The Gist of Science Reporter: December 2016
In Vitro Living Bone Developed
Facial bones are one of the most geometrically complex bones.
Their reconstruction requires use of bone grafts from the same patient which has
some serious limitations, including pain and additional disorders associated
A newly developed technique, published in the journal Science
Translational Medicine [8 (343), 2016], repairs bone defects in the face and
head by using living bone grown in lab, grafted to the patient so that the
defect is treated. The development of such anatomically correct and large-scale
bone constructs could improve regenerative medicine options for the patients.
Sarindr Bhumiratana and his team have reported the first time ever living
bone that precisely grows into an original anatomical structure, using stem
cells derived from a small sample of the recipient's own body (autologous).
Next Gen Biofuel from Human Waste
Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and
Technology (UNIST), South Korea, have discovered a new way to convert human
waste into a renewable source of energy. This project is in collaboration with
YATOO, Art Center Nabi, Paju Typography Institute (PaTI), and Hankuk Engineering
Consultants (H.E.C.), South Korea.
The project aims to reduce negative footprint on the
ecosystem by converting human waste into viable renewable energy and monetary
values. The major features of the project include "Waterless Toilet System" and
"Microbial Energy Production Unit."
The toilet system treats human excretion without using water
by using" a natural biological process to break down human waste into an
odorless and dehydrated compost material. Then this compost-like material is
converted into biodiesel or heat energy in the microbial energy production
system which is also called the digestion tank, containing thousands of
different microbes. The microbes present inside the tank degrade the compost
material to produce carbon dioxide and methane. Carbon dioxide is then extracted
to culture green algae for biofuel using high pressure and membrane, while
methane is utilized for later use as a heating fuel.
The team plans to expand its use of the waterless toilet system and microbial
energy production unit real life after the success of the project.
Juno: Unraveling Jupiter’s Mysteries
The fifth planet in our solar system, Jupiter, has always
fascinated astronomers and space agencies. And rightly so - with its massive
size (almost twice as much as all the other planets put together), its light and
dark bands, the auroras at the poles, its four distinct moons and the enigmatic
gaseous state all make it worth the watch.
NASA’s mission to explore the planet in depth has been
massive too. While Pioneer and Voyager, on their interstellar missions, skimmed
the planet and sent back spectacular images, the spacecraft Calileo was
exclusively commissioned in 1989 to reach Jupiter and study its moons. A probe
was released to the surface in 1995 from Calileo. Flying by close to Io and
Europa, two of the four moons of Jupiter, it sent amazing information about them
and the existence of sub-surface oceans on them. Its mission completed, the
spacecraft disintegrated in Jupiter’s atmosphere’.
On 5 August 2011, another spacecraft as launched from NASA's
base in Florida, USA. Called Juno, the Jupiter-bound spacecraft was carried
aboard the Atlas-V 551 rocket. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers
Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama.
Its mission was to reach the bright, big planet and study it in much more
detail. The target distance: around 588 million kilometres (588,000,000 km at
its closest to earth).
A Special Mission
Jupiter has been studied earlier too. In the previous eight
missions, only Calileo was an exclusive spacecraft sent to the planet, while all
others were flyby operations - that is, flying past and returning or, gravity
assists that is, taking Jupiter's gravity to propel further to the target
planets. Calileo was designed to study the moons in detail. Moreover, it could
not approach the planet nearer to record the studies;
In what way is the Juno probe different from the earlier ones? Why is this
mission so special and significant? Well, Juno scores brownie points on several
Firstly, most space crafts are designed to be powered by
radioactive energy to accommodate the continuity of power supply in the absence
of sunlight. However, Juno deviates from this in that it is a completely
Secondly, Juno's aim is to study Jupiter's core, presence of
water in its atmosphere and the formation of the magnetosphere. These studies
will throw light on various theories. Juno will study in detail the evolution of
the planet and other mysteries hidden in its core.
Thirdly, Juno will take a deep look at the fascinating
auroras of Jupiter. This is a highly risky endeavour as it involves intense
magnetic fields and currents. Juno's technology has to withstand this extreme
environment for around 20 exposures before degrading.
'Fourthly, Juno is fitted with a special ca'h1era called
JunoCam, made as an interactive module and available to the public. NASA has
provided the means to track JunoCam's positioning in such a way that any
enthusiast can vote and decide which parts of the surface can be photographed -
just by using the Internet the following NASA’s instructions on its website.
As Juno embarks on a mission to record teh various aspects of Jupiter, it is
fraught with extreme conditions to be overcome.
Being gaseous in nature, Jupiter offers no solid bae for
probes to land on it. This is a big hurdle as any probe sent deep into its
atmosphere will be crushed and destroyed due to the intense pressure of the
atmosphere surrounding it.
Travelling into deep space and close to Jupiter, which no other spacecraft
has done before, causes the spacecraft to be exposed to intense radiations. The
radiations encountered are in three different positions:
- Earth radiation: Caused due to the magnetosphere of the earth as the
spacecraft vaults into outer space. Many of these conditions are well
studied and simulated for Juno to withstand. Juno overcame these.
- Inter space radiation: The solar particles, random space objects and
cosmic rays from outside the solar system are all travelling at high speeds,
acting as projectiles and cause the interstellar radiations. Juno's
protective shield has to withstand these radiations too.
All these hurdles can cause severe damage to Juno by making
it highly electrically charged. This affects the functioning of the spacecraft,
disrupting the working of the electronics and recording equipment. Additionally
the noise generated by the hitting particles rapidly degrades the functioning of
Despite the earlier missions, Jupiter still remains
enigmatic. Due to its gaseous state, and a probable liquid core, a lot has to be
revealed about this giant planet. As Juno approaches the clouds over Jupiter it
will peer into the gaseous atmosphere. The studies will also reveal if Jupiter
has a solid core. Jupiter is such a huge ball of raging gases, that it can
easily be misunderstood for another Sun. The great red spot on its surface is
blazing a gas which is big enough to gobble up the earth. A critical and close
up view of the planet will reveal a lot of mysteries about the formation of the