with water that appears to have strong currents, and the national civil defense office said experts think it was caused by something like an underground river.

“It is highly probable that the origin is associated with the presence of subterranean water flows,” the office said.

Puebla Gov. Miguel Barbosa said experts are studying both possibilities, and if water extraction is the culprit, he would cancel any permits.

Citing a risk of further ground fractures, the office warned people to stay away from the site in the town of Zacatepec in Puebla state, east of Mexico City.

“This is not a tourist attraction, or a place to visit with your family,” the office said on Wednesday.

Authorities have set up metal barriers and police tape to keep onlookers out, and has restricted flying drones over it.

Tata Power secures 210 MW solar EPC work in the Indian State of Gujarat

The latest addition has swelled Tata Power Solar’s pipeline to around 2.8 GW projects with an approximate value of INR 13,000 crore (US$ 1783 million).

Leading Company Tata Power today announced its arm Tata Power Solar has received a Letter of Award (LoA) to build 210 MWp of solar capacity for state-owned power producer NTPC. The project’s total order value is approximately ÌNR 686 crore (US$ 94 million).

The project shall be located in the Indian State of Gujarat. Commissioning is scheduled in November 2022.

With this addition, Tata Power Solar has a pipeline of around 2.8 GW projects with an approximate value of INR 13,000 crore (US$ 1783 million).

Tata Power’s work scope includes land, transmission, engineering, procurement, installation and commissioning of the solar plant.

Tata Power Solar has a successful background in executing large projects. Some of these projects include 100 MW at Ananthapur, Andhra Pradesh; 50 MW at Kasargod, Kerala; and 30 MWp in Lapanga, Odisha. It also has a 105MWp of floating solar under implementation at Kayamkulam, Kerala.

With this Gujrat comes in top 5 states generating more solar power leading as –

1- Karnataka with 7,100MW

2- Telengana with 5,000MW

3- Rajasthan with 4,400MW

4- Andra Pradesh with 3,470MW

5- Gujarat with 2,654MW

Calorimetry for the development of an improved sodium-ion battery

Dr Carlos Ziebert, head of IAM-AWP’s Calorimeter Center, KIT, explains how battery calorimeters allow thermal characterisation and safety testing for an improved sodium-ion battery.

In late 2018, the POLiS (Post Lithium Storage) Cluster of Excellence was acquired jointly by KIT and Ulm University within the highly competitive Excellence Strategy competition of the federation and the federal states of Germany. It has a budget of about €7m per year and is scheduled for an initial duration of seven years. In this cluster, the IAM-AWP Calorimeter Center, which was established in 2011, is responsible for the field of thermal characterisation and the safety of post-lithium materials, electrodes, and cells and batteries. Post-lithium batteries use more abundant and environmentally friendly materials when compared to lithium, nickel, and cobalt. These can be for example, sodium, magnesium, or calcium.

For the first two and a half years, the focus of the cluster was on the development of a sodium-ion battery (SIB), which is currently the most mature post-lithium technology. The working principle of a sodium-ion battery is very similar to that of a lithium-ion battery (see Fig. 1). Instead of Li-ions, in a SIB Na-ions are transferred via an organic electrolyte through a separator between the two electrodes, in which they are intercalated and deintercalated respectively. The cathode is typically a transition metal oxide that can have a layered structure such as NaMnO2 or an olivine structure such as NaFePO4, which both provide defined diffusion paths for the sodium-ions.

Layered cathode materials with P2-type and O3-type are particularly promising because of their high specific capacity, their broad range of working voltage, and an easy synthesis process. P2-types such as the NaMnO2 cathodes have open prismatic paths within metal oxide slabs that facilitate direct sodium-ion diffusion which might lead to better high-rate properties. However, they usually also suffer from the P2–O2 phase transformation when Na-ions are extracted, which leads to a significant volume change that causes a reduction of the reversible capacity.

On the anode side, metal alloys, metal oxides, or carbonaceous materials can be used. The most frequently proposed electrolytes are, in analogy to lithium-ion batteries, solutions of sodium salts such as sodium hexafluorophosphate or sodium perchlorate in binary or ternary mixtures of different organic carbonates such as propylene carbonate, ethylene carbonate, and diethyl carbonate with additives such as vinylene carbonate (VC) and fluorethylene carbonate (FEC

Thermal studies

In addition to the electrochemical characterisation, the characterisation of the thermal properties is needed to achieve an in-depth understanding of the underlying reaction mechanisms and heat conduction processes, which are at the moment not well-known for most of the post-lithium cells.

On the materials and components level, differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and extremely sensible Tian-Calvet calorimeters are used to provide thermophysical parameters such as heat capacity or thermal conductivity and to analyse in detail the possible phase transformations and the thermal stability of the materials. On the small-scale cell level, larger-scale Tian-Calvet calorimeters allow the determination of the heat generation during cycling with great accuracy by direct heat flow measurement. The heat flow is determined by the 3D Tian-Calvet Sensor arrangement, where both the sample and the reference vessel are surrounded by rings with hundreds of thermocouples.

