Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car Trials Successful

In October 2020, the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune and the multinational company, KPIT Technologies Limited, carried out the first successful trials of a new kind of car that could revolutionise the future of automation in India — a car powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The cell is a low temperature Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) that operates at 65 to 75 degree centigrade. The prototype car incorporated a 10 kWe automotive grade LT-Proton exchange membrane fuel cell which operates within the temperature framework. Researchers said that the battery can be used in mainstream automotive operations.

At the heart of the PEM fuel cell technology is an membrane electrode assembly, which is a proprietary development of CSIR-NCL. KPIT’s contribution was system integration, control software and an electric powertrain to help run the prototype vehicle.

The trials showed that the car could run for approximately 250 km under typical Indian road conditions at speeds of 60 to 65 kmph.

Bricks For Lunar Habitation

The cost of sending a single pound of material into outer space comes to about Rs 7.5 lakh. How then, can future space explorers afford to build structures on the moon? By making bricks on-site on the lunar surface, say Bengaluru-based researchers who have found a sustainable method to create such blocks from moon soil.

The research team, made up of scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), found a way to use urea — which can be sourced from human urine. It exploits lunar soil, and uses bacteria and guar beans to consolidate the soil into possible load-bearing structures. These “space bricks” could eventually be used to assemble structures for habitation on the moon’s surface, the researchers suggest.

Humanoid Into Space

Early in 2020, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that it would send a humanoid robot into space. Called Vyommitra, the legless robot which resembles a woman, will be capable of speaking two languages and was set to take part in an unspecified mission in 2020, which has not yet happened. The idea is to send Vyommitra into space before the Gaganyaan mission, to be launched in 2022.

ISRO chief K Sivan had explained that the robot was designed to simulate “exact” human functions in space. However, the robot's legless form means that it will not be able to simulate all human functions. This raises questions of why the robot needs to be in human form or even be assigned a simulated gender.

Quantum Breakthrough

Scientists from the Raman Research Institute have made a series of breakthroughs in quantum communications technology which has major military, banking and election security applications.

The Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology (QuEst) project aims to send an encrypted message plus the decryption key, to satellites in space.

During a demonstration recently, the research team showed off the technology with which they could share this secret key across a 50 metre free space from one building to another, using only the atmosphere.

The team now aims to carry out transfers over several kilometres.

The final objective is transferring the decryption key over ranges of 12 km to satellites in orbit.