In terms of technological breakthroughs, it has been a mixed bag for India this year. But the pride of place goes to Jugnu, one of the world's tiniest nanosatellites, weighing only three kg, designed and fabricated by the mechanical engineering department of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K).
The IITians, led by Shantanu Agarwal and Shashank Chintalagiri, under professor N.S. Vyas, notched up a milestone in Indian space technology by accomplishing the feat on their own and overcoming a major challenge.
As the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) does not have an ejection system for satellites below 10 kg, designing one for Jugnu became imperative. Amrit Sagar stepped in and designed it from scratch, doing the nation proud.
An ejection system makes space missions possible by separating the satellite from the launch vehicle and placing it in a precise orbit. The mechanism went through rigorous tests before certification by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram.
The same IIT-K department came up with a matchbox-sized device to monitor wear and tear of rail tracks in real time and prevent derailment. It may possibly replace the bulky, box-like contraption in current use by Indian Railways, which requires a special coach.
The size of the device makes it simpler to integrate it with the existing railway infrastructure, according to Kshitij Deo, an M. Tech in mechanical engineering, who developed the device with three others of IIT-K.
The country caught the world's attention by launching the world's cheapest ever android tablet, Aakash, costing only $35, in October. Nerds from IIT-Rajasthan, the youngest of the lot, working with London-based DataWind, came up with the amazing piece of technology.
The tablet, developed to link 25,000 colleges and 400 universities in an e-learning programme, features a seven-inch touch screen and 256 metabytes of RAM, a multi-media platform with Android 2.2 operating system and is capable of delivering high definition video. China will be manufacturing a commercial version and marketing it as the UbiSlate at a cost of $60.
If the Indian tablet made news, supercomputers were not far behind. On May 2, the country's fastest supercomputer SAGA-220 became operational at the VSSC. It is capable of 220 TeraFLOPS or 220 trillion floating point operations per second. Scientists are harnessing its peak power to solve complex space-related matters.
Meanwhile, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences honoured an Indian physicist, Mohammed Sami, by including his work among the 31 Nobel citations, known as the scientific document on the Nobel Prize in Physics 2011. Sami co-authored the paper on dark matter with Edmund J. Copeland and Shinji Tsujikawa at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, in 2002-05.
Sami teaches physics at Jamia Millia Islamia. His research paper postulates that the repulsive nature of dark energy, which makes up for 70 percent of the universe, accelerates its expansion.
The year could well be designated as the solar year. A number of initiatives were taken to popularise green energy. The union government has undertaken to develop 48 cities as solar cities. A master plan for Agra and Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) Thane and Kalyan-Dombivli (Maharashtra), Indore (Madhya Pradesh), Kohima (Nagaland) and Aizawl (Mizoram) has been finalised.
Besides, hundreds of solar powered ATMs, developed by a Chennai-based company, have been installed by the State Bank of India in rural areas. More such ATMs have been ordered by banks, including the Catholic Syrian Bank, Indian Bank, Corporation Bank and IDBI.
The first solar power plant came up in Sri City in Andhra Pradesh. The technology, developed by the Indian subsidiary of the German firm BELECTRIC, is expected to generate 1,660,000 kWh of clean energy, supplying to 7,000 households annually.
While farmers remain a negleted lot, a quiet revolution is under way in villages. Some of them are improving crop yields, using new technologies, besides learning video-making skills, thanks to Digital Green, a technology-based startup founded by Rikin Gandhi. He has been named as a top young innovator by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The Delhi-based company is active in over 200 villages across Jharkhand, Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh with the help of seven NGOs, helping famers improve their productivity. Gandhi plans to extend the programme to 1,200 villages over the next two years across South Asia and Africa.