Chandigarh, Thursday, September 30, 1999
 

No alternative to vertical expansion
by Jagvir Goyal
A “high-rise movement” is in the offing. Population explosion coupled with the hard fact that area of land available with us is fixed has changed the direction of “development arrow” from horizontal to vertical. Urbanisation is approaching its peak. There is a revolution in Information Technology with more and more citizens becoming “netizens” those having access to internet) too. Such a situation tends to break all restrictions and force its way to expansion. The available “earth-space” shrinking day by day, the only alternative left is “sky”, leading to springing up of skyscrapers all over the world.

The route to tailor-made organs
by Kalyan Ray
IMAGINE the day when people with liver failure can be implanted with livers made up of plastics and living cells. Diabetics fitted with synthetic pancreas need not take their regular course of insulin injections. And dialysis machines will become outdated as patients with renal failure can be fitted with a man-made kidney.

Science Quiz
by J. P. Garg

Three women solve daunting puzzle
A daunting puzzle on protein structure that kept scientists guessing has been cracked by a three-women team that includes two young non-resident Indians, within three years of being proposed.

Computer-assisted aids for the handicapped
A large cross-section of our society is suffering from afflictions such as paralysis, loss of limb, blindness, speech and hearing defects. Computers have added variety to the quality of life of these unfortunate persons.

  NEW PRODUCTS & DISCOVERIES
  Top







 

No alternative to vertical expansion
by Jagvir Goyal

A “high-rise movement” is in the offing. Population explosion coupled with the hard fact that area of land available with us is fixed has changed the direction of “development arrow” from horizontal to vertical. Urbanisation is approaching its peak. There is a revolution in Information Technology with more and more citizens becoming “netizens” those having access to internet) too. Such a situation tends to break all restrictions and force its way to expansion. The available “earth-space” shrinking day by day, the only alternative left is “sky”, leading to springing up of skyscrapers all over the world.

New York’s famous night-view makes one believe as if the high-rise towers are not scraping the sky but intruding into it. The 102-storeyed Empire State Building, inaugurated way back on August 30, 1929, still fascinates the onlookers. At that time, it could have been a case of giving shape to one’s dreams but today, high-rise structures have become a necessity. A glance at some picture showing a cluster of tall buildings may make one judge that it belonged to New York or Singapore but it may not be so easy in future when the skyline of almost every city will present a similar scene.

In India, the VEB (Vertical Expansion Bug) has bitten the metros only. The population has touched a billion! Yet we are having four-canal houses, single-storeyed buildings, horizontal commercial centres and government offices opened in the old, dilapidated buildings. There is an urgent need to demolish all unsafe and old structures, to free the precious land, to utilise it in a judicious manner and to erect multi-storey tall buildings wherever possible. If we don’t act now on our own, soon we will be forced to do so. There is no alternative!

Time is ripe to develop a high-rise science. So far as tall industrial structures are concerned, well defined written word is available. However, multi-storey commercial, residential and office towers are demanding ready availability of detailed guidelines that need to be followed as and when the VEB bites more and more cities. A few important factors are discussed here.

Seismic forces assume greater significance with the increase in height of buildings and affect the structural design of the building in a big way. “Total deflection” at the top of the building increases with the increase in its slenderness ratio and this has to be taken care of. The architect, however, will not compromise over the services to be given to end-users of the building and will ask for wall free or column free floors where necessary. The ceilings too may be required to be flat and unhindered to accommodate AC-ducts and electrical fixtures above false-ceilings. Under such circumstances, the following guidelines may prove useful.

(i) A tube-structure may be found highly effective in resisting seismic loads. Such a structure was first suggested by Owings and Merill, Chicago. In this structure, the core of the building is kept stiff while columns are provided along its periphery and are connected by spandel beams. A “Flat-slab” design is preferred for ceilings as it does away with the beams.

(ii) The structural framework should be kept as highly redundant or indeterminate during design. Such a structure will provide better resistance to lateral earthquake forces.

