CONVERTING GARBAGE: Deliverance from stinking garbage dumps in Calcutta has finally become a possibility, thanks to a planned Rs 4.5 crore project for bio-converting solid waste into fertilizers. To be set up by the Eastern Organic Fertilizer Private Limited at the Dhapa dumping grounds, the plant will have technological backing from Excel Industries of Bombay. The conversion process will control air pollution and water contamination, claims Excel Industries. The fertiliser so generated will be useful to the north Bengal tea industry in switching over to organic farming from the use of chemical fertilisers.

FUELLING NON-POLLUTION: The Madras-based Vairam Agro Fuel R & D Unit (P) Ltd is conducting experiments to develop a new eco-friendly fuel. Comprising of ethanol made from cassava and blended with unleaded petrol, the new fuel is claimed to be less polluting. The company has launched a pilot study in collaboration with the ministry of non- conventional energy sources to test the fuel in 200 cars owned by the Tamil Nadu government, stated managing director S V Natarajan. Vairam fuel has obtained the technology of manufacturing ethanol from tuber crops from the Central Tuber Crop Research Institute** and the blending methods from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehra Dun.

SAYING IT WITH COLOUR: Paint Research Association, a UK- based coatings-manufacturing agency is all set to add a dash of colour to the paint industry by introducing a range of eco-friendly hues. The Association is presently researching in collaboration with the Southampton University to give the final touches to its latest product -- a paint that does not emit volatile organic compounds, and has greater water resistance than conventional water-based paints. The idea is to design water soluble polymers that become water resistant when the paint dries.

FIRE AND SPACE: Being trapped in a collapsing towering inferno is just another occupational hazard for a veteran firefighter. But no longer. The Chicago fire department is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to identify devices, generally used in space, for pinpointing the positions of firefighters in a burning building or to know when a structure is in danger of collapsing. Also, the NASA's expertise in handling liquid oxygen could help improve breathing apparatus for fireworkers, allowing them to work for hours at a stretch.

INNOVATIONS IN GORE: Testing blood -- till now a mundane affair for the medics as all their activities were hinged on a single bio-chemical marker -- will soon be a revolutionary experience for them. Horus Therapeutic Inc. of Rochester, New York, is about to introduce neural networks, a computer software which can discover patterns among multiple biomarkers which are released when a tumour invades healthy tissues. Once the system understands the variables, it can make highly accurate diagnoses based on blood tests.

HI-TECH FOR SALE: Indian technology may soon be used in the US, with an agreement being entered into between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Global Exchange of Technology Inc (GET), which is a professional technology brokerage firm. GET has undertaken the responsibility of marketing CSIR technology in the US. The export of cost-effective CSIR technology and services could net some US $5 million in 2 years for the Council.

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