9 January, 2020 17:38

RSF-funded research that shaped 2019

Source: Kommersant
Neutrino detector, new painkillers, grape viruses and other discoveries are among the year’s top science stories picked by Kommersant journalists.
Source: Shutterstock

Neutrino detector that will prevent accidents at nuclear power plants

Researchers from the Laboratory of Experimental Nuclear Physics ate the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI created a neutrino radiation sensor RED-100. It is known that neutrino particles easily pass even through concrete shields and equipment of nuclear power plants. Therefore, a neutrino detector will allow you to remotely monitor the processes occurring in the core of a nuclear reactor.

This cutting-edge technology will improve the safety of nuclear energy in order to prevent technological disasters. In addition, such a detector will help in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The basis of the detector is liquid xenon placed in a titanium cryostat. The interaction of neutrinos with the atomic nucleus of xenon leads to the appearance of free electrons, which cause a strong glow of the gas. This makes it easy to register. The technology has already attracted the attention from Rosatom as well as from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The first equipment tests will begin at the Kalinin NPP in the Tver Region in 2020.

A mobile app that helps drivers stay alert

According to WHO, most accidents are caused by the drivers. Therefore, electronics manufacturers develop new devices - wearable or built-in the car - that monitor the main indicators of the driver’s condition and report on the possible critical situations. The researchers from ITMO University have developed the Drive Safely mobile application, which performs such security function and does not require the purchase of additional equipment.

Scientists have identified the main signs of drowsiness and weakened driver attention, and then translated them into numerical parameters.

The program monitors the position of the driver’s head, the degree of openness of the eyes, the frequency of blinking, the speed of the car, the level of lighting in the cab, and other parameters.

To train the application program, the developers used open libraries and computer vision databases, as well as data collected from the volunteers. The application works in parallel with navigation systems and does not interfere with receiving calls and messages.

New drug against fungal grain diseases

According to the Federal State Statistics Service, fungal infections lead to an annual loss of 20% of the grain harvest worth of some 200 billion rubles a year. It is difficult to deal with them as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, which leads to a decrease in the effectiveness of the drugs. Fungicides created by the research team from the Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences are based on the organic peroxides derived from the hydrogen peroxide, and are obtained in just a few stages of production, unlike foreign fungicides.

The discovery of the antifungal properties of organic peroxides was the discovery of a fundamentally new class of fungicides useful for agrochemistry and medicine. It was previously believed that organic peroxides were unstable and therefore not suitable for use as active substances in preparations. But the scientists received stable substances that can be stored for years. The drug has passed field tests, proving its effectiveness in different types of cereals in small sown areas. The researchers note an increase in yield after treatment with the drug. Later, the tests will be held on large farms.

Polyethylene artificial bones

Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene is used in artificial joints along with metals and ceramics. But this is not very durable material. Another polymer - polyether etherketone - is solid and elastic; it is used in spinal surgery. But it can crumble, and therefore is not suitable for the manufacture of limb prostheses. A transdisciplinary research team of chemists and engineers developed an implant from these two polymers. One gives the shell hardness, the other makes the core porous. The resulting material is almost identical to natural human bone.

After the implant is installed, the human bone tissue can grow into it, filling the pores. Therefore, over time, the implant will become one with the body.

The researchers are currently testing new material on laboratory animals. In 2020, it is planned to introduce material in veterinary medicine for prosthetics of broken paws of pets. Afterwards, clinical trials involving human patients will stat. According to the doctors, the new technology is capable of revolutionizing orthopedics.

Painkillers found at sea

The researchers from the Pacific Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry (Vladivostok) jointly with the scientists from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry (Pushchino) discovered valuable substances in marine anemones that may help create a new generation of painkillers. Marine anemones are producers of a huge variety of biologically active peptides that can be used in pharmacology. These particular peptides are not addictive and interact with the ion channels that are involved in the transmission of pain. Tests of the compounds found in animals already show positive results. One of the substances found is able to block the pain receptor for a day.

A new method for studying brain damage

The researchers from the Tomsk State University developed a new approach for the study of brain damage in patients with multiple sclerosis, stroke and head injuries. The technology is based on special mathematical processing of MRI data. With its help, the doctor receives brain maps that reflect the amount of myelin - the membranes of nerve fibers through which signals pass in the brain. For the first time, the technology will allow tracking this indicator on a living person.

Today, the method is implemented in test mode in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tomsk and Novosibirsk. The research group is focused on improving the technology and is looking for new areas of its application. So far, the method is adapted for the diagnosis of diseases of the brain of the fetus and child, as well as in Parkinson's disease.

Grape viruses are found for the first time in Russia

The vine is very moody, and a significant amount of the crop every year is at risk of dying from viral diseases. The researchers from the Research Center of Biotechnology of the Russian Academy of Sciences studied the vineyards of the Krasnodar region and were the first in Russia to find 7 malicious viruses. They, for example, reduce the sugar content in berries, reduce the number of grafts that have taken root during the harvesting of planting material and the life of the vineyard. Plants monitoring will allow you to assess the spread of the most harmful viruses and use clean vineyards to harvest planting material that is initially free of viruses.

Space weather data analysis method developed

In March 1989, a strong magnetic storm led to an accident in the power system of the Canadian province of Quebec. As a result, on a vast territory the electricity was off for almost a day. This year, scientists at the Geophysical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences significantly improved the “forecast” of space weather. They developed a method for obtaining more accurate information about the Earth’s magnetic activity.

Magnetic and ionospheric disturbances are a common cause of malfunction of radio transmission systems and satellite navigation.

This leads to damage and premature wear of conductive structures, power cables, power lines, pipelines and railway equipment. Information on geomagnetic disturbances is collected by satellite systems, as well as magnetic stations and observatories. The scientists have developed and successfully tested a technology that allows them to obtain regional indicators of magnetic activity according to measurements at magnetic stations and observatories. With that application, it is possible to assess the impact of space weather factors on the infrastructure. Now work is underway to build maps showing the degree of influence of geomagnetic activity in a particular region.

The history of the settlement of the East Siberian Arctic is revealed

An international team of researchers for the first time studied the DNA of the ancient population of the East Siberian Arctic and found out how people settled in this area 30 000 years ago.

This discovery will help restore the processes of human settlement not only in Northern Eurasia, but also in America.

Several years ago, the researchers found the remains of people in ancient settlements near Yana and Kolyma rivers. They extracted genetic information from the discovered teeth and bones and sequenced its DNA. An analysis of these data showed that at least three large migrations took place in Eastern Siberia over the past 30 000 years. People moved from south to north, and in the last 5 000 years in the Northeast there have been reverse migrations from the northwest areas of North America. This discovery will help find the roots of the northern people living in Russia and many tribes of the Indians of Canada and the United States.

14 September, 2020
RSF-DFG Cooperation: 6th Call for Proposals
To facilitate the support of collaborative work between Russian and German research groups, the Russ...
31 August, 2020
«It is not necessary to do mega-science to achieve impressive research results»
The interview with Andrei Blinov, Deputy Director General, Russian Science Foundation. The Russ...