600: Teijin's aramid fiber is adopted for the parachute of NASA's Mars probe Curiosity
(August 28, 2012)
NASA of the United States adopted
the para aramid fiber developed by Teijin
for the parachute of its Mars probe Curiosity. Teijin's para aramid fiber will
be used for the suspension codes that connect the probe and parachute. The product
is Technora produced by Teijin
suspension codes made of para aramid fiber connect the parachute that weighs about
60 kg and is abut 15 m in diameter. Para aramid fiber has eight times higher tensile
strength than iron of the same weight. Its strength deterioration due to conflict
and infection is small, and its heat resistance is excellent. It is being used
for bulletproof vests, optical fibers, and reinforcing agent of tires. Teijin
has 50% share in the world para aramid fiber market.
599: Japanese super high vision technology is an international technology standard
(August 27, 2012)
(Japan Broadcasting Corporation) Science and Technology Research Laboratories
has been developing the super high vision (SHV) technology in alliance with leading
electric companies including Panasonic since
1995. Because SHV has more than 33 million pixels, its image does not become coarse
even if the screen is larger than 100 inches. And the number of frames per second
is 120, two times more than the number of frames supported by the current technology.
The state-of-the-art high image quality technology currently available from Toshiba
and Sony is 4K, but SHV exhibits 8K.
Telecommunication Union (ITU) reportedly adopted Japan's SHV technology as
an international technology standard. Great Britain and Korea are expected to
adopt this technology. Japan is preparing for the experimental broadcasting by
SHV scheduled for 2020. During the London Olympics, SHV was offered for public
viewing in nine locations in the world including three in Japan.
No. 598: A fuel cell system supporting
both city gas and propane gas for emergency use (August 25, 2012)
institutions are asked to have an emergency power source by the Japanese law,
and the Ministry of the Environment subsidize
50% of the expense that private hospitals need for capital investment as a power
saving measure. Fuji Electric developed
a fuel cell system usable as an auxiliary power source at the time of disaster.
The new fuel cell system runs by city gas, but it runs by propane gas when supply
of city gas stops because of a disaster. It collects hydrogen from gas for power
generation. It has an output of 100 kW and can switch the fuel from city gas to
propane gas in 30 seconds.
the fuel cell system emits air that contains a low level of oxygen in operation,
the company plans to sell the new system to data centers by emphasizing this feature.
It is 65 million yen a unit, and another 15 million is required for installation.
In alliance with a German venture company N2Telligence,
Fuji Electric developed a fuel cell system combined with a low oxygen system for
data centers abroad. The oxygen concentration of air is usually about 21%, but
a fuel cell system can reduce the oxygen concentration to less than 14% that prevents
combustion reaction from occurring. Demand for a generation system helpful for
fire precautions is growing in Europe. The hybrid system obtained a CE Mark that
is the safety standards vital for the marketing inside Europe. Fuji Electric is
one of the four makers around the world capable of building fuel cell systems
for industrial use.
594: A new power conditioner much smaller than the existing model in volume from
Yaskawa Electric (August 21, 2012)
Electric successfully reduced the volume of the existing power conditioner
to one-25th without decreasing the output capacity. The new small power conditioner
will be helpful to make an autobody lighter for better mileage should it be mounted
on an e-vehicle. The company used silicon carbide-based power semiconductors that
increase efficiency of power conversion and increased the output per liter. Silicon
carbide operates even at a high temperature, and it is featured by a small amount
of power loss in conversion. The company built a trial product. It has an output
of 45 kW, and its outside dimension is 35.8 cm x 28.2 cm x 2.9 cm. The company
wishes to commercialize the small power conditioner by 2014.
will quintuple the production of power conditioners to satisfy the growing demand
after the introduction of the system that lets electric power companies purchase
renewable energy. The company will increase the monthly production capacity from
200 units to 1,000 units. Because direct current created by solar batteries need
to be converted to alternate current, a highly efficient power conditioner is
critical in photovoltaic generation. In addition, a power conditioner adjusts
the unstable voltage of electricity created by photovoltaic generation.
590: A new sheet for the administration of various drugs and pharmaceuticals (August
Yamamoto and Katsumi Hidemasa of Kyoto Pharmaceutical University developed
a new sheet to apply various kinds of meds in alliance with Ohtsuka
Pharmaceutical and CosMed.
A doctor can administer various kinds of drugs and pharmaceuticals by applying
them on this new sheet. The composition of a drug is put in the top of very mall
protrusions lining on the sheet surface. The new sheet is made of hyaluronan that
is skin's main composition. It has lancet-shaped protrusions, each of which is
500 micrometers long and several tens of micrometers in diameter, on the surface.
The drug compositions put in the top seep in one hour.
the protrusions are very small and soft, the patient does not feel any pain. And
the drug compositions are easily absorbed because they effuse close to the blood
vessel after getting through the skin keratin. They made a sheet that contains
interferon alpha on trial and found that 90% of the composition was absorbed into
the body. No safety problem was found. They already confirmed through animal experiments
that the new sheet is effective for the administration of drugs for diabetes and
589: Successful development of a paint with less environmental load (August 15,
Paint developed a paint with less environmental load for outdoor iron structures.
The company used water in place of organic solvents like thinner and succeeded
in reducing the emissions of volatile organic compounds by 90%. The new paint
is heavy-duty coating for such outdoor iron structures as bridge, plant, and tank.
The newly developed technology prills epoxy resin and makes it easily dissolved
in water, and dilutes it with water after reacting it with a substance like a
paint is suitable for paint application in residential streets and crowded areas
because it does not contain organic solvent. It reduces emissions of volatile
organic compounds that cause air contamination and petrochemical smog considerably.
It halves the term of works to two days. In addition, it is excluded from the
list of dangerous substances specified by the Fire Defense Law, and it is not
subject to the limit on the stockable quantity specified by the Fire Defense Law.
The new paint is 30% higher in price than the conventional products.
No. 588: A new plant-derived piezoelectric
element (August 14, 2012)
and Yoshiro Prof. Tajitsu of Kansai
University jointly developed a new plant-derived piezoelectric element expected
to create a new and promising field in organic electronics. The new element can
be mass produced more easily and at a lower cost than the existing elements based
on ceramic materials. They put a thin film made of polylactate and a conductive
resin to be used as electrode alternately. The new element extends about 2.5 times
longer than lead zirconate titanate if the same voltage is applied. It is also
rather suitable to create a large sheet. In addition, it is environment-friendly
because it does not contain lead.
new piezoelectric element will have a variety of new applications because it is
thinner and softer than the existing piezoelectric elements besides being transparent.
Wrapping a sheet made of the new element around the knee of an elderly person
and changing the voltage applied to the sheet helps him walk comfortably. This
is a new concept of walking aid device. Should it be stuck to a human body, it
is possible to develop a system to charge a cardiac pacemaker using electricity
created by the movements of breathing and walking. Should it be applied to a touch
panel, the user can change the screen simply by changing the pressure to touch
it. Teijin and the professor plan to put the new piezoelectric element into practical
use in a few years.
587: Two Japanese cleaning robots compete with Roomba (August 13, 2012)
The domestic cleaning robot market is growing very fast,
and is estimated to increase from 200,000 units in 2010 to 1,000,000 units in
2020. Roomba from the U.S. is dominant, but two Japanese cleaning robots are chasing
Roomba. One is Cocorobo from Sharp
and the other is Smarbo
from Toshiba Home Appliance. The former cleans a room while dancing if instructed
and understands several foreign languages as if it has mind (cocoro). The latter
cleans a room twice. In the second cleaning, it cleans a room at a right angle
to the angle of the first cleaning for complete clean up.
to the Japan Electric Manufacturers'
Association (JEMA), a cleaner is used for six minutes per day on average,
meaning that it is used for 10 hours a year should it be used for 100 days a year.
As is often the case, Japanese makers were too much absorbed in reducing noise
and increasing suction to build even better models and one step behind Roomba
in marketing without working out new concepts. In the cleaning robot market, it
has become critical to offer models with functions required by users and put them
on the market at competitive prices. The race to put additional functions and
values to a cleaning robot is heating up.
586: A new technology to transmit 100 times more information than the existing
technology in optical communication (August 11, 2012)
research team led by Masataka
Nakazawa of Tohoku University developed a new technology to centuple the communications
traffic of an optical fiber line that connects major cities. The new technology
is based on the optical wave pattern that an American researcher predicted mathematically
more than 80 years ago. It increases information amount per optical fiber dramatically
by modifying the optical signals that contain information to a unique wave pattern.
A wave pattern has a big mountain that represents a signal, and the new technology
adds a wave pattern that nulls its amplitude to the foundation of the mountain
at regular intervals. It can increase information amount only by reinforcing the
existing communications network.
new technology can transmit 1 terabit per second that is 100 times more than the
amount transmittable by the current technology for each wevelength. The research
team experimented it using the standard optical fiber and light with a wevelength
of 1.5 micrometers and found that information was transmitted correctly and precisely
for a distance of 500 km. The basic trunks connecting major cities may suffer
from communication failure in five years because the rapid spread of smartphones
and cloud computing services has been increasing communications traffic of the
optical fiber line by more than 40% annually. It is urgently required to increase
communications traffic per optical fiber to avoid the possible failure. The research
team plans to put the new technology into practical use in five years in alliance
with private companies.
585: Mass production of a new sealant for solar battery (August 10, 2012)
The sealant of solar battery plays the role of adhesive
of the back sheet that protects the cells from heat and salinity. Currently, a
synthetic resin called ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is widely used as the material
of the sealant. However, EVA might cause electric leakage inside the solar battery
and decrease the output because it is easily permeated by moisture. Dainippon
Printing used polyolefin in place of EVA for its sealant because it is not
so easily permeated by moisture as EVA. However, polyolefin resin is liable to
break and lose transparency as heat resistance increases, resulting in poor intake
of sunlight. This is why EVA is more popular than polyolefin. Dainippon overcome
the drawback of polyolefin by improving the blending of materials. Its new sealant
has 10 times higher ability to block moisture than the existing sealant and avoids
power decline due to leakage.
Dainippon got favorable responses from customers that have been testing the new
sealant, it will mass produce the new sealant in its existing plants instead of
building a new plant for it. The price will be the same as the existing sealant,
the company said. The company is also scheduled to mass produce new back sheets
with improved insulating performance. According to Japan
Photovoltaic Expansion Center, the average price of a residential photovoltaic
generation system in the second quarter of this year decreased 10% from the same
period of the previous year to 500,000 yen per kW mainly because of the price
competition with products from China. A research company in Tokyo forecasts that
the world market of materials of solar battery will increase 2.7 times over the
level in 2010 to about 6,800 billion yen in 2020. All Japanese companies involved
in the photovoltaic generation business are busily occupied with the development
of even higher performance products that can be offered at a more competitive
584: Establishing standards to measure how much outdoor advertising is effective
(August 9, 2012)
According to an industrial source,
Japan's outdoor advertising market decreased 6.8% from the previous year to about
290 billion yen in 2011. This is partly because ad agencies cannot easily show
advertisers how much their ads are effective. A total of 54 ad agencies including
Dentsu and Hakuhodo
established standards to measure how much outdoor ads are effective. With
the standards, they can calculate the rate of visual recognition that shows how
many people see the content of outdoor billboards and explain how much ads are
effective to advertisers. They developed a method to calculate the rate of visual
recognition for such condition as location of the billboard and angle from which
people see the billboard. They wish to stimulate the outdoor advertising market
through industry-wide activities.
calculate the rate of visual recognition using five conditions: area of the billboard,
location and angle of the billboard, height of the billboard, existence of competing
billboard, and degree of the illumination of the billboard. Naturally, a billboard
in an intersection where many people wait for the green signal has a high score.
