Ten scientists won this year's Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award.
ARCHITA BHATTA spoke to some
T Pradeep of IIT, Madras, worked on chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials of noble metals like gold and silver.
"Nanoparticles of noble metals have various uses. While the water purifier made out of silver nanoparticles has been commercialized, fluorescent nanoparticles of gold can serve as non-toxic biological marker in medical experiments. We are creating solutions to reduce the cost of pure drinking water to 10 paise per litre."
Ravinder Goswami from AIIMS, Delhi, is the medical sciences winner. His work is on disorders like oesteomalacia, a bone disease related to calcium deficiency, and the connection between vitamin D deficiency and rickets.
"Vitamin D deficiency was considered rare in India because of the belief that Indians are able to make it from the plenty of sunshine available in India. However, our work showed that vitamin D deficiency was rather prevalent in India. The high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is linked to poor exposure to sunshine and dark complexion of the skin related to melanin which blocks UV rays mediated vitamin D synthesis in the skin."
P N Vinayacharan is from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. His research ranges from currents in the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, ocean circulation models, the air-sea interaction, coastal circulation around India and Sri Lanka, to the exchange of currents between Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal.
"I found the low-salinity water, which the Ganga and the Brahmaputra dump into the northern Bay of Bengal, did not move southwards freely. Looking for reasons for this, I discovered the North Bay Monsoon Current. While tracking the freshwater movement, I found it was due to wind-driven ocean circulation. Following the coastal current, I found it bifurcated east of Sri Lanka, and a part of this moved into the Arabian Sea. The South West Monsoon current, on the other hand, curves around Sri Lanka to intrude into the Bay of Bengal. Such currents influence the coastal environment to a large extent and need to be tracked.
Srikanth Sastry of Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, worked on new materials for making glass. His work in the past five years showed how silicon, when supercooled, acts as a metal, which it is not actually.
"I try to understand properties of materials and the process by which they become glass. Glasses are everywhere around us. There are window glasses and laboratory-grade glasses and several other forms of glasses. My work contributes to understanding this form of matter, and helps make better materials that are useful for people."
J N Moorthy of IIT, Kanpur, worked on the mechanism of organic reactions.
"My research seeks to understand how organic molecules react in the presence of light, and how they interact with environments or other molecules of the same kind; this is called 'molecular self assembly'. Understanding organic molecular reactivity is very important. For example, it is well known that a simple cold beverage such as beer, upon exposure to sunlight, develops a distinct taste; the newspaper turns brown over time."
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