(iii) The mass of the buildings should be kept as low as possible. Lightweight materials should be brought under use. Lesser is the self-weight of the building, lesser will be the earthquake force affecting it.

(iv) The seismic zone of the area having the building must be kept in view during design, along with the wind velocity in that area.

(v) Deflection-diagram of the building should be studied and joints should be so designed that a cumulative effect of deflection does not occur in any member.

(vi) Sub-soil investigations must be carried out in the field to ascertain the bearing capacity of the soil and other factors. The investigating agency must carry a high rating. Investigation results must be realistic and authenticated.

Fire safety is the second most important factor to be kept in mind. We have not to give birth to “Towering Infernos”. The latest guidelines in this regard should include the following:

(i) In case of fire, the main stairs of the high-rise buildings should get isolated from the rest of building by automatic closing of fire-doors and should further be pressurised with whiffs of fresh air.

(ii) An automatic system should close the airconditioning system of the building thus stopping recirculation of air and smoke and at the same time should activate ventilation fans to suck in fresh air to all those floors that are not affected by fire.

(iii) Provision of a computer-system loaded with software to analyse the fire-situation and make announcements over public address system should be mandatory.

(iv) The electrical equipment and installations provided in the buildings must be of high standard. The building should be designed to carry an emergency power supply in addition to the main supply. The main supply should automatically switch off in case of fire. The emergency supply should turn on to run ventilation fans.

(v) Safe exit-routes and escape stairs should be planned in the design of the buildings.

Vertical transport system is another factor that must be counted while planning to raise a high-rise building. The following points should be given due consideration in this regard:

(i) A “Traffic study” involving accurate assessment of building users must be made. Traffic flow measurements should tell the number of persons that ride the elevators in a five minute period. Peak demand hours should be identified.

(ii) Elevators should be located in the central core of the building for the quickest and efficient carriage of vertical traffic.

(iii) All elevators should operate under “Group control” system rather than independent control to avoid disproportionate loading. Under the “Group control” system, several cars respond to a call. Thus a centralised and group-controlled system responds maximum.

(iv) All cars (elevators) should be fitted with overload devices. Such a device keeps the car-doors open, sounds a buzzer and switches on a warning light whenever the car-load exceeds 10% of rated capacity.

(v) All cars should be provided with automatic rescue devices (ARD). These devices send the cars to nearest floors in case of power failures and even open the doors.

Sears Tower in USA is a 110-storey building and is reckoned as the tallest office building in the world. It carries a 106-cab elevator system, including 16 double decker elevators. The top deck known as Skydeck rises 1353 feet above ground and two express elevators soar to this altitude in just over a minute-so efficient is the “vertical transport system”!

Modern construction equipment should be put to use while raising tall building and skyscrapers if good quality work is to be ensured. The following specifications should be compulsorily adopted:

(i) All concrete used be ready-mixed-concrete only.

(ii) Use of super-plasticizers that are fully compatible with the cement under use should be made o maximum possible extent.

(iii) Maximum concrete pouring should be done by use of concrete-pumps. Super-plasticisers will help in free flow of concrete through placer booms without increasing water-cement ratio.

(iv) Sophisticated form-work systems such as slip-forms, hydraulic jump-forms, should be put to use wherever possible. This factor should be kept in mind at the time of building-design itself.

A look at the world’s tallest twin towers in Kuala Lampur with a height of 1483 feet, the 1454-feet-high Sears tower in USA, 75-storeyed Interstate World Trade Centre, Los Angeles, and many other such structures make the necks bend at 90 and enthrall one and all.

It is heartening to note that hundreds of tall super-structures in the USA have been designed and built by Indians with high-tech support, including most wonderful software packages becoming available in India, brilliant academic achievements galore and latest equipment arriving in plenty, there is nothing to hold us back. Now is the right time to touch the dizzy heights. We must not lose time any more as seizing opportunity is the name of the game.Top

 

The route to tailor-made organs
by Kalyan Ray

IMAGINE the day when people with liver failure can be implanted with livers made up of plastics and living cells. Diabetics fitted with synthetic pancreas need not take their regular course of insulin injections. And dialysis machines will become outdated as patients with renal failure can be fitted with a man-made kidney.