A billboard in the Shibuya intersection that is one of the most crowded intersections
in Tokyo is estimated to have 390,000 viewers per week. In other busy areas inside
Tokyo, survey on the number of pedestrians is under way. In the standards, the
highest score point is the intersection of both ways, and the second highest is
the corner cutoff of an intersection. The third is the intersection of one way,
followed by the area for pedestrians other than intersection and the area not
for pedestrians other than intersection.
582: Cloud computing for better agricultural management (August 7, 2012)
Fujitsu will launch a cloud
computing service to increase the efficiency of agricultural management this October.
The system is named Akisai that means colors of autumn. It keeps and analyzes
data on field jobs and crop images for more crop yields and better crop quality.
Because the system is cloud computing, the user can manage it by PC, smartphone,
or tablet PC. The basic plan designed for a team of five people is 40,000 yen
per month besides the initial cost of 50,000 yen. The company plans to sell the
service to organizations eager to increase the management efficiency like agricultural
associations, distributors of agricultural products, and restaurant chains.
the field, workers record such data as working hours, fertilizers used, and growing
condition, and transmit them to Fujitsu's data center. They can monitor such data
as crop situation, cost, and profitability using their PCs in their office. Companies
involved in the distribution of agricultural products have to pay 100,000 per
month for the service. They can unify management of such data as production plan
and expected crop yields of each contract farmer and growth situation for better
and smoother procurement. Fujitsu has been conducting experiments of the system
since 2008 in 10 agricultural production corporations, and successfully increased
the crop yields of cabbage by 30%. Following Fujitsu, NEC
will also launch a cloud computing service to monitor the cultivation in the greenhouse
581: Successful development of a technology to produce butadiene from plant-derived
ethanol (August 6, 2012)
Butadiene is a material
indispensable to synthetic rubber, and it is currently produced from a byproduct
of ethylene that is produced from naphtha. That is, naphtha is vital for the production
of butadiene that is an ingredient of tire. As the production cost of shale gas
decreases, shale gas will grow more popular as the raw material to produce ethylene.
Production of ethylene using shale gas does not produce butadiene. More specifically,
growing popularity of shale gas decreases the supply of butadiene and increases
the cost of tire production.
Chemical of the U.S. built an ethylene plant that relies on shale gas. For fear
of possible short supply of butadiene, Bridgestone
and Wataru Ueda of Hokkaido University
jointly developed a technology to produce butadiene from plant-derived ethanol.
Mitsubishi Chemical developed
a method to produce butadiene from butene produced in the purification process
of oil. As discussed in No. 526, Bridgestone is working with Ajinomoto to develop
biomass-derived tires. The development race of technology involved in tire production
is growing fiercer.
579: A new technology to reduce CO2 emissions of coal fired power generation by
20% (August 3, 2012)
In coal fired power generation,
generating efficiency increases and CO2 emissions decrease as the burning temperature
increases. However, materials built by the existing technology can endure a temperature
up to 600 degrees centigrade. Hitachi and
Tohoku University jointly developed
a technology to build a material that can endure a temperature up to 800 degrees
centigrade and reduce CO2 emissions by 20%. They added metals including cobalt
to the alloy material to increase the heat resistance of the new material, using
Tohoku University's technology on metallic compounds. The new material will be
used for parts that require a high degree of heat resistance, such as turbine
and boiler tube. They plan to put the technology into practical use in 2020 to
build a steam turbine plant resistant up to 800 degrees centigrade for the first
time in the world.
developed technology increases the generating efficiency of coal fired power generation
from 40% to 50% and decreases the CO2 emissions 20% to about 700 grams per output
of 1 kW. Because oil thermal power generation emits about 740 grams per output
of 1 kW, coal fired power generation resistant up to 800 degrees centigrade emits
less CO2 emissions than oil thermal power generation. And it is even close to
LNG thermal power generation that emits about 600 grams per output of 1 kW. World
generation capacity of coal fired power generation will supposedly increase 60%
over the level in 2008 to 5 billion kW in 2030. The business involved in coal
fired power generation is expected to grow further in countries rich in coal resources,
such as the U.S., China, and India, whereas LNG thermal power generation will
be widespread in Japan. Hitachi is considering combining the new heat resistant
material with CO2 recovery equipment to increase the competitive edge of the new
578: Successful development of a micropump 50 times more powerful than the standard
micropump (August 2, 2012)
A research team led
Yokota of Tokyo Institute of Technology developed a micropump 50 times more
powerful than the standard micropump. The newly developed micropump uses liquid
called electro conjugate fluid (ECF) as the driving source. ECF is mainly insulating
liquid of the fluorine system, and it produces strong jets between electrodes
if voltage is applied. The micropump can be miniaturized easily without the necessity
of adding any extra equipment because it can be driven only by voltage. In addition,
it can be easily mass produced at a low cost because the micro electromechanical
system (MEMS) is used for the production. The research team plans to apply it
to micro robot hand and artificial muscle.
new micropump consists of triangle poles and slit-like electrodes put on each
of the poles. The MEMS process that combines thick film resist and electroplating
is used for the production. Both the slit width and the clearance between electrodes
are 200 micrometers. When voltage is applied to the micropump connected to a container
that contains ECF, ECF flows along the channel. Power of the pump can be adjusted
by the amount of voltage. A unit is 0.5 mm high, 0.7-1.0 mm wide, and 2 mm long.
It is possible to increase the discharge pressure and flow rate by connecting
units in series and in parallel. A new micropump composed of three units in parallel
and 10 units in series exhibited power density of 150 mW when 4 kg voltage is
applied. Because it is five times more powerful than the standard micropump, it
can be used for a micro robot that needs a certain amount of force for driving.
Developing rice breeds highly resistant to climate change (August 1, 2012)
Abnormal climate damages the growth of agricultural
products worldwide, and global warming seems to have entered into a new and more
serious stage. Universities and laboratories are busily occupied with developing
rice highly resistant to climate change. Toshiaki
Mitsui of Niigata University developed a new breed that does not deteriorate
the quality even at a high temperature and in a high concentration of carbon dioxide.
Rice suffers from abnormal accumulation of starch when a high temperature lasts
long in summer. If the average temperature of the 20 days after rice ears up exceeds
26 degrees centigrade, rice grains become clouded and deteriorate the quality.
He replaced the gene of the enzyme for resolving starch by another gene to decrease
cloudiness. In the environment where the temperature is higher than in the production
district, the rate of cloudiness of the new breed is 30%, whereas 70-80% of the
existing breeds become clouded. In the environment where carbon dioxide concentration
is 600 ppm that is 200 ppm higher than the production district, the rate of cloudiness
of the new breed is 30-40%, whereas 50% of the existing breeds become clouded.
It is expected that the new technology will be put into practical used in a few
Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) developed a new breed that
blossoms early in the morning to avoid problems with pollination. Rice does not
bear easily if the temperature at the time of flowering exceeds 35 degrees centigrade.
NARO mated a wild breed that blossoms early in the morning with the existing breed.
The new breed flowers around 7:00 a.m., three hours earlier than the existing
breed. Tokyo University of Agriculture
and Technology and Nagoya University
developed a new breed that has thicker stalks than the existing breed. The new
breed does not come down easily even in a gale. The stalk of the new breed is
7-8 mm, 2 mm thicker than the existing breed. Accordingly, the new breed has 40%
higher ability to resist wind without being broken. As global warming develops,
a typhoon grows bigger and faster. The new breed is expected not to fall down
until harvesting. As mentioned above, lots of efforts are being made to develop
rice breeds more productive in the days of climate change.
No. 576: Successful development of
a highly efficient artificial photosynthesis technology (July 31, 2012)
Panasonic developed a technology of artificial
photosynthesis as efficient as a plant. It generates organic substances from sunlight,
water, and carbon dioxide using a system similar to a solar battery. It employs
a self-developed metal catalyst and gallium nitride used for semiconductors like
light emitting diode (LED) for the system that reacts sunlight, water, and carbon
dioxide. It has five times higher conversion efficiency of organic substances
generated by photosynthesis than the existing technology. Panasonic successfully
increased the conversion efficiency comparable to a plant for the first time in
the world. The company wishes to put the technology into practical use for the
synthesis of ethanol in 2015.
plans to build a trial system of artificial photosynthesis that employs a catalyst
similar to a solar panel in terms of shape and open up a way for practical application
of a power generation system using ethanol as fuel generated by artificial photosynthesis
in 2015. Artificial photosynthesis is a very effective technology for reducing
carbon dioxide and solving resources problems, and Japan started a national research
project. Dr. Ei-ich Negishi, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry in 2010 who is
currently teaching at Purdue University of the U.S., participates in the project
organized by the Ministry of Education,
Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
575: Honda delivers its walking aid equipment to a national research center for
demonstration experiment (July 30, 2012)
delivered its walking aid equipment to National
Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology. It wishes to confirm that the equipment
is effective to improve the motion capability of the elderly by demonstration
experiment for its commercialization. The equipment is named Honda
Rhythm Walking Assistance. The wearer wraps the body of the equipment around
his waist and fixes the top of the frame coming from the body above the knee.
The equipment senses the move of the wearer and activates itself back and forth
with a power of about 1 kg.
research center received 40 units of the equipment from Honda and will conduct
demonstration experiment for about one year. Elderly people will wear the equipment
and walk outside and inside the building to confirm if it helps them increase
the length of their stride. Honda has not decided the date of commercialization
yet. In addition to decreasing the weight from the present 2.4 kg, the company
will make it user-friendlier to elderly people before commercialization.
No. 574: Japan's ucode is now the world
standard designated by ITU (July 28, 2012)
developed by YRP Ubiquitous Networking
Laboratory presided by
Ken Sakamura of Tokyo University was adopted by International
Telecommunications Union as the world standard. With the ucode technology,
it is possible to allocate universal serial numbers (ID numbers) to all objects
and locations worldwide and identify them on the Internet. Ucode is composed of
figures, and there are 2 powered by 128 ucodes, meaning that nearly an infinite
numbers of ucodes are available.
tags and bar codes with a built-in ucode that are allocated to industrial and
agricultural products can be identified by a terminal identifies, and the information
can be retrieved via the Internet. It is strongly expected that ucode will be
widespread for such purposes as logistics and sightseeing. It is free to use the
ucode, but users have to pay the operating cost to uiD
Center. The annual usage fee is 100,000 yen for 48 bits that is equivalent
to 281 trillion pieces. At present, 10 million ucodes are used by companies and
organizations. Taiwan and Finland decided to introduce ucode.
No. 573: An ultra-small ultrasonic
motor designed for the treatment of cerebrovascular disease (July 27, 2012)
Mashimo of Toyohashi University of
Technology developed a one cubic millimeter ultra-small ultrasonic motor.
The newly developed ultrasonic motor, whose sides are 1 mm each, is smaller than
one fortieth of the smallest ultrasound motor in volume, and it allows for rotation
movement and translatory movement. It is designed to be built on to a catheter
for the examination and treatment of cerebrovascular disease. The professor will
improve the performance and conduct clinical testing to put it into practical
use in three years.
miniaturized the structure of the motor by creating lots of small holes in the
metal part called stator that covers the driving part for easier transmission
of power. The piezoelectric element is stuck to the periphery of the stator made
of gold base alloy. The new motor is 1.5 mm wide including the piezoelectric element.
Because the structure is simple, the production cost will not be high. When two
kinds of alternating currents are applied to the piezoelectric element, they elongate
and contract it. The telescopic motion is converted to the vibration of the motor,
and the vibration generates power. The motion and strength of the motor can be
controlled by modifying the way to apply voltage.
