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  • 01-01-1970

National Hydrogen Mission (GS Paper 3 Environment)

Energy transition is underway at an exceptional level and several countries are betting on hydrogen to emerge as the top clean fuel with its high energy density and versatility.

Government of India (GOI) National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHM) initiative will capitalize on this.

Efforts in this regard:

Recently, the Finance Minister in the Union budget for 2020-21 formally announced the NHM which aims for the generation of hydrogen from green power resources.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also disclosed that the draft regulations for NHM will be finalized by the end of this month and will thereafter proceed for approval of the Union Cabinet.

Challenges for India:

One of the main challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.

The technology used in the production and use of hydrogens like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at a nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.

The maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly, like in South Korea.

The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation, and demand creation for hydrogen.

What is Hydrogen fuel?

Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. 

Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.

At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.

Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. 

It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.

The occurrence of Hydrogen:

It is the most abundant element in the universe. 

The sun and other stars are composed largely of hydrogen.

Astronomers estimate that 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. 

Hydrogen is a component of more compounds than any other element.

Water is the most abundant compound of hydrogen found on earth.

Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth inconvenient natural reservoirs. 

Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in the water and carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. 

It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Storage:

Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid.

Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks.

Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one-atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C.

Hydrogen can also be stored on the surfaces of solids (by adsorption) or within solids (by absorption).

Potential of a clean hydrogen industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

The only by-product or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water — making the fuel 100 percent clean.

Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel. 

It is due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cells potential for high efficiency.

In fact, a fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.

Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines.

The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

 

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Delimitation Commission for J&K (GS Paper 2 Governance)

The J&K Delimitation Commission has held its first meeting.

However, Farooq Abdullah and other NC leaders were not present at the meeting.

Background:

The Delimitation Commission for Jammu and Kashmir was constituted by the Centre on March 6, 2020.

It was constituted to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the union territory by the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019.

The Act of 2019 bifurcated the state into union territories of J&K and Ladakh.

Delimitation:

Delimitation literally means the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a state that has a legislative body.

Delimitation is undertaken by a highly powerful commission. 

They are formally known as Delimitation Commission or Boundary Commission.

These bodies are so powerful that their orders have the force of law and they cannot be challenged before any court.

Composition of the Commission:

According to the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission will have three members: a serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson, and the Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC and the State Election Commissioner as ex-officio members.

Constitutional Provisions:

Under Article 82, the Parliament enacts a Delimitation Act after every Census.

Under Article 170, States also get divided into territorial constituencies as per the Delimitation Act after every Census.

 

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Human Challenge Trials (GS Paper 3 Health)

The UK is set to conduct the first COVID-19 human challenge trials (HCT) within a month from now.

While human challenge trials (HCTs) have helped give important information about several diseases, some have been surrounded by controversy and questions about ethics.

The Purpose:

To identify the smallest amount of virus required to infect a person.

To help doctors understand how the immune system reacts to SARS-CoV-2.

To identify factors that influence how the virus is transmitted, including how an infected person transmits the virus into the environment.

Human challenge trials:

In this, participants of the vaccine group and placebo group upon consent are deliberately exposed to the infection – thus are “challenged” by the disease organism.

Such trials could save valuable time in developing a vaccine, as researchers would not have to wait for participants to contract the infection under real-world conditions.

By replacing conventional Phase 3 testing of vaccine candidates, such trials may subtract many months from the licensure process, making efficacious vaccines available more quickly.

The ethical concerns:

Critics have questioned undertaking such trials for Covid-19, a potentially deadly disease for even those who are less at risk, and which researchers are still in various stages of studying.

In 2016, even WHO has observed that such research can appear to conflict with the guiding principle in medicine to not harm.

Need of the hour:

Well documented historical examples of human exposure studies would be considered unethical by current standards.

It is essential that challenge studies be conducted within an ethical framework in which truly informed consent is given.

When conducted, human challenge studies should be undertaken with abundant forethought, caution, and oversight.

The value of the information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects. 

Information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects.

 

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