Scientists working in the field of tissue engineering are making considerable headway with the first man-made skin now commercially available and a second one expected to hit the market within a few months.

Called apligraph, the first tissue-engineered skin product has a shelf life of five days at room temperature and can be used to treat burns, ulcers and bed sores which are difficult to heal normally.

Apligraph acts like a living bandage and does not require removal after wound healing as it is assimilated in the body.

Developed by Organogenesis Inc. In Massachusetts, USA, it is made up of two layers that constitute human skin — dermis (inner layer) and epidermis (outer layer). It looks similar to human skin under the microscope.

A second skin replacement called dermagraft to cure wounds like diabetic foot ulcers which are devoid of growth factors and proteins is being developed by Advanced Tissue Sciences Inc. in California. Clinical trials of the product are under way in 30 centres and it is likely to hit the market this year.

The idea of an artificial skin dated to almost two decades ago when scientists found that fibroblasts (cells that form the dermis) could infiltrate collagen (a fibrous protein found in all connective tissues) to turn it into a fibrous matrix suitable for making skin substitutes.

Almost at the same time scientists found that keratinocytes, cells of the epidermal layer, could be artifically grown on a dermal substrate, thereby paving the way for man-made skin.

According to some recent reports in Science and Scientific American, the problem of dearth of transplantable organs can be solved in the near future by making organs in the laboratory from polymers, proteins and cells.

Tissue engineering can be of two types. In one case, a growth factor is injected in a wound requiring regeneration. The molecule causes the patients’ own cells to migrate into the wounded site, turn into the right type of cell and regenerate the tissue.

In the second approach, patients receive previously harvested cells incorporated into scaffolds of biodegradable polymers. The entire structure of cells and scaffolding is transplanted into the site where the cells replicate, reorganise and form new tissues.

Though researchers are trying to develop a whole range of organs, the next tissue likely to be commercialised is cartilage for orthopaedical, facial and urological applications.

Cartilage, with low nutrient needs, does not require growth of new blood vessels — an advantage for its straightforward development as an engineered tissue.

Genezyme Tissue Repair in Massachusetts has received FDA approval to engineer tissue derived from patients’ own cells for repairing knee-cartilage damage.

Its procedure involves growing the patient’s cells in the lab, collected from the same knee under repair when possible, and then implanting those cells into the injury.

The relative ease of growing cartilage tissues in the laboratory has made researchers from Harvard Medical School, headed by Anthony Atala, to develop urinary bladder — the first tissue-engineered internal organ which is now under long clinical trials.

The Harvard group isolated the necessary cells and coaxed them to grow in culture dishes. With right culture conditions and growth factors the Harvard group was able to steer those cells into the mature state.

Finding the right type of scaffolding was also difficult as the polymers have to be elastic enough to give the cells a life-like mechanical environment; be sufficiently porous for nutrient delivery and flushing away of cellular wastes; and capable of degrading.

They used a polymer called polyglycolic acid to make a bladder-shaped mould and coated it with a second polymer called polyactide-coglycolide.

In the next step, the researchers applied the urothelial cells to the inner surface of the polymer bladder and smooth muscle cells to the outer surface, and then nurtured the synthetic organs in a sterile nutrient broth for seven days.

The bladder worked perfectly in dogs, the team reported in Nature Biotechnology.

The new bladders held just as much urine as normal bladders and maintained the normal shape. They may become the first bioengineered internal organ to reach the clinic.

Another group from Duke University in North Carolina has reported growing functioning pig arteries in the laboratory.

These arteries can withstand sutures without tearing, although not as well as natural arteries, and they contract in response to the same chemical signals that spur arterial contractions.