No. 572: Successful development of a technology
to harden radioactive effluent (July 26, 2012)
efforts are being made to develop a technology for effective and efficient treatment
of polluted water in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A research team
of Showa Denko and Hitoshi
Mimura of Tohoku University developed a technology to bake and harden residues
of highly concentrated radioactive effluent, making it possible to harden unstable
sludge residues into a stable substance. Ferrocyanide adsorbs radioactive substances
like cesium effectively. Although it has 10 times stronger adsorption power than
zeolite, it deposits muddy substance called waste sludge. The purification equipment
of France running in Fukushima uses ferrocyanide. In Fukushima, the waste
tank installed underground has a capacity of 700 cubic meters, but it is already
filled with 600 cubic meters of waste sludge at present.
above research team mixed ferrocyanide residues with special zeolite at a ratio
of 1 to 1-2 and baked them at 800-1,000 degrees centigrade, and subsequently pressed
the resultant product under high pressure. This technology can seal radioactive
substances completely in a solid as stable as dried cement. Should this technology
be applied, it will be possible to establish a treatment cycle that scoops the
surface soil in the highly contaminated area, mixes the surface soil with water
and ferrocyanide to eliminate radioactive substances, and solidifies the residue.
The new technology has rather high removal efficiency because it can separate
cesium and strontium from the soil almost entirely. Showa Denko plans to sell
it to Tokyo Electric Power Company with the help of Atomic
Energy Society of Japan.
presented the manufacturing process of the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)
that can eliminate 62 kinds of radioactive substances including strontium. It
can process 500 tons of polluted water per day. Because about 200,000 tons of
polluted water still exists on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power
Plant, it will supposedly take about 400 days to treat all the polluted water.
Toshiba's ALPS will be installed late August, and the trial run will start in
September. Using the special resins and activated charcoal, it can decrease the
concentration of radioactive substances to lower than the legal level.
No. 571: Superconductive power transmission
is advancing fast toward practical application (July 25, 2012)
existing power cable loses about 10% of electricity being transmitted. However,
a superconducting power cable is free from impedance should it be cooled by liquid
nitrogen at 196 degrees below zero. In the case of direct current transmission
by superconducting cable, power loss is as small as 0.5% even if the transmission
distance is 1,000 km. Research agencies involved in the development in superconducting
power transmission are busily occupied with advancing the technology toward practical
Facilities is planning to build a mega solar with a capacity of 60,000-100,000
kW on the coast devastated by last year's earthquake and transmit generated electricity
by superconducting power cables of 2 km long. The company will start to build
the mega solar plant within the year with a subsidy from the government. Sakutaro
Yamaguchi of Chubu University will conduct experiment of a 200 m superconducting
power cable coming August or September. The power cable uses electric wire made
of cuprate and is covered by the highly thermal steel tube. He plans to transmit
electricity from the transforming station to data centers by superconducting power
cable. If the experiment is successful, he reckons that transmission loss and
heat generation are controlled to reduce the power consumption of the data center
up to 40%. Railway Technical Research
Institute will start the experiment to run electric trains using a new system
that transmits electricity by superconducting power cable with a capacity of 1.5
kilovolts and 10 ampere to electric trains traveling in the Tokyo Metropolitan
Institute for Materials Science and
Institute for Advanced Biosciences of Keio University clarified the mechanism
that boiling up some kinds of iron components by alcohol beverage induces superconductivity.
They presumed that organic acids contained in alcohol beverage eliminate extra
iron. At this moment, they made it clear that malic acid, citric acid, and beta
alanine induce superconductivity. They confirmed that each of the three compounds
will be superconducting if iron tellurium compound is boiled up with water that
contains one of the three compounds. Red wine, in particular, is supposed to be
highly competent in inducing superconductivity because it contains the three compounds
No. 570: A water purification
system that does not use an aggregating agent (July 24, 2012)
Industry in Kofu city of Yamanashi Prefecture developed a water purification
system to filter water of rivers and lakes without an aggregating agent. The filtered
water can be drinking water. The company laminated filtering materials including
sands of different diameters in its own method. It wishes to have this system
patented to market it through licensing agreement not to mention through sales
system adopted the sandwich laminating method. Water is supplied in the bottom
of the equipment and purified as it goes up from the bottom. The finest filtering
materials smallest in diameter are put in the middle, and the filtering materials
grows bigger in diameter as the layer stack goes upward and downward. The company
successfully increased the durability of the system by preventing the filtering
materials from falling to pieces when water pressure is applied. The finest filtering
material is 20 micrometers in diameter. In the experiment, the company confirmed
that the system filtered water of 139-degree turbidity to water of less than 0.1-degree
turbidity that is totally acceptable as drinking water. A
product description is available in a pdf file.
Honda's robot ASIMO is advancing very fast (July 23, 2012)
opened the new model of its robot ASIMO to the public in the Honda Robotics Exhibition
being held in its head office in Tokyo. The new ASIMO demonstrated his features
and behaviors before the audience, kicking a ball and pouring juice from a canteen.
The new model was shown to the public for the first time since it was developed
last November. It can run as fast as 9 km/h and understand sign language. In addition,
he can take optimal behavior judging from the situation surrounding him.
Uni-Cub is also demonstrated in the Honda Robotics Exhibition. The audience got
very much interested in the functions and maneuver demonstrated by Honda staffs.
Developing biofuel from seaweeds for the reconstruction of the devastated Tohoku
district (July 21, 2012)
are actively engaged in the development of biofuel from seaweeds to build a new
industry in the Tohoku district devastated by the March 11 disaster last year.
Professor Minoru Sato of Tohoku University started to extract ethanol from seaweeds.
He liquefied seaweeds using special equipment and fermented the liquefied seaweeds
to produce ethanol with the help of microorganism. He plans to produce 30 g of
ethanol from 1 kg of seaweeds. Because the produced ethanol has a concentration
of merely 2%, he will develop a technology to separate water content to increase
the concentration. Professor Naoto Urano of Tokyo
University of Marine Science and Technology will look for microorganisms effective
for the production of ethanol in the soil of the devastated area and improve them
using the knowledge of genetic engineering.
Kazuo Miyashita of Hokkaido University is developing foods using fucoxanthin contained
in seaweed. Fucoxanthin is reportedly helpful to facilitate the burning of fat
and effective to prevent metabolic syndrome. Extracted fucoxanthin will be powdered
and the powdered fucoxanthin will be mixed in noodles and baked cakes in alliance
with local food processing companies to develop new products. Tokyo University
is working on building an aquafarming system highly resistant to a disaster. Kyoto
University is trying to develop an agent to adsorb heavy metals using seashells.
University of Tsukuba is culturing seaweeds capable of producing petroleum component.
The Japanese government allocated 3.5 billion yen to develop new marine industries
in the district.
567: A high performance electrolyte for lithium-ion battery from Daikin (July
Japan's leading industrial air-conditioner maker, developed a high performance
electrolyte that doubles the capacity of a lithium-ion battery, and will start
to mass produce it in its plant in Alabama in the U.S. shortly. The company originally
produces the raw materials for electrolyte, but it successfully increased the
performance of an electrolyte by improving the composition of the raw materials.
Using a fluorine series solution as the raw material, the new electrolyte allows
for charging at a higher voltage than the standard electrolyte. Besides increasing
the battery capacity, it can lengthen the life of a lithium-ion battery because
it does not deteriorate easily. The company wishes to get sales of 15 billion
yen from this new electrolyte in 2015.
mass production plant in the U.S. will ready to operate in August with an annual
production capacity of 2,000 tons. Daikin plans to build a plant for mass production
both in China and Japan to increase the total annual production capacity to 10,000
tons. The new electrolyte will be put on the U.S. in January 2013. Daikin reckons
the market of electrolyte for lithium-ion battery will grow from current 30,000
tons to 50,000-100,000 tons in 2015, and plans to get 10% share in the world market
in 2015. The company is the world second largest maker of fluorine-related chemical
products following DuPont of the U.S.
566: Advanced robots for the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant (July 19, 2012)
Institute of Technology showed its newly-developed robot for the nuclear power
plant to the public. Named Rosemary,
the new robot is maintenance-free for three years, and it adopted the plug-in
system for battery charging to shorten the time that workers are exposed to radiation.
It currently takes them 10-15 minutes to prepare for charging alone. The Rosemary
is the advanced model of Quince introduced last June. It will go to the damaged
Fukushima nuclear plant in mid-August to conduct survey inside the building, film
the fuel pool, and transport materials.
time Chiba Institute of Technology released two models of Rosemary 2 and Rosemary
3. The former carries a camera that can be raised up to 3.1 m to survey the fuel
pool, while the latter is designed to perform a task carrying measuring instruments,
materials, and arms for light work. They both can operate for five hours continuously.
In addition, even if they become motionless due to an accidental cable cut, another
robot will get activated by the signal they send through wireless communications
and immediately come to them for rescue.
565: Japanese technology for malaria control grows widespread in Africa (July
More than one million people are reported
to be killed by malaria every year in Africa, and 90% of them are inhabitants
in the Sub-Saharan Africa that is the area to the south of the Sahara Desert.
A mosquito net named Olyset Net developed by
Sumitomo Chemical is growing widespread in the Sub-Saharan Africa, and the
company established the "Africa Technical Center" inside its Tanzania
plant. Staffed with about 30 local staffs, the center plans to develop and commercialize
an agricultural net that maintains the moisture of farmlands by blocking the air
by applying the Olyset Net by 2014.
Olyset Net is a net sewn with threads made of resin into which repellent is
kneaded. Because the repellent steeps to the surface gradually, the insecticide
efficacy of the Olyset Net lasts for more than five years even if it is washed
repeatedly. The company started local production of the Olyset Net in Tanzania
in alliance with a local company in 2003 and established a joint company with
it in 2007. The plant has now an annual production capacity of 29 million Olyset
Nets. The joint company has been promoting the Olyset Net in alliance with the
WHO and UNICEF, and the Olyset Net is being used in 36 African countries at present.
Olyset Net was selected as the "world coolest technology" by Time magazine
in 2004. It has 35% share in the mosquito net market in Africa at present.
564: Using the GPS for the prediction of an earthquake (July 17, 2012)
Geospatial Information Authority
of Japan (GSI) and Tohoku University
jointly developed a system to estimate the scale of an earthquake and the height
of a tsunami using the global positioning system (GPS) much faster than the existing
system. Based on the data on crustal movements coming from about 1,200 land GPS
observation points across the country, the new system determines the variation
caused by an earthquake and sends estimates to Japan
Meteorological Agency in a few minutes. It will be put into operation within
the year. The existing system needs data that cover as much as three hours and
five hours to produce observational results.
the analytical approach developed by Tohoku University, the new system observes
the amount and direction of crustal movements to a precision of 10 cm using data
coming in every second, and figures out the variation of the fault and bedrock
caused by an earthquake. Japan Meteorological Agency receives data dispatch by
GSI and calculates the scale of an earthquake and tsunami using computer. GSI
is improving the new system for even higher precision to start sending data to
Japan Meteorological Agency within the year. Currently, the agency calculates
the scale of an earthquake and the height of a tsunami using data from a seismograph.
It tends to underestimate the scale of an earthquake of magnitude higher than
8.0, but the new system hardly underestimate an earthquake. In addition, because
the new system can calculate the variation of the seabed, it is suitable for the
measurement of a large ocean-trench earthquake.
No. 561: A very small rare earth-less motor
that is 30% lighter than the existing product (July 13, 2012)
Motor, Japan's leading maker of very small motors, developed a rare earth-less
motor for automobile door mirrors that is about 30% lighter than the existing
motor of the same kind, while maintaining the same power output. The company put
it on the market because the product features will be well accepted by auto part
makers. The motor is to move the mirror of an automobile door mirror from side
to side and up and down. It weighs about 16 g with a power output of 0.1-1.0 watt.
It is about 30% lighter and 30% smaller in volume than the existing product.
is generally necessary to use rare earthes like neodymium to make a motor lighter
while maintaining the same power output, but the company eliminated the necessity
of rare earthes by improving the design of the magnetic circuit. Besides, the
company successfully reduced the sound coming from the new motor to 75% of the
sound coming from existing product to comply with the request for a quieter motor
from electric vehicle makers.
560: Increasing the generation capacity of the offshore wind power system (July
will try to increase the generation capacity of its offshore wind power system.
Because the competition of offshore wind power generation intensifies worldwide,
the company wishes to differentiate its products by focusing higher generation
capacity. The model it develops is the so-called "down wind" model that
installs windmills against the wind direction. Because windmills of the "down
wind" model catch wind blowing upward from beneath directly, the "down
wind" model has an 8% higher output than the conventional model.
wishes to increase the generation capacity by 2.5 times from the present level
and build an offshore wind power system with an output of 5,000 kW. It plans to
conduct demonstration experiment in 2014. It has already obtained orders for about
70 units of its system with an output of 2,000 kW. A wind generation system consists
of 10,000 to 20,000 parts. Accordingly, developing a wind generation system involves
lots of kinds of industrial fields, stimulating the labor market. According to
a survey, the market related to wind generation will increase 8 times over the
level in 2011 to over 3,000 billion yen in 2030.
559: Smartphone grows more versatile (July 11, 2012)
increasing number of home electronics that you can manage using your smartphone
are on the market. A new video camera introduced by JVC
Kenwood allows for wireless monitoring of children in another room, and you
can see them playing on the screen of your smartphone by fixing position of your
video camera in the room where they are playing. Sharp's cleaning robot, Cocorobo,
has a built-in camera that allows for wireless LAN connection and enables you
to monitor the moves of your cat or dog left in your home using your smartphone.
The non-contact IC technology
incorporated in Panasonic's
microwave oven allows you to set recipe and cookery instantly. What you need
to do is to select a recipe from Panasonic's recipe database using your smartphone,
and put your smartphone on the sensor of the microwave oven. You can save your
original recipes in Panasonic's database. As a smartphone grows more highly sophisticated,
the operation seems to grow more complicated. However, once you are used to operation,
you feel the growing versatility of a smartphone. According to a survey company,
domestic smartphone shipments increased 2.8 times over the level in 2010 to more
than 24 million units in 2011. Demand for smartphone is growing for shorter time
of housekeeping chores and increased sense of security when going out.
557: Increasing the conversion efficiency of a solar battery dramatically (July
The conversion efficiency of a solar battery
for home use is between 10% and 20%. Two university professors developed technologies
to increase the conversion efficiency of a solar battery dramatically. Susumu
Noda of Kyoto University changed sunlight of a wide range of wavelength to
sunlight of a specific wavelength easily usable for photovoltaic generation. His
research team developed a new material by combining a semiconductor that emits
only light of a specific wavelength if heated with the photonic crystal that locks
in and amplifies light. Only light suitable for solar battery can be taken out
if the new material is heated by sunlight collected by a lens, and the energy
conversion efficiency is estimated to grow higher than 40%. The
research results were reported to the Nature Photonics.
Saiki from Kansai University developed a crystal that can convert sunlight
to laser. The generated laser is used to irradiate a particle of oxidative products
of iron or aluminum, making it possible to create a metallic particle without
oxygen at a temperature higher than 4,700 degrees centigrade. This metallic particle
generates hydrogen when it reacts with water, and the hydrogen can be used as
a fuel. Because the efficiency of conversion from sunlight to laser is about 60%,
it will supposedly have higher conversion efficiency than the existing solar battery
even though the process to generate hydrogen from laser is taken into consideration.
High precision automatic construction machinery from Komatsu (July 5, 2012)
leading construction machinery maker, developed construction machinery that allows
for unattended operation. With the help of sensor technology, the newly developed
machinery can excavate and level land to a precision of a few centimeters. A bulldozer
can figure out irregularity on the land surface automatically and adjust the depth
in centimeters. Although an operator is needed for basic operation and safety
reasons, even an unskilled operator can carry out complicated jobs exactly to
design drawing. In addition, no advance measurement is required. The company will
sell the machinery with software as a package to compete successfully with makers
from Korea and China that underprice Japanese makers.
machinery makes it possible to estimate the time required for work, and the level
of skill of workers do not affect the work. It is of great help for shorter work
periods and lower construction cost. The price is not yet decided, but these kinds
of features can absorb the cost increase. Komatsu has been running a remote control
system that monitors the operation of all machinery all over the world since 2001.
Starting in 2013, the company will market driverless hydraulic shovels and bulldozers
in the U.S. and Europe.
553: Honda delivers its business jets starting late 2013 (July 4, 2012)
Honda will deliver its business jets starting late 2013
in the U.S. and Europe through its subsidiary Honda
Aircraft. The company has already received orders for a total of more than
100 jets from the U.S. and Europe to date. Local service companies will take charge
of maintenance and inspection. Honda has already set up six bases in the U.S.
and three bases in Europe for sales and service activities. After developing the
market in the U.S. and Europe, it plans to cultivate the market in such newly
industrialized countries as China and Brazil besides the Middle East.
business jet has the maximum cruising speed of 787 km/h with 20% better fuel efficiency
that the existing business jets. It has a flying range of 2,185 km with the operative
altitude of about 13,100 m. It is priced at 4.5 million dollars. The world business
jet market has annual demand between 800 and 1,000 jets. Currently, demand from
the U.S. and Europe account for 70% of the world demand. The two dominant forces
are Cessna of the U.S. and Embraer
of Brazil. Honda wishes to cultivate the market in newly industrialized countries
emphasizing the fuel economy and excellent occupant comfort and get 15% share
in the world small jet market.
552: Developing equipment to measure radiation dose is advancing through collaboration
with university (July 3, 2012)
one of Japan's leading measuring instrument makers, opened up the prospect of
the equipment to film the strength of radiation dose coming from a radioactive
substance and display it on the screen in alliance with Kyoto
University. The company utilized the technology developed by Kyoto University
to detect the radiation that a star generates when it explodes at the end of its
life. The newly developed equipment can measure such low radiation as 0.05 micro
sievert per hour. It is now developing a technology to display the strength in
different color in collaboration with Canon. The finished product will be put
on the market in 2014 for about 10 million yen.
Heavy is working on the practical application of a camera to visualize radiation
dose in alliance with Nagoya University.
They have already built a trial product based on the camera for artificial satellite.
They are trying to make it as light as 10 kg so that a worker can carry it easily
in the field. Furukawa plans to develop
a system to observe the radiation contamination from the sky jointly with Tokyo
University in two years. A camera will be incorporated in an unmanned helicopter
for pesticide spraying, and the helicopter flies at an altitude between 10-20
m and covers an area of 400-square-meter in less than one minute. The system will
exhibit strength in the measurement in the mountain area. Currently, measuring
radiation dose is costly and time-consuming because it depends mostly on manual
labor with a dosemeter. An effective visualization technology is strongly desired.
Utilizing the nanofiber technology to regeneration medicine (July 2, 2012)
will participate in regeneration medicine of bone and cartilage by utilizing its
accumulated nanotechnology by 2020. The company will develop a technology to fill
in a defective part of a bone and cartilage with a thread made of a medical agent
and a biological absorption polymer for faster regeneration of the defective part.
Teijin's accumulated nanofiber technology is advanced enough to utilize a thread
700 nanometers in diameter. It has been developing the next-generation medical
materials that enhance treatment effect in combination with the existing medical
It has also been
studying a technology to facilitate the regeneration of bone and cartilage and
working on preclinical trials in collaboration with Kobe
University and Osaka
Prefecture University. They plan to start clinical study in 2014 at the earliest.
This technology is supposed to be effective to the treatment of bone hard to regenerate.
Teijin also opened up the road to a practical use of a microneedle in which plastic
fine needles of several micrometers long each are aligned in the high density.
The microneedle is helpful to deliver efficacy through skin efficiently. The company
is scheduled to put this technology into practical use after 2020.
No. 548: Successful development of
a technology for high-speed decentralized processing of a large amount of data
(June 28, 2012)
Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) developed a
technology to process a large amount of data by connecting multiple computers
with the dedicated line. The new technology allows the user to conduct continuous
high-speed processing of a large amount of data by segmenting them into small
sizes as if he is using one computer. It will be utilized for the analysis of
big data obtained from the observation of space and geoenvironmental research
that even a supercomputer cannot process well.
new system is called "Science Cloud." It connects computers in NICT,
Osaka University, and Nagoya
University, and the user can use the system via the Internet without a sense
of discomfort. The system can memorize up to 2 petabytes that is equivalent to
500,000 DVDs, and has about 400 computation processing circuits. It specializes
in decentralized high-speed processing. A research team let the system read observational
data collected by satellites. The data were as big as 15 terabytes that is equivalent
to 3,500 DVDs. With these data, the system successfully created a stereoscopic
vision that reproduces about the two-hour move of solar wind in one day. Because
there are numerous pieces of equipment to observe such meteorological data as
rainfall and atmospheric change, the research team expects that the new system
will analyze climate with data collected from them.
No. 547: A container gas engine generator
named Meganinja from Mitsubishi Heavy (June 27, 2012)
Heavy developed a container
gas engine generator named "Meganinja," which means big ninja (Japanese
secret agent), that can start power generation in 24 hours after it arrives in
the destination. In addition to housing devices in an easily movable container,
the company employed connectors for wiring and connection of fuel tubing to simplify
the fieldwork considerably. It is designed for a dispersed power system in newly
industrialized countries suffering from power shortage not to mention for an emergency
is a 40-feet container of the ISO standard that houses such devices required for
power generation as gas engine, generator, fuel gas compressor, and control panel.
It can support cogeneration should it collaborate with a 20-feet container for
exhaust heat recovering that houses such equipment as hot water heat exchanger
and exhaust gas steam boiler. Each of the containers can be transported to a destination
by trailer. The Meganinja has an output of 1,500 kW, and connecting multiple Meganinja
units can easily increase the output. It currently takes a month to set up a stationary
power generation unit. The concept of the Meganinja is "Be quick to move,
be quick to install, and be quick to generate electricity."
No. 546: A gasoline
engine with 20% higher fuel efficiency (June 26, 2012)
Engine Research Office, one of the subsidiaries of Honda
Motor, developed a gasoline engine that is 20% higher in fuel efficiency jointly
with Yasuo Moriyoshi
of Chiba University. The new engine incorporates the advantages provided by
a diesel engine. A gasoline engine burns gasoline using spark plugs, while a diesel
engine ignites fuel when it is compressed. The system is called Homogeneous Charge
Compression Ignition (HCCI) that merges the two types of engines. Although lots
of efforts have been made to improve the HCCI, it is rather hard to put it into
practical use because (1) It has a low burning temperature and low output and
(2) It is unworkable when engine revolution is low.
research members allowed the HCCI to import part of exhaust to the explosion chamber
to increase the temperature inside for a bigger output. In addition, they created
temperature difference inside the explosion chamber by flowing mixture gas in
whorl. They successfully increased the output of the new HCCI by about 30% over
the existing HCCI and made it workable even in time of low output. The new HCCI
comes with spark plugs, but they are used only in sudden acceleration and for
going uphill. They are improving the new system for smoother change between the
ignition in compression and the ignition by the spark plug. They plan to put the
new HCCI into practical use in 5-10 years and wish the production cost increase
to be between 50,000 and 100,000 a unit.
