Science Briefs: Local tech projects win awards at global event

Local tech projects win awards at global event

A low-cost sensor that detects phosphate levels in rivers and lakes to monitor algal blooms, and a smart window that turns clear or opaque depending on ambient temperature were among four local projects awarded at the TechConnect World Innovation Conference in the United States last month.

The awards place them in the top 20 per cent of all submitted technologies, ranked based on their potential industrial impact.

The sensor was developed by researchers from the National University of Singapore and the Shanghai Jiaotong University.

It is designed to operate automatically, with data stored or transmitted wirelessly.

The smart window was created by researchers from the Nanyang Technological University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Apart from being able to change colour depending on the temperature, it is also shatter-resistant and reduces the transfer of heat indoors from outside. The other two projects awarded were a solid-state fermentation technology to produce highly concentrated succinic acid - which is used to make a range of products including food additives, lacquers and perfume - from direct biomass waste; and a membrane module to treat oil-polluted water.

The annual TechConnect World Innovation Conference highlights innovations that can make a positive impact on the industry and brings together market-ready emerging technologies for commercialisation. It is meant to accelerate the commercialisation of innovations out of the laboratory and into the industry.

Scientists pinpoint gene for better rice

Scientists from China have pinpointed variants of a gene to improve the quality and yield of rice. Working in two separate groups, the researchers discovered that mutations in a specific gene resulted in longer, more slender grains with less chalkiness, and better harvests.

Breeders can now combine versions of the gene with others known to affect quality to breed better and more productive strains, they said.

Professor Fu Xiangdong of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a co-author of one of the studies, said rice breeders have found it challenging to simultaneously improve grain yield and quality. There is a genetic trade-off in plant breeding, so it is hard to make gains in both areas at the same time.

He, together with a team, crossed two rice varieties - one, a widely grown but mediocre hybrid variety, and the other, a better but less prolific type, to locate the genetic variant responsible for the difference in quality. They used this to develop experimental high-yield, better rice strains. A separate team used similar methods to pinpoint variants of the same gene, which is called LOC-Os07g41200.

Papers by the two teams were published in the journal Nature Genetics. The research is the latest in a host of better-rice gene discoveries.


Compiled by Samantha Boh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2015, with the headline 'ScienceBriefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe