cleaner alternative: A biofertiliser plant has been established in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, and it will start production by the end of September, 2000. The plant has been established by the National Federation for Agricultural Cooperative Marketing. The biofertiliser is being introduced in the market to stop the degradation of soil and control environmental pollution caused by excessive use of chemical fertilisers. The plant is expected to produce 300 tonnes of biofertiliser annually, by cultivating rhizobium, superphos, trichoderma among others.

tough cloth: A new crystalline material that can withstand the radiation of nuclear waste have been developed by an international team of scientists. The scientists are hoping that Erbium Zirconate, the material, can be used to contain nuclear waste safely for tens of thousands of years. Right now, nuclear waste is stored in containers which have a lasting capacity of about 100 years only. Therefore, if Erbium Zirconate proves to be successful it would be a major breakthrough, according to Robin Grimes of London's Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine.

future energy: Xybernaut, a Virginia-based firm, will be using prototype miniature fuel cells to energise its computers. Right now, Xybernaut's computers run on batteries for only three hours but fuel cells will enable the computer to operate for 24 hours. The fuel cells has been developed by DCH Technology of Valencia, California. The cells generate electricity by burning hydrogen in a controlled manner, and the only byproduct is water.

herbal control: The first herbal contraceptive in the world, Concept, has been developed in India by Defence Research and Development Organisation in collaboration with several other institutions. The contraceptive is free from toxicity. It contains NIM-76, which is derived from neem ( Azadirachta indica ) oil, which acts as the spermicidal component. The contraceptive has been found effective in controlling fertility during experiments on animals. It has also been given approval by the Indian Council for Medical Research.

safe drinking: Plastic drinking straws are proving to be a menace as they litter the countryside and can choke animals who try to eat them. Therefore, Young Kim of Seoul, has developed straws out of starch dough. The straws can be made simply by kneading the dough, drying it hard and then forcing it through an extruder by a screw press to produce a long tube. Warm air is then blown through the tube until the straw is dry enough to prevent breaking. Lastly, the tube is chopped up into drinking straw lengths. These straws can either be eaten once they have been utilised for drinking purposes or they can be thrown away without worrying about the consequences, as they then become food for animals or act as natural fertilisers.

sound device: The New Delhi-based Defence Research and Development Organisation has developed a carbogen mix to prevent loss of hearing resulting from noise pollution. Carbogen mix, which contains 95 per cent oxygen and five per cent carbon dioxide, also offsets other adverse effects such as rise in blood pressure and cholesterol and muscle cramps. A single carbogen device in every office and factory could save many people from becoming deaf.

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