545: An amplifier made of gallium nitride semiconductor for mobile phone base
stations (June 25, 2012)
Electric developed an amplifier
made of gallium nitride semiconductor for mobile phone base stations of the 2.14
GHz band. The new amplifier has a structure that gallium nitride is formed
on the silicon substrate, and the production cost is about one thirtieth of that
of the convention chip. It has an output of 170 W with currently world's highest
power conversion efficiency of 70%. If it is put into practical use, a unit complete
with this amplifier and a power circuit will be 30% smaller than the existing
unit. The company wishes to upgrade the new amplifier to make it effective for
the 2.5 GHz band in 2013.
new semiconductor sandwiches a buffer of a micrometer size between the silicon
substrate and the gallium nitride layer. Because silicon and gallium nitride have
different crystal structures, distortion is generated from the gallium nitride
layer. The company decreased the distortion that affects the performance of a
transistor and improved the performance by devising the higher harmonic wave processing
circuit. Two kinds of amplifiers exist. One is made of silicon alone, and the
other is made of either a silicon substrate or a silicon carbide substrate with
gallium nitride on it. An amplifier made entirely of silicone has an output of
150 W with power conversion efficiency of 58%, while an amplifier made of silicon
substrate or a silicon carbide substrate with gallium nitride on it has an output
of 200 W with power conversion efficiency of 68%. Because the latter is much higher
in performance than the former, a technology to produce the latter at a lower
cost has been desired.
544: A technology to halve the production cost of solar panel (June 23, 2012)
University developed a new technology to halve the production cost of solar
panel in collaboration with Tool
Bank that is a venture company stemming from the university and Crystal
Optics that specializes in ultraprecision polishing. The new technology made
it possible to build 2.5 times more panels than the existing technology. The three
organizations plan to put the technology into practical use in two years.
they developed is a semiconductor processing technology that uses a chemical solution
and cutting technique combined with extra-fine wire. A solar panel is built by
cutting a lump of silicon into many layers, and a sliced thin silicon film is
processed. The silicon film sliced by the new technology is about 60 micrometers
thick, less than half of the thickness realized by the existing technology. The
processing speed will remain unchanged.
543: A highly energy efficient vending machine that reduces power consumption
in the daytime by 95% (June 22, 2012)
Japan, Japan's largest drink producer, developed a new highly energy efficient
vending machine. The new vending machine can keep the inside at below five degrees
centigrade for more than half a day with only a small amount of electricity once
it is cooled in the night, because its structure retains cold air inside. The
electricity required in the daytime is only 5% of the electricity required by
the conventional vending machine. That is, the new machine requires electricity
just for operation, and no electricity is required to cool drinks inside. The
conventional machine needs 300 W in the daytime, but the new machine needs only
17 W. However, the total power consumption of the day remains unchanged because
the new machine needs electricity for cooling in the night.
conventional vending machine controls its power consumption by cooling only drinks
in the lower row. Coca-Cola Japan reviewed the existing structure and modified
it to enable the new machine to cool every inch of the inside in the night. In
addition, it used vacuum insulating materials to block off outside air and infilled
the joints of the machine with rubber. Japan has about 2,500,000 million vending
machines, 980,000 (or about 40%) of which are owned by Coca-Cola Japan. The demonstration
test will be conducted in July in the suburbs of Tokyo, and the new energy saving
machine will replace the existing machine starting late this year.
No. 542: The technology to measure
radioactivity contained in food is advancing (June 21, 2012)
Mincing fish beforehand is necessary to measure how much radioactivity it contains
with the existing measuring instrument. In addition, it takes 30 minutes before
the measurement results are given, not to mention that only a small amount of
sample can be examined. Furukawa
is developing equipment to measure radioactivity contained in all catches in foam
cartons in 7-8 seconds at the fishery harbor without damaging catches. The company
plans to put the equipment on the market in the spring of 2013.
developed a crystal called gadolinium, aluminum, gallium, and garnet (GAGG) that
increases the accuracy of radioactivity measurement dramatically. The company
is marketing a
portable instrument to measure radioactivity in the air by utilizing this
crystal. And the new equipment is based on the technology built in this portable
measuring instrument. The new equipment measures the amount of radioactivity of
catches in form cartons moving on the belt conveyor in 7-8 seconds. Satoshi
of Tokyo University helped Fukukawa with the development. The price is scheduled
to be around 10 million yen.
Other companies are
also actively developing similar instruments responding to the standards of radioactivity
in food that grew more stringent since April of this year. Mitsubishi
Heavy developed equipment that can examine four 30 kg rice bags in one setting
jointly with Seiko EG&G,
and it is marketing it for 20 million yen. Shimadzu
developed equipment that can examine one 30 kg rice bag in five seconds utilizing
the camera technique used in medical checkup of cancer that it has accumulated
for years. The equipment is sold for 20 million yen.
the new standards put into effect in April this year, common food like vegetable
is not allowed to contain radioactivity for more than 100 Bq per kg, baby food
and milk for more than 50 Bq per kg, and drinking water for more than 10 Bq per
No. 541: Paper capable of
shielding radioactivity (June 20, 2012)
Printing developed a technology to mix tungsten with paper in high density
for the first time in the world in cooperation with Kyoto
University's Masahiro Hiraoka. It successfully made paper
that can shield radioactivity. Tungsten has the nature to shield radioactivity.
The new paper has the same degree of cutoff performance as lead. Unlike lead,
it is easy to process and unharmful to human health. The company has already established
a mass production system and started to ship samples. It plans to apply the new
paper to radiotherapy treatment and working uniforms for decontamination activities.
The company successfully mixed
powder tungsten with paper uniformly in papermaking. It increased the ratio of
tungsten from 10-20% to 80%. The standard paper size is about 500 mm square and
about 0.3 mm thick. A sheet of the new paper can shield 50% of X-ray used in the
medical field, and three sheets combined can shield as much X-ray as 0.25 mm thick
lead can shield. With the help of Professor Hiraoka, the company confirmed the
performance of the new paper. It is priced at 7,000-8,000 yen per 500 mm square.
Energy saving systems that balance comfort and brownout for corporate customers
(June 19, 2012)
Leading electric companies are
developing new energy saving systems. Toshiba
and Hitachi plan to develop a control system
that reduces power consumption as much as possible while maintaining temperature
and humidity at a comfortable level inside the room. Toshiba's system calculates
the temperature and humidity just before human feel them uncomfortable, and controls
the operation of an air-conditioner to that level. The company will collect such
data as outside air temperature, power consumption, inside temperature, and inside
humidity. Based on the collected data, it analyzes how human's satisfaction changes
according to the change of inside temperature and humidity and develop a technology
to control the operation of an air-conditioner to make human feel comfortable.
It plans to finish developing this technology that can reduce power consumption
by 5-10% in two years.
will add the function for effective operation of an air-conditioner to its VIVALE
that is an energy management system for buildings. The company will collect data
of power consumption and the preset temperatures of the air-conditioners of customers'
buildings via the Internet. Using the accumulated data and information, Hitachi's
system will run the air-conditioners within the targeted power consumption automatically.
The upgraded system will be offered within the year. The system Mitsubishi
Electric is addressing first controls the operation of lighting and air-conditioners,
and allocates electricity to the air-conditioners on a priority basis. And it
examines inside the building to know whether a man is around, and it allocates
electricity only to the lighting illuminating around him. Mitsubishi Electric's
system will be offered this summer, and it will be given additional functions
on after another.
In the area covered by Tokyo Electric
Power Company, volume users reduced power consumption by 27% in the peak time
as compared with the day of the same temperature of the previous year, well above
15% targeted by the government last summer. However, it is often said that work
efficiency decreases 2% every time the room temperature rises one degree centigrade.
Because deteriorated work efficiency increases intangible losses of a company,
the above three system will be in great demand in the industrial market for years
No. 539: Cracking a 278-digit
code in 148 days (June 18, 2012)
Fujitsu Laboratories, National
Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NITC), and Kyushu
University successfully cracked
the next-generation code that supposedly needed several hundreds thousand
years to crack in just 148 days. The code is 278 digits, surpassing the current
highest 204 digits. The code they cracked is the pairing cryptography developed
in 2001 assumed to be the next-generation technology of the public key encryption
for Internet shopping.
research team developed a method to find parts for easy cracking and cracked the
pairing cryptography using 21 computers. If it had used the supercomputer Kei
that is being upgraded by Riken and Fujitsu, it could have cracked the code in
13.6 minutes. A code is assumed to be safe enough from a practical viewpoint if
a supercomputer with the highest performance at any given time needs more than
one year to crack. According to the research team, the pairing cryptography will
remains safe for the next 20 years if it is 1,011 digits.
538: An interior material useful for energy efficient life (June 16, 2012)
developed a new interior
material that makes the room brighter. A white panel on which special treatment
is given is put on the wall. The asperity of the panel surface reflects natural
sunlight and illumination light and diffuses them in a whole room. Put in a 10-square-meter
room, it can reduce power consumption up to 13% to keep the room as bright as
the conventional white wall does. The company plans to market the new product
to offices and shops that are exploring various ways to conserve energy.
treatment in white is given to the panel made of such metals as aluminum and stainless
steel. Uniform and refined concavity and convexity are created on the panel surface,
and the asperity reflects light that shines the panel in various directions. Even
in the light illuminated by LEDs, the new product can lighten the whole room evenly
because it can reflect and diffuse it irregularly. As companies, shops, and railway
stations will decrease the number of lightings this summer, the company plans
to sell this new product through lighting fixture makers and design companies.
Although it is 20% higher in price than the existing interior material, the company
reckons that saved electricity will make it possible to recover the investment
in three years.
No. 537: A rare metal-free cathode of lithium-ion
battery (June 15, 2012)
The present cathode of
lithium-ion battery contains such rare metals as cobalt and nickel. It is urgent
need to develop a technology to eliminate the content of rare earthes in view
of the unstable supply and exorbitant prices of rare earthes. A research team
led by Professor
Itaru Honma of Tohoku University developed a rare metal-free cathode of lithium-ion
battery, and the new cathode has two times bigger capacity than the existing cathode.
Although the trial lithium-ion battery that employed the new cathode is as small
as a button at the present stage, it attracts wide attention as the second battery
of electric vehicles.
research team used an organic material that is one-fifth in price of the present
material. They created a material that contains silica particles of 6 nanometers
each and used it as the solid electrolyte to prevent organic particles from dissolving.
They build a lithium-ion battery of a button size using this cathode and examined
the performance. They confirmed that the energy density, which means storage capacity,
is 200 watts per kg, about two times higher than that of the present lithium-ion
battery and that it can maintain the original performance even after more than
100 times of discharge and charge. They plan to explore an organic material that
has a higher capacity of storing electrons to increase the battery capacity. The
research results were published in the June 13 issue of Scientific Reports,
a British science magazine.
536: Reducing the thickness of an organic EL display to one seventh (June 14,
successfully developed an organic electroluminescence (EL) display that is one
seventh as thin as the existing organic EL displays, and will make a mass production
system ready by the end of this year both in Japan and China. The thickness of
the newly developed organic EL display is merely 0.29 mm, while Futaba's existing
similar product is about 2.0 mm thick. At the same time, the new product is about
one tenth in weight as the existing product. A 2.7-inch display weighs only 1.3
g. The new product will easily be applied to sub-displays of smartphones and wristwatches
that work together with smartphone.
was necessary to make an organic EL display hollow architecture to prevent moisture
from sticking to organic EL elements. However, Futaba developed new core materials
and eliminated the hollow portion, and successfully made the organic EL display
thinner and lighter drastically. The new product will be 40-50% higher in price
than Futaba's existing product. However, the company will adopt the passive matrix
for the new product instead of the active matrix for the production system. The
former is suitable to produce smaller than 4.0-inch displays, while the latter
is suitable to build TV panels. Accordingly, the cost per the same area will be
lower. Futaba acquired TDK's subsidiary involved in the organic EL business in
April, and it is accelerating research and development to restore profitability.