The Cryptic Tales Of Tesla

The flip-flop of Tesla in using Bitcoin as payment for its cars, demonstrates that cryptocurrencies are still not a replacement for regular currency. However, governments need to ensure that cryptocurrency capability building continues.

Over five months ago, in this column, I had written about why cryptocurrencies pose significant challenges. The article was titled “The Cryptic Craze about Crypto”. One of the challenges I had mentioned was the intense volatility of the cryptocurrencies, and I had taken the example of a car company, allowing their cars to be bought using Bitcoins. So, a car would cost say 1 bitcoin when it is getting sold, but then a day later, the cost of the car can become half a bitcoin as the bitcoin prices surge, significantly upsetting the value of its car inventory.

As I had argued, this would make accounting an impossible task, and it would be even more difficult to compute whether the company had a profit or a loss. The company will not even be able to find the cost of goods sold as the raw materials and components will be bought at a different bitcoin value, and by the time raw materials and components are put together, to build a car, the price of the car will be very different in the market. It would be an unsustainable exercise.

But then, we had the maverick billionaire, Elon Musk coming in a week after my article was published, and as if on cue, declaring that Tesla, the company he founded and which is a pioneer in manufacturing electric vehicles, will be selling its cars in Bitcoins. It was indeed a proverbial egg on my face. I was proven wrong. Cars could be sold in Bitcoins, and the accounting can be managed. That was the message that came out, and I was left scratching my head as to how the entire complex car manufacturing process can be managed with such a volatile peg of value.

Fortunately, I was not left for long, wallowing in my misery of supposed mis-prediction of the short-term evolution of digital payment. It was Elon Musk himself who came to my rescue and announced last month that it had stopped accepting Bitcoins as payment for its cars. Now, what also happened between Elon Musk declaring that Tesla cars will be bought using Bitcoins, and the reversal of that announcement, is that Tesla went ahead and bought USD 1.5 billion worth of Bitcoins, and sold at least USD 300 million worth of Bitcoins as the price of Bitcoins surged almost by 50% due to announcement of Tesla accepting Bitcoins as payment for its cars. One can do the math in terms of profits reaped by Tesla through its game of announcements.

When Tesla reversed this decision to accept payments through Bitcoin, the prices of Bitcoins crashed by 17%. All in four months. That is how volatile cryptocurrencies are and this is how one can play with the prices of Cryptocurrencies. It has a long way to go before it matures as a true currency. For the records, Elon Musk’s official reason for withdrawing payment acceptance using Bitcoins was that Bitcoins are environmentally damaging because of the humungous quantity of electricity that it guzzles. One can only wonder that if that was the reason, why didn’t Tesla switch to a less polluting cryptocurrency such as IOTA.

The other problem from an economics perspective is monetary control. The cheerleaders of cryptocurrencies want money to be free from the controls of a centralized authority such as the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). However, it was interesting to note that the very same cheerleaders of cryptocurrency, also asking the government to print money and spend, to get out of the current demand slump, due to the Wuhan virus pandemic. Printing money is one of the monetary tools that one would want the Central Banks to exercise, to bring stability to the economy.


However, if the economy was being driven by cryptocurrencies, then the Central Banks can do nothing, as they cannot create more cryptocurrencies, due to the very nature of the instrument. There is a limited number of Bitcoins, and one cannot generate more than the theoretical limit of the total number of Bitcoins. This is why the wealth gets theoretically protected, if one uses cryptocurrencies, as the government cannot print more, and hence, in a manner of speaking, the government cannot “steal” value from everyone else who is holding that currency. Printing money is inflationary, as nothing has been produced but there is more money in the market. Cryptocurrencies do not allow that to happen. But that also implies that the central banks cannot intervene with monetary tools such as printing money, in situations such as the one that we are in, where demand needs to be pumped into the economy.

India needs to carefully look at cryptocurrencies. As attractive as they might appear, cryptocurrencies are a long way off to qualify as currency. They can at best be a commodity. What we would need to do is identify the most challenging aspects of cryptocurrencies, and plug those in. For example, the anonymity of cryptocurrencies lends itself to supporting criminal transactions, including drugs and terrorism. Fiat currencies, that is regular currencies provided by Central banks such as the Rupee in India, enable the financial system to track and clamp down on anti-money laundering and terrorism funding as the banks know the identity of the people involved in moving the money. That is why dealing with fiat currencies is painful as one has to declare their identity (i.e. provide KYC – Know Your Customer). Perhaps, cryptocurrencies should also have KYC to mitigate the issue of crime being facilitated by the anonymity of cryptocurrencies. However, by introducing KYC to cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrencies start to become as onerous to deal with, like fiat currencies and thus lose some of their attractiveness.

Many governments around the world are tentatively warming up to cryptocurrencies, on an experimental basis, lest their economies are left behind in not being able to develop skills to leverage such a powerful technology. Even a small economy such as Bhutan is considering experimental trading in cryptocurrencies. Perhaps we will be able to mitigate the challenges of using cryptocurrencies, and there will be a day when a car can be bought using cryptocurrencies. Till then, we need to work towards ironing out the preponderance of cryptocurrencies to being used for criminal transactions and also iron out the monetary policy glitches that cryptocurrencies lend themselves to.