The arteries lasted more than three weeks without clogging, which scientists say is a “really astounding” result which can pave the way to human arteries in future.

Apart from cartilage and skin products, artificial breast tissues and intestines are also in the pipeline.

However, though engineered bladders, arteries and tissues are a significant achievement, making these hollow structures formed by relatively thin layers of cells is easier than making a large internal organs like liver and kidney that need complex networks of arteries, capillaries and veins.

Tissue engineers are optimistic about making it within a few decades as they feel that such organs would free the human body of its limitations. (PTI)Top

 

Science Quiz
by J. P. Garg

1. Name the ancient Indian scientist and philosopher who lived around the 6th century B.C. near the present-day Allahabad and gave the concept that matter is made up of “paramanus” (the basis of atomic theory) much earlier than anybody else in the world.

2. The 13-year old Russian space station ‘Mir’ is likely to be disintegrated in the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean in April, 2000. About how many breakdowns has it survived? About how many experiments have been conducted on it? How many astronauts have visited it?

3. To produce artificial rain, earlier particles of silver iodide were sprayed into the clouds. American scientists have now discovered a chemical which is much more reliable and cheaper for bringing about artificial rainfall on a larger scale and in lesser time. Which is this chemical?

4. We talk of electrical and magnetic shielding but not of gravitational shielding. Can you state the reason?

5. Can you name the first ever device used by man for simple mathematical operations for thousands of years? What does it consist of?

6. HDL and LDL refer to good and bad cholesterol, a fatty substance normally found in the wall around each cell in the body. What are the full forms of these two abbreviations?

7. This tree grows in mountains and is known as “flame of forest” due to the deep red flowers it bears in abundance. The flowers are used by hill people to make squash. Which tree are we talking about?

8. In the Jurasic period of the history of the earth, birds and mammals originated, dinosaurs were dominant and insects were abundant. To which geological era does this period belong?

9. Suggest alternative chemical names for acetaldehyde, ethyl alcohol and wood alcohol.

10. INSA is an institution that helps promote scientific knowledge, coordinates between scientific bodies and confers medals and awards on eminent scientists. What is the complete name of INSA and where are its headquarters?

Answers

1. Kanada, also known as Aulukya and Kasyapa 2. 1600; 16,500; 103 3. Potassium chloride 4. Gravitational interaction is only attractive whereas the other two are both attractive and repulsive 5. Abacus, consisting of beads strung on parallel thick wires and arranged in columns 6. High and low density lipoproteins 7. Rhododendron 8. Mesozoic era 9. Ethanal, ethanol and methanol 10. Indian National Science Academy, New Delhi.

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Three women solve daunting puzzle

A daunting puzzle on protein structure that kept scientists guessing has been cracked by a three-women team that includes two young non-resident Indians, within three years of being proposed.

The solution has wider implications in understanding the structure and function of proteins, says Seema Dalal, a member of the team from Yale University, USA, who presented the result at the biophysics conference in New Delhi recently.

Two scientists in an article published in the general “Proteins” in 1994 had challenged others to successfully convert one form of a natural protein into another while retaining at least half of the characteristics of the original. The task was thought to be a daunting one due to the complexity in structures.

The challenge was to change the architecture or shape of a protein chain from one ordered from into another — similar to changing a sheet-like structure into a helical screw.

It was called “Paracelsus Challenge” after the 16th century Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus.

“By carefully selecting and mutating amino acids (building blocks of protein) we were able to convert a sheet-shaped protein chain into a helical protein.” Dalal told PTI.

She conducted the study together with Lynn Regan and Suganthi Balasubramanium of the same university. The trio called their protein Janus or two-faced as it contains characteristics of both sheet and screw-shaped proteins.