Reducing the power consumption of the integrated circuit of semiconductor to one
tenth (June 13, 2012)
University and Japan Science
and Technology Agency jointly developed a new transistor that reduces the
power consumption of the integrated circuit of semiconductor to less than one
tenth. They applied the phenomenon called the tunnel effect that enabled Dr.
Leona Esaki to become a Nobel Prize winner. The researchers built up molecules
on the silicone substrate and constructed a structure where needles, each of 80
nanometers in diameter, stand together in large numbers. They built a transistor
using each needle as electrode and found the tunnel effect in the joint of the
substrate and needles.
tunnel effect made it possible to reduce the voltage required to drive the new
transistor to one third of the voltage required by the existing transistor. The
researchers also reduced the leakage of current during standby time. As a result,
they are confident that they can reduce the power consumption of the whole circuit
to less than one tenth. In addition, it is possible to reduce the circuit area
to one fourth of the circuit area of the existing transistor. The tunnel effect
has been attracting attention as a clue to reducing power consumption, but it
was rather hard to build a transistor that applies the tunnel effect. Related
information in pdf file (in Japanese)
534: In-house generation using nitrous oxide (June 12, 2012)
Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Showa
Denko jointly developed generating equipment that utilizes nitrous oxide used
as an anesthetic agent. Nitrous oxide generates heat at as high as 1,600 degrees
centigrade should it be resolved by a special catalyst, and the generated heat
is used to run a turbine. Because hospitals have always anesthetic gas cylinders
ready, the two organization plans to put the new technology into practical use
and build an in-house power generation system for emergency in three years. Nitrous
oxide is safe and easy to handle because it is liquid at normal temperature and
because it emits only nitrogen and oxygen should it be resolved.
has been developing alternative rocket fuels that can replace highly toxicant
hydrazine rocket fuel and generating equipment in space in alliance with Showa
Denko for the past 10 years. The two organizations built nitrous oxide generation
equipment as small as a suitcase as part of their efforts to build equipment for
ground test of a rocket. It has a capacity to generate enough electricity for
lighting in laboratories and air-conditioners. They believe that the system of
a refrigerator size can be an in-house generation system for hospitals.
533: Developing technologies for stable supply of polypropylene (June 11, 2012)
polyethylene, polypropylene can be mass produced only from crude oil at the present
stage. For fear of possible short supply of crude oil, many research teams are
developing technologies for stable supply of polypropylene. Masakazu
Iwamoto of Tokyo Institute of Technology developed a technology to produce
propylene that is a material of polyethylene resin from bioethanol using a special
catalyst. He confirmed that about 60% of ethanol changed propylene. According
to the estimates of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, it is possible
to reduce 3 million tons of CO2 should one million ton of polypropylene be produced
entirely by the new technology. It is planned that Idemitsu
Kosan builds mass production equipment and Sumitomo
Chemical produces polypropylene for Toyota.
Chemical and Hiroshi
Shimizu of Osaka University successfully made isopropanol from genetically-modified
Bacillus coli. Isopropanol is a kind of alcohol and used as a raw material of
polypropylene. The genetically-modified Bacillus coli changes to Isopropanol in
two days if it is put into a sugar solution extracted from plant fibers. It is
possible to produce propylene by extracting the moisture of isopropanol. For the
purpose of calculation, about 250 g of propylene can be made from 1 kg of sugar.
His technology has more than 10 times higher productivity than the existing technology,
and it can be put into practical use should the response speed grow two times
532: Using a by-product of paper manufacturing for a tire material (June 9, 2012)
Paper manufacturing inevitably produces lignin that
is a black liquid substance as a by-product. Wood chips contain lignin for 20-30%,
and paper companies utilize it as fuel for their boilers. With the sluggish sales
of paper products, paper companies are exploring new applications for lignin.
that is a general trading company and Daio
Paper that is a paper company will put the technology to produce carbon fines
by sintering and drying lignin to practical use toward 2014. The carbon fine made
in this way is highly adhesive, and it can increase the strength of the tire should
it be mixed in tire. It can replace carbon black made of oil or coal that is widely
used at present.
carbon black is contained in a tire for 25% in a weight ratio, and its domestic
demand is about 900,000 tons a year. The two companies plan to get sales of 20
billion yen annually by replacing carbon black by carbon fines. Daio Paper built
an experiment plant with a monthly production capacity of 5-10 kg of carbon fines
and started to ship samples to tire manufacturers and paint makers. Kanematsu
will increase customers, while Daio Paper will develop the technology for mass
production. As reported in No. 526, Bridgestone is developing biomass-derived
tires in alliance with Ajinomoto to follow Michelin of France and Goodyear of
the U.S. Kanematsu and Daio Paper are trying to make tires more environmentally
friendly in a different approach.
531: Successful development of a technology for low cost production of pressure
sensors (June 8, 2012)
and the National Institute of Advanced
Industrial Science and Industry (AIST) jointly developed a technology for
low cost production of film pressure sensors. They developed an organic material
that generates electricity if pressurized and combined it with the substrate of
a plastic on which an electric circuit is printed to produce a film pressure sensor.
Because multiple sensors can be aligned vertically and horizontally, it will be
easy to build a product with a large area. According to AIST, it will be possible
to build a sensor that stretches wall-to-wall, offering such applications as a
bed that prevents bedsore and a vehicle seat that provides a high level of comfort.
Because the new film pressure
sensor is printable, the production cost can be reduced to less than several hundredths.
It currently costs more than 100,000 yen to produce a 10 cm square pressure sensor,
but the newly developed technology can produce a pressure sensor of the same size
at a cost from several hundredths to several thousandths of the present cost thanks
to the simple production process and lower material cost. If the new film sensor
is put on the room or a floor wall-to-wall, it will be possible to monitor the
life of an elderly person living alone.
web page (in Japanese)
A functional film for longer life of lithium-ion battery (June 7, 2012)
will develop a functional film that lengthens the life of a lithium-ion battery
by up to 20%. A resin that absorbs the gas is inserted between the films to provide
them with the function to adsorb the gas. The company will let the new film adsorb
volatile gas generated while a lithium-ion battery is used to prevent the battery
from expanding. The functional film will be used as the armoring material pasted
on the package of battery.
lithium-ion battery generates gas in the course of deterioration, and the package
of a battery expands. In the worst case, it bursts. That is why a mobile phone
has space inside in anticipation of the battery's expansion. This space makes
it hard for mobile phone makers to make their products thinner. Kyodo Printing
so far developed functional materials including "MoistCatch"
that adsorbs moisture and "OxyCatch"
that adsorbs oxygen. The technology used to develop these two original products
is used to develop the new film. The sample will be shipped in less than one year.
529: Technology to locate sea-floor hydrothermal ore deposits is advancing (June
In 2008, the Japanese government designated
the sea-floor hydrothermal ore deposit as one of the important seabed resources
together with oil, natural gas, and methane hydrate. Since then, a large amount
of research expenses were spent on the development of technology to locate sea-floor
hydrothermal ore deposit, and the technology is advancing.
Asada of Tokyo University developed a sensor that analyzes the shape of the
seabed using sound waves. The transmitters installed on the probe discharged from
the ship transmit sound waves toward the seabed, and 48 underwater microphones
receive returned sound waves. The round-trip time and intensity of the sound waves
are figured out for each transmitter, and the data are used to draw 3D seabed
maps in real time. It is possible to draw a seabed map with the radius of 300
m if sound waves are transmitted more than 100 m above the seabed. The 3D map
has a difference of only about 5 cm. Akira
Saito of Waseda University focused on that electrical properties vary with
the kind of rock and mineral, and developed a technology to study the distribution
of such metals as gold, copper in a sea-floor hydrothermal ore deposit.
is said to have the world largest amount of sea-floor hydrothermal ore deposit.
At present, it has15 sea-floor hydrothermal ore deposits.
No. 528: Intensifying competition to
reduce mass production cost of organic electroluminescence (June 5, 2012)
Organic electroluminescence (EL) is the next-generation
lighting that allows for a wide range of applications, such as illumination pasted
on the ceiling and illumination of advertising display of a shop, and it does
not get hot. However, the high production cost is the biggest drawback.
Chemical will mass produce organic EL in alliance with Pioneer
toward the end of 2013. The two companies have been working together to develop
a mass production technology since 2010, and successfully developed a new technology
to produce an organic EL panel by applying organic substances to the glass. They
will construct a pilot plant with an investment of 1.5 billion yen by the summer
to test the new technology for one year. They can currently produce a 13 cm square
organic EL sheet that is 9 mm thick at about 50,000 yen on trial, and they plan
to reduce the production cost to less than 5,000 yen in one year.
will introduce vacuum coating equipment that deposits luminescence materials on
the glass substrate efficiently and review thoroughly such components as glass
substrate and luminescence material to reduce the production cost of a 10 cm square
organic EL panel to less than 5,000 yen. Konica
Minolta developed an organic EL panel with better luminous efficiency than
the existing EL panel in 2011. The company is developing a mass production technology
to be put into practical use after 2014.
60W electric light bulb is merely 100 yen, and an LED bulb with the same brightness
is 2,500 yen. An organic EL bulb with the same brightness costs 300,000-750,000
yen. Accordingly, developing new applications besides reducing production cost
is indispensable. According to a survey company, the domestic market of EL lighting
is supposed to be 1.1 billion yen in 2012, but it is estimated to be 108.5 billion
yen in 2020. Although Korean companies are one step ahead of Japanese companies
in commercializing organic EL panels for TVs and smartphones, Japanese companies
are pressing hard on them.
527: Using low quality coals for inexpensive fuel that can replace heavy oil (June
Plant capacity of thermal power generation
is expected to grow 60% over the level in 2008 to about 5 billion kW in 2030 worldwide,
and demand for fuel for thermal power generation is growing bigger rapidly. JGC,
one of Japan's leading engineering companies, developed a low-cost
fuel for thermal power generation and plans to produce it beginning in 2015.
It will build production facilities in Indonesia with an investment of 30 billion
yen and market the new fuel in Japan and Asia at a 30-50% lower price than heavy
Low quality coals cannot
be used as fuel because they are hard to burn due to high moisture content. JGC's
technology crushes low quality coals and extracts moisture by processing the crushed
low quality coals at elevated temperature and pressure, and subsequently processes
it as liquid fuel with additives. If burnt, the new fuel produces the same heat
value as heavy oil. Because Indonesia has lots of reserve of low quality coals,
JGC wishes to construct a big plant with an annual production of one million tons
that is enough to operate a plant with a 300,000 kW generation capacity for one
year. The company plans to export the new fuel to Japan besides marketing it in
Asian countries including Indonesia. In Japan, the consumption of heavy oil increased
88% over the level in 2010 to about 11 million tons in 2011.
Japanese companies are very active in utilizing low quality coals. Kobe
Steel developed the mechanism to heat low quality coals and extract moisture.
It is planning to build facilities to produce fuel for power plants by 2015 in
Sumatra. IHI started
to develop a technology to gasify low quality coals using the boiler of a thermal
power plant for highly efficient generation. Mitsubishi
Heavy is developing a technology to burn low quality coals efficiently. According
to the estimate of the Japanese government, photovoltaic generation costs most
to generate electricity. It costs 33.4-38.3 yen per kW, followed by oil that cost
20.8-22.4 yen, wind generation that costs 99-17.3 yen, and LNG that costs 10.7
yen. Coal-fired thermal power costs 9.5 yen and nuclear costs 8.9 yen.
No. 526: Bridgestone and Ajinomoto ally
to develop biomass-derived tires (June 2, 2012)
Japan's leading tire maker, and Ajinomoto,
Japan's leading company of fermentation technology, allied to develop biomass-derived
successfully produced isoprene from corn sugar. The two companies will develop
tire rubber mixed with isoprene rubber to increase its strength and wear resistance.
At present, isoprene rubber accounts for several percentage of the total rubber
used in a tire. Michelin of France and Goodyear of the U.S. have already started
to develop biomass-derived rubber, and Bridgestone follow them in alliance with
a microorganism capable of producing isoprene. It extracts isoprene after fermenting
the microorganism that ate plant-derived sugar, and Bridgestone processes isoprene
into rubber with the aid of its original catalyst technology. Ajinomoto will build
a pilot plant next year and improve the fermentation technology to establish the
technology to mass-produce isoprene by 2020, and Bridgestone will manufacture
a tire that employs biomass-derived rubber toward 2015 on trial. Because biomass-derived
tire can replace natural rubber, Bridgestone reckons that mass-produced rubber
will have enough cost competitiveness in the future. Bridgestone plans to launch
tires made of materials free from such fossil resources as oil in 2020.
No. 525: Nissan's charging equipment
with the function to supply electricity to household (June 1, 2012)
is no longer a dream to use an electric vehicle battery as a storage battery of
a household. Nissan will put its
charging equipment on the market in mid-June. The new product was developed and
built by Nichicon.
It allows an EV to be a storage battery of household. It is subject to government
subsidy, and a customer needs to pay 330,000 yen including installation cost.
It supports both AC and DC.
With an output of 6 kW that is two times bigger than the conventional output,
it halved the charging time from eight hours to four hours as an EV charger. It
has the function to monitor power consumption of the household and charge it at
lower than contract current. Because it is possible to set hours for charging
and feeding of the day using a timer, it is rather easy to store cheap electricity
at night and use the stored electricity not only for household but also for back-up
power supply for emergency. A Nissan's executive said that his charging equipment
could compete successfully with the existing household storage battery pricewise.
Nissan plans to sell 10,000 units in the initial year. It will start to install
the "LEAF-to-Home" in about 2,200 Nissan dealers across the country.
Lithium-ion battery is growing higher in performance (May 31, 2012)
research team made up of scientists from National Institute of Advanced
Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Toray
successfully developed a new lithium-ion battery. The new product can store 1.5
times more electrical energy than the existing lithium-ion battery of the same
size. In addition, it can be used in a temperature range between minus 30 to plus
140 degrees centigrade, and it has rather high degree of safety. Should it be
employed by an electric vehicle, it can lengthen the travel distance per change
from 200 km to 300 km.
research team changed the material of some components. They used silicon oxide
resistant to 800 degrees centigrade instead of graphite for anode, stainless steel
instead of copper foil for collector, and polyimide for separator. Production
cost remains almost the same. In the test, discharge and charge was successfully
repeated at 140 degrees centigrade, and more than 58% of the performance was exhibited
at minus 30 degrees centigrade. The test confirmed that employing silicon oxide
increases the safety of anode and makes the lithium-ion battery hard to break
even if it is given an impact. The research team plans to put the new lithium-ion
battery into practical use for various applications including electric vehicle
at an early date.
523: Thin and splinterless glass for solar batteries and lighting fixtures (May
Companies from various industrial fields
are busily preparing for the widespread of photovoltaic generation. Asahi
Glass will put its "Leoflex" that is thin and splinterless special
glass on the market nationwide coming June. The company has been shipping "Leoflex"
to some solar battery manufacturers, and decided to sell it in such industrial
markets as architecture and illumination.
is roughly 910 wide and1,820 mm deep, and weighs about 3 kg. It is about 0.8 mm
thick that is nearly a quarter of thickness of the existing glass. Its surface
is treated by chemical to make it hard to break. Fuji
Pream, one of Japan's leading manufacturers of optical filters, became the
first company that introduced Leoflex. It is likely that Leoflex will facilitate
the spread of photovoltaic generation because light weight is a great advantage
for a system to be installed on the rooftop of a house. http://www.agc.com/english/news/2012/0529e.pdf
521: A small mass spectrometer capable of detecting stimulants and narcotics (May
developed a small mass spectrometer that can detect stimulants and narcotics.
It is less than one tenth of the existing standard mass spectrometer in terms
of price and weight, and it can examine drugs in urine at a concentration of one
ten millionth. It is the
world's first portable analyzing device that supports the investigations of Drugs
of Abuse. Using its self-developed algorithm, the company allowed the device
to tell the existence of drugs in a sample in less than five minutes. If drugs
are detected, it displays the names of the detected drugs automatically on the
screen. That is, no expertise is required, and investigators can handle the device
easily in the field. At present, no device capable of detecting drugs in the field
developed this device in alliance with Hitachi,
University of Yamanashi, Kobe
Gakuin University, and National
Police Agency. The research team successfully downsized the device by reviewing
the sizes of ionization sources and the analysis module. The number of illegal
drugs is on the increase lately, but the device can increase the number of illegal
drugs that it can support only by adjusting the database. The company plans to
commercialize it in 2012 and put it on the domestic and foreign markets in 2013.
It weighs 10 kg. The unit price is scheduled to be about 10 million yen.
No. 516: Japan's first demonstration
experiment to transmit electricity to households with a superconducting cable
(May 19, 2012)
In a joint project with New
Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Sumitomo
Electric will conduct Japan's first demonstration experiment to transmit electricity
to households with a superconducting cable coming November. The company will lay
down a cable that becomes superconducting should it be cooled down to minus 196
degrees centigrade and transmit electricity of about 200,000 kW to see whether
electricity to be lost as energy will decrease. In the future, the cable is expected
to halve the loss in transmission.
cable to be used is the high temperature superconducting cable covered by the
tube in which liquid nitrogen circulates. The company will connect the cable with
the power system connected with one of the electric power plants operated by Tokyo
Electric Power Company this November for the one-year demonstration experiment.
Tokyo Electric Power Company has underground cables with a total length of 400
km that transmit electricity at higher than 275 kilovolts, and about 40,000 kW
of electricity is lost as energy in transmission. It is estimated that about 20,000
kW will be saved should the high temperature superconducting cables replace all
the existing cables.
515: Technologies to prevent a car accident from occurring (May 18, 2012)
According to the National Policy Agency, the number
of the dead in a car accident halved for the past 10 years, but the ratio of pedestrians
to the total dead is on the rise. Automakers are actively addressing the development
of a technology to prevent a car accident from occurring.
University Professor Goro Ohinata paved the way to the technology to judge
the deterioration of attentiveness of the driver from his eye movement in alliance
with Toyota Motor. He focused on the fact that eye movement becomes slower when
the driver gets tired or enters a crossing in an unstable emotional status. He
is trying to build a mechanism to check the eye movement of the driver with the
help of a camera installed in a car and give him a warning when his eye movement
becomes slower. Using a driving simulator, he tested the mechanism against people
of various generations. The three charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras installed
in the car successfully detected the abnormal change of the driver. He plans to
test the mechanism using a real car this autumn.
built EPORO that is a car-like robot. It runs with other robots keeping a certain
distance between them while avoiding obstacles using a sensor. The company got
ideas from a school of fish that travels to the destination, though each of fish
seems to move at is own discretion. Honda developed a system to tell the driver
the timing to apply the brake. The company tested this technology in Italy, and
plans to put it into practical use in 2015.
University Professor Kazuya Takeda developed a technology to predict a risk
from the driver's unnatural driving in alliance with Denso.
While a man drives, the mechanism records such data as speed, inter-vehicle distance,
and acceleration. When the drives starts to show driving with different characteristics,
the mechanism presumes the possibility of inattentive driving and drowsy driving.
"This technology can predict a risk three second beforehand," Professor
No. 514: Honda's
electric two-wheeler that allows you to travel while you remain seated (May 17,
developed an electric two-wheeler. The new two-wheeler, UNI-CUB, allows you to
travel only by shifting your weight while you remain seated at a maximum speed
of 6 km/h. It is 74.5 cm high with two wheels. One is for moving back and forth,
and the other is for rotating movement. If you incline forward a little, you can
travel forward slowly. You can easily travel from side to side or gyrate only
shifting your weight. You can also operate the UNI-CUB using a small touch panel.
The company plans to address
the demonstration experiment in alliance with the National
Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). They will conduct the
demonstration experiment until March 2013. The staff members of the Miraikan will
use the two-wheeler to guide visitors and patrol inside the premises to explore
ways to improve the two-wheeler. Mamoru Mouri, an ex-astronaut and Miraikan's
director, gave an impression, saying that he felt as if he returned to the zero
gravity space. It is not yet decided whether or not this new product will be commercialized.
No. 513: A new plant with a capacity
to recover six times more CO2 than the existing plant (May 16, 2012)
Japanese high-tech companies are the front runners in the
technology to recover CO2 in the world. Mitsubishi
Heavy developed a new plant that can recover 3,000 tons of CO2 per day, six
times bigger capacity than the existing recovery plant. The company has been operating
a plant with a daily recovery capacity of 500 tons in Mobile of the state of Alabama
of the U.S. A recovery plant consists of CO2 recovery equipment and large-scale
compressors, etc., and recovers only CO2 from gas emissions using a special absorbing
solution. If a nuclear power plant with an output of 1 million kW is replaced
by a coal-fired thermal power plant, 12,000 tons of CO2 will be emitted daily.
In addition to the recovery
technology, Mitsubishi Heavy is developing a technology to pour CO2 into an aging
oilfield to regenerate it. Aging oilfields mostly have crude oil of high viscosity,
and increasing the fluidity of the residual oil with the help of poured CO2 can
regenerate them. At the same time, should an oil layer exist below the bedrock,
it is possible to increase the pressure by pouring CO2 for higher production efficiency.
According to International Energy Agency, the
world capacity of coal-fired thermal generation plants will increase two times
over the level in 2008 to 1,400 million kW in 2030, and reduction of CO2 emissions
by dint of recovery and storage will reach 8,000 million kW by 2050. Other Japanese
leading high-tech companies like IHI, Hitachi, and Toshiba are actively developing
the CO2 recovery business both at home and abroad.
512: Changing the TV screen by body language signals (May 15, 2012)
a remote controller nor a mouse is required to change the screen of a TV and a
PC. This is the technology developed by NEC.
A camera that measures the three-dimensional figures precisely is set in face
of the viewer. A PC with preinstalled body language signals responds to his actions.
If he sends a body language signal to catch something, he can copy the file on
the screen, and if he moves his hand horizontally and opens his fingers, he can
paste the selected file on another place.
small projector installed besides the camera will have the function to project
images before the viewer. If the projector is installed on the digital signage
on the street or in commercial facilities, walking people can operate the screen
by their body language signals and locate shops and restaurants with the help
of projected images projected on the map and direction board. The company wishes
to put this new technology on the market in one year.
511: A new system to collect and recycle CO2 emitted from a phosphoric acid fuel
cell (May 14, 2012)
A fuel cell generates electricity
by virtue of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air. The problem
is that CO2 is emitted in the process to extract hydrogen from the reformer using
city gas. Tokyo Gas successfully
put a system to collect and recycle CO2 emitted from a phosphoric acid fuel cell
into practical use. The system can collect 15.4 kg of CO2 out of 51.4 kg of CO2
emissions from a phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) at an output of 100 kW per hour.