The designs also show all amino acids do not play equal role in specifying a fold or shape, she added.Top

 

Computer-assisted aids for the handicapped

A large cross-section of our society is suffering from afflictions such as paralysis, loss of limb, blindness, speech and hearing defects. Computers have added variety to the quality of life of these unfortunate persons. Mobility is one of the essential needs of the handicapped people. Several advancements in microprocessor technology have enabled the design of reliable electrically powered wheel chairs. Computerised automobiles for the handicapped are now available. Patients deprived of limbs can have a sigh of relief, as microcontrolled Functional Electrical Simultation (FES) devices are available. These devices help the paralysed limbs to stand and at times walk.

Microcomputers are being used to provide a portable reading aid for the blind. A device called “Optacon” converts and optical image into a vibrating fascimile. A blind reader can feel a tactile fascimile of the original printed matter. Microprocessor based speech preprocessing devices are being designed to help the hearing impaired individuals. Ear is basically a transducer that converts the mechanical energy of a sound wave into electrical pulses travelling to the auditory nerve. Voice to print conversion helps the deaf persons. The computer software that recognises and ‘hears’ speech is readily available as an aid to the handicapped persons. Significant research has been done in the areas of speech generation and recognition. Computers have increased the job potential of the handicapped persons. Social organisations should come forward to create resources for this section of society.

— Deepak Bagai
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  NEW PRODUCTS & DISCOVERIES

Siemens Nixdorf bags ICAR contract
Siemens Nixdorf India has been awarded a Rs 12 crore order by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research for the installation of over 1400 Siemens Scenic Pro PCs, notebooks, primergy servers and peripherals. These systems will be installed at various ICAR institutions, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), State Departments of Agriculture, Public Research Organisations, NGOs and private R&D organisations spreads over 200 location across the country.

This contract is part of the Information System Development module of the National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP). The module aims at facilitating ICAR scientists towards developing technologies to resolve problems related to agricultural productivity, management of natural resources like land, water, biodiversity and environment and exploiting them usefully for meeting challenges of food security, sustainability and rural poverty and for bringing overall national prosperity.

AMD 650MHz Athlon processor
AMD has introduced the 650 MHz AMD Athlon processor, the world’s fastest and highest performance microprocessor for x86 computer systems. The AMD Athlon family is designed to deliver unprecedented performance for cutting-edge commercial and consumer software applications running on high-end desktop systems, workstations and servers.

The AMD Athlon processor’s seventh generation microarchitecture, superscalar floating point engine, and high-badwidth, 200MHz system bus enable it to achieve performance levels never before attained by an x86 processor.

Systems powered by the AMD Athlon processor outperform comparably configured Intel Pentium III processor-based system on a long list of high-end commercial, workstation, data streaming, digital imaging, digital content, creation and consumer entertainment software applications.

Apple computer’s Indian partner
Apple Computer International has appointed Unison Infotech India Ltd as the authorised partner for Apple’s mobile computers in India— PowerBookG3 series and Book.

Apple’s PowerBook G3 powered by copper-based 333MHz and 400MHz G3 processor, weighing just 5.9 pounds and running up to 10 hours on dual batteries and the recently announced iBook with built-in 56K modem and wireless networking (optional) — have set new industry records for mobile computers. Unison will also sell directly to the corporate and SME markets in India.

Motorola MCG is now ON Semiconductor
Motorola’s Semiconductor Components Group (SCG) has been recently established as a separate enterprise as a result of a management buoyant led by Texas Pacific Group in May. SCG announced that the company is now called ON Semiconductor with headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.

Nortel Networks Solution
Nortel Networks has announced that it has signed Network Solutions Pvt Ltd as an Enterprise Solution Partner to help address the enterprise networking market in India. Network Solutions will offer an end-to-end enterprise solution and services from Nortel Networks that integrate data, voice and video applications.

With Network Solutions as a solution partner, Nortel Networks has strengthened its reach and ability to position its solutions and products effectively in the Indian corporate and multi-national corp, segment. Network Solutions has been a successful solutions provider in these segments with customers like Motorola, Novel, ICICI Ventures, ANZ and Grindlays.

— R. Survamurthy and Gaurav ChoudhuryTop

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