In addition, it reduced power consumption to collect CO2 from 28 kW to 12 kW.
The emission gas from a PAFC
is cooled and dehumidified using the pretreatment unit to make it dry gas from
which only CO2 is extracted using the pressure swing absorption (PSA) method.
The separated CO2 is processed by the liquefied apparatus and filled in a portable
cryogenic container. It can be used for CO2 welding and as a solvent to micronize
an agent. Because the system allows collected CO2 to be used directly, the system
will introduced to the plant factory operated by Chiba
510: Successful development of a batteryless, wireless sensor system that utilizes
oscillation generation (May 12, 2012)
Electric Engineering developed a batteryless, wireless sensor system that
utilizes oscillation generation. The system consists of an oscillation generator
that uses spring and a control board that incorporates sensor and radio unit.
The generator amplifies imperceptible vibrations by virtue of the resonance of
the spring and collects electricity. The company exercised its ingenuity to allow
the spring to generate electricity even with a small number of vibrations. The
new sensor is maintenance-free and long-life because replacing batteries is not
The test model generates
feeble electricity even with vibrations of less than 10 Hz. The sensor measures
such data as lighting intensity, temperature, and humidity with generated electricity
and sends them through the control board. The company simplified the circuit design
to curb power consumption. The test model employs the intermittent control that
sends a signal for every 10 seconds. The company developed this sensor for the
remote control in places where human cannot work with safety, such as on the ocean
and on the steel tower. It has not decided whether or not the new sensor is produced
on a commercial basis, but the test model can be build at less than 100,000 yen.
The company is now checking the responses from the market to explore its marketability.
Successful development of a technology for complete recycling of wasted fiber
reinforced mortar tubes (May 11, 2012)
reinforced mortar tube (FRPM) is made up of a fiber glass reinforced plastic (FRP)
layer and a resin mortar layer. Currently, only fine powder containing resin mortar
is recycled. Osaka University
and Kurimoto jointly
developed a technology to recycle FRPM completely. The newly developed technology
reprocesses wasted RRP to heat insulator and reutilizes wasted resin mortar as
FRPM. The research team developed this technology under the leadership of Professor
of Makio Naito of Joining
and Welding Research Institute of Osaka University.
of wasted RFP are put in a mill, and they are separated into FRP waste material
that includes glass fiber and resin mortar. Nanoparticles of silica are added
to the surface of the collected the FRP waste material to produce a light-weight
and porous material with high degree of thermal insulation by press work. The
reprocessed insulator has lots of hollows of less than 100 nanometers, and it
can be utilized as insulator because it is light-weight and its thermal conductivity
is low. FRP is widely used in such industrial fields as automobile, aircraft,
and home electronics, and 45-50 tons of wasted glass fiber is produced annually.
Because no recycling technology is established, nearly all wasted FRP is currently
reclaimed or destroyed by fire. Protector tubes used for sewage water pipes and
telecommunication cables can hardly be recycled because the composite structure
containing the resin mortar layer accounts for more than half of the cross section.
No. 508: Clarifying the deterioration
mechanism of potassium carbonate (May 10, 2012)
research team of Tokyo University's
Institute of Industrial Science clarified the mechanism that deteriorates
the catalytic property of potassium carbonate used to purify soot emitted from
a diesel engine under the leadership of Associate
Professor Masaru Ogura. Potassium carbonate can be used as a catalyst to purify
soot emitted from a diesel engine should it be combined with sodalite that is
a kind of zeolite, but it separates from sodalite and deteriorates its catalysis
as the period of service of a diesel engine grows longer. Measures to prevent
the deterioration have been strongly desired.
research team studied the deterioration mechanism and found that the depuration
likely deteriorates because the calcium ion of potassium carbonate combined with
sodalite changes to metallic potassium or evaporates as potassium oxide. Based
on the research findings, the research team plans to develop a material with stronger
ability to retain potassium ion. Emissions from a diesel engine contain hydrocarbon,
nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide in addition to soot. While a platinum catalyst
is effective for all of these substances, potassium carbonate can purify only
soot. However, should potassium carbonate can replace platinum for the purification
of soot, it will be possible to halve the required amount of platinum to purify
emissions from a diesel engine.
507: A new advanced cleaning robot understands three languages (May 9, 2012)
Roomba from iRobot
of the U.S. is enjoying a high popularity in Japan. Sharp
will launch an advanced cleaning robot to chase Roomba. Sharp's new product is
named Cocorobo, and it will be
put on the market early June. It understands three languages of Japanese, English,
and Chinese. In addition, it understands two kinds of Japanese: standard Japanese
and Japanese with a Kansai accent. It says, "Everything is fine" in
a bright voice, responding to your voiced question of "How is everything?"
a Roomba does, a Cocorobo makes a tour inside the room and vacuums up dust and
dirt on the floor. You can see videos of your room filmed by Cocorobo's built-in
camera with your smartphone outdoors using the special, free application software
downloadable to your smartphone. The high-end model that understands three languages
will be priced around 130,000 yen, and the low-end model will also be available.
An inexpensive new material for the electrolyte of a fuel cell (May 8, 2012)
University's assistant professor Satoshi Horike and his research team members
developed a new material for the electrolyte of a fuel cell. Because it can be
made of inexpensive raw materials used for pigment, a fuel cell can be build without
such an expensive materials like platinum. The research team plans to improve
the raw materials to increase the performance of the electrolyte.
new material can be made by mixing zinc oxide and used to produce cosmetics, phosphoric
acid, and imidazole used to produce pharmaceuticals in a mortar for only 5-10
minutes. Should it be used for the electrolyte of a fuel cell, it will be possible
for a fuel cell to exhibit the same performance without such expensive material
as platinum catalyst.
505: In search of rare metals in deep sea (May 7, 2012)
University and National Institute
of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) developed a technology
to search veins of rare metals and precious metals in deep sea with the help of
subtle changes of gravity. The research team will conduct the exploratory test
using an unmanned submersible with built-in gravity measurement equipment this
September to pave the way for the exploration of abundant submarine resources
in the sea near Japan.
research team developed the method to know whether or not a vein exists by paying
attention to the fact that density increases and gravity increases slightly if
a mass of heavy metals exists under the ground. The unmanned submersible "Urashima"
that belongs to Japan Agency for
Marine-Earth Science and Technology will be loaded with gravity measurement
equipment, and will go round the ocean floor about 1,000 m below the sea surface
for research for three days off Shizuoka Prefecture. Following the
official approval of Japan's continental shelf by the Commission on the Limits
of the Continental Shelf (OLCS) of the United Nations, the Japanese government
decided to expand the activities to explore undersea resources. The research results
achieved by the research team will be presented on May 22 in the Japan
Geoscience Union Meeting scheduled for a four day period between May 22 and
May 25 in Makuhari Messe of Chiba Prefecture.
503: Successful development of aluminum wire with the same strength as copper
wire for vehicle wire harness (May 4, 2012)
the intensifying demand for lighter autobody, wire harness invites considerable
attention because a vehicle carries wire harness that extends 2-3 km and weighs
30 kg on average. In the domestic wire harness market, Yazaki
is the leader with 40% share, followed by Sumitomo Electric with 35% share.
The third largest maker is Furukawa
Electric with 12% share. To increase the presence in the market, Furukawa
Electric successfully developed new aluminum wire that is two times stronger than
the existing aluminum wire, that is, the same strength as copper wire, in collaboration
with Tohoku University and Nisshin
Kogyo that is one of the leading producers of brake parts.
the newly developed aluminum wire has strength of 200 Mpa that is two times stronger
the existing aluminum wire, it can be used as a harness around an engine subject
to big vibrations and doors subject to impacts created by opening and closing
in place of cooper wire. If aluminum wire harness replaces copper wire harness
completely in a vehicle, the weight of the total wire harness of a vehicle will
be halved. Lighter wire harness contributes to fuel consumption greatly because
it is said that reducing the weight of a car by 100 kg improves fuel consumption
by 1 km per liter. Furukawa Electric plans to start to ship samples in 2014 in
time for the design of the models to be launched in 2017. The world wire harness
market is expected to increase 30% to 4,500 billion yen in 2030 over the level
in 2010. Though aluminum wire harness is currently estimated to account for less
than 50%, the newly developed aluminum wire will accelerate the replacement from
copper wire harness to aluminum wire harness.
No. 502: Two rare earth-less vehicle motors
are put into practical use before too long (May 3, 2012)
universities successfully conducted experiments of a rare earth-less vehicle motor.
Tohoku University drove an electric
vehicle loaded with a rare earth-less motor that it had developed in alliance
with JEF Holdings and
ENAX that is a lithium-ion
battery manufacturer. The research team will also drive a small-size electric
bus loaded with a rare earth-less motor coming July. Tokyo
Institute of Technology verified a rare earth-less motor using a commercially-available
e-vehicle and confirmed that there was virtually no difference in noise and ride
quality between an rare earth-containing motor and the new rare earth-less motor.
The two rare earth-less motors
are switched reluctance motors. The
concept of a switched reluctance motor was invested in the 1830, and part
of it was put into practical use in the 1950s. However, it was too big and too
noisy to be built in an e-vehicle. It was widely believed that the switched reluctance
motor would be applied only to construction and agricultural machinery. The research
team of Tohoku University devised a system to strictly control the current transmitted
to a motor using semiconductors and reduced the rotational fluctuations. The team
members drove a single-seater e-vehicle with the developed motor that weighs 220
kg at 40 km/h and confirmed that both acceleration and deceleration were very
smooth. They are confident that it will not be difficult to increase the speed
to 60 km/h if the system with improved system. They are developing a motor for
an electric bus that will be driven for experiment coming July.
professor from Tokyo Institute of Technology and a professor from Tokyo
University of Science drove an e-vehicle loaded with the newly developed motor
and confirmed that it has almost the same energy efficiency as the motor built
in a Toyota's hybrid vehicle. However, the former is 15% heavier than the latter.
The two professors are trying to reduce the weight in alliance with automakers.
Applying biometics to product development (2/2) (May 2, 2012)
We can learn a lot from the body mechanism of creatures. With the progress
of nanotechnology and computer simulation, biometics is attracting wide attention
for product development. A rose petal gave a clue to the research team of Tokyo
University of Science that developed a rubber material with a wrinkle structure
of about 10 nanometers. A rose is said to stay shed waterdrops on its petals and
sucks nutrition in them. The new material developed by the university repels waterdrops
and stay them on the surface as sphere waterdrops. The waterdrops fall when the
material is bent. That is, the new material has absorbability and dissolubility
in addition to water repellency. The new rubber can store rainfall without energy
in the desert. Namely, it can be applied to the agriculture in the desert and
one of Japan's leading company in the field of dwelling and living, focused on
the clean shell of snail and found that very small furrows run on the surface
of a snail's shell. The furrows keep the snail shell covered with water, and the
water film floats oil and stain that are subsequently washed away when it rains.
The company applied the structure of a snail shell to its external wall materials.
The treated external wall materials have a durable period of more than 30 years,
two times longer durable period of the existing materials, and they are maintenance
free. One resident of the house with treated external wall told with excitement
that he had purchased his house 11 years ago but it is as clear as it was 11 years
ago because rainfall washes out stains.
Paint Marine studied tuna skin and developed marine paint that improves fuel
economy by decreasing the abrasion resistance of seawater. Mitsubishi
Rayon studied the eyes of toad and developed an anti-reflection film. The
functions of creatures are the reasonable and ultimate products that they achieved
through evolution. There will be lots of more suggestions for product development.