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No. 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 Techno Products.

The 80 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.

No. 599: Japanese super high vision technology is an international technology standard (August 27, 2012)

NHK (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.

International 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)

Medical 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.

Because 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.

No. 594: A new power conditioner much smaller than the existing model in volume from Yaskawa Electric (August 21, 2012)

Yaskawa 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.

Yaskawa 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.

No. 590: A new sheet for the administration of various drugs and pharmaceuticals (August 16, 2012)

Akira 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.

Because 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 osteoporosis.

No. 589: Successful development of a paint with less environmental load (August 15, 2012)

Nippon 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 surface-active agent.

The new 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)

Teijin 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.

The 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.

No. 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.

According 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.

No. 586: A new technology to transmit 100 times more information than the existing technology in optical communication (August 11, 2012)

A 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.

The 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.

No. 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.

Because 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 price.

No. 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.

They 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.

No. 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.

In 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 shortly.

No. 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.

Dow 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.

No. 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.

The newly 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 technology.

No. 578: Successful development of a micropump 50 times more powerful than the standard micropump (August 2, 2012)

A research team led by Shinichi 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.

The 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.

No. 577: 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 years.

National 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.

Panasonic 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.

No. 575: Honda delivers its walking aid equipment to a national research center for demonstration experiment (July 30, 2012)

Honda 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.

The 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)

Ucode 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.

IC 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)

Tomoaki 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.

He successfully 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)

Desperate 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 from Areva 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.

The 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.

Toshiba 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)

The 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 application.

NTT 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 area.

National 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 a lot.

No. 570: A water purification system that does not use an aggregating agent (July 24, 2012)

Meiwa 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 distribution channels.

The 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.

No. 569: Honda's robot ASIMO is advancing very fast (July 23, 2012)

Honda 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.

Honda's 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.

No. 568: Developing biofuel from seaweeds for the reconstruction of the devastated Tohoku district (July 21, 2012)

University professors 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.

Professor 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.

No. 567: A high performance electrolyte for lithium-ion battery from Daikin (July 20, 2012)

Daikin, 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.

The 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.

No. 566: Advanced robots for the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant (July 19, 2012)

Chiba 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.

This 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.

No. 565: Japanese technology for malaria control grows widespread in Africa (July 18, 2012)

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.

The 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.

No. 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.

Using 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)

Mabuchi 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.

It 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.

No. 560: Increasing the generation capacity of the offshore wind power system (July 12, 2012)

Hitachi 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.

Hitachi 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.

No. 559: Smartphone grows more versatile (July 11, 2012)

An 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.

No. 557: Increasing the conversion efficiency of a solar battery dramatically (July 9, 2012)

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.

Taku 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.

No. 554: High precision automatic construction machinery from Komatsu (July 5, 2012)

Komatsu, Japan's 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.

Automatic 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.

No. 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.

Honda's 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.

No. 552: Developing equipment to measure radiation dose is advancing through collaboration with university (July 3, 2012)

Horiba, 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.

Mitsubishi 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.

No. 551: Utilizing the nanofiber technology to regeneration medicine (July 2, 2012)

Teijin 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 treatment.

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)

National 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.

The 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)

Mitsubishi 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 power source.

The "Meganinja" 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)

Hatamura 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.

The 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.

No. 545: An amplifier made of gallium nitride semiconductor for mobile phone base stations (June 25, 2012)

Mitsubishi 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.

The 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.

No. 544: A technology to halve the production cost of solar panel (June 23, 2012)

Ritsumeikan 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.

What 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.

No. 543: A highly energy efficient vending machine that reduces power consumption in the daytime by 95% (June 22, 2012)

Coca-Cola 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.

The 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.

Furukawa 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.

In 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 kg.

No. 541: Paper capable of shielding radioactivity (June 20, 2012)

Toppan 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.

No. 540: 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.

Hitachi 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 to come.

No. 539: Cracking a 278-digit code in 148 days (June 18, 2012)

Researchers from 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.

The 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.

No. 538: An interior material useful for energy efficient life (June 16, 2012)

Dainippon Printing 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.

Special 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.

The 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.

No. 536: Reducing the thickness of an organic EL display to one seventh (June 14, 2012)

Futaba 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.

It 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.

No. 535: Reducing the power consumption of the integrated circuit of semiconductor to one tenth (June 13, 2012)

Hokkaido 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.

The 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)

No. 534: In-house generation using nitrous oxide (June 12, 2012)

Japan 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.

JAXA 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.

No. 533: Developing technologies for stable supply of polypropylene (June 11, 2012)

Unlike 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.

Mitsui 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 faster.

No. 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. Kanematsu 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.

Currently, 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.

No. 531: Successful development of a technology for low cost production of pressure sensors (June 8, 2012)

Ajinomoto 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.
Related web page (in Japanese)

No. 530: A functional film for longer life of lithium-ion battery (June 7, 2012)

Kyodo Printing 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.

A 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.

No. 529: Technology to locate sea-floor hydrothermal ore deposits is advancing (June 6, 2012)

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.

Akira 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.

Japan 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.

Mitsubishi 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.

Kaneka 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.

A 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.

No. 527: Using low quality coals for inexpensive fuel that can replace heavy oil (June 4, 2012)

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 oil.

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.

Other 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)

Bridgestone, Japan's leading tire maker, and Ajinomoto, Japan's leading company of fermentation technology, allied to develop biomass-derived tires. Ajinomoto 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 Ajinomoto.

Ajinomoto developed 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)

It is no longer a dream to use an electric vehicle battery as a storage battery of a household. Nissan will put its "LEAF-to-Home" 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.

No. 524: Lithium-ion battery is growing higher in performance (May 31, 2012)

A 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.

The 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.

No. 523: Thin and splinterless glass for solar batteries and lighting fixtures (May 29, 2012)

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.

Leoflex 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

No. 521: A small mass spectrometer capable of detecting stimulants and narcotics (May 25, 2012)

Hitachi High-Technologies
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 is available.

The company 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.

The 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.

No. 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.

Nagoya 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.

Nissan 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.

Nagoya 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 Takeda said.

No. 514: Honda's electric two-wheeler that allows you to travel while you remain seated (May 17, 2012)

Honda 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.

No. 512: Changing the TV screen by body language signals (May 15, 2012)

Neither 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.

A 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.

No. 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 University.

No. 510: Successful development of a batteryless, wireless sensor system that utilizes oscillation generation (May 12, 2012)

Mitsubishi 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 required.

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.

No. 509: Successful development of a technology for complete recycling of wasted fiber reinforced mortar tubes (May 11, 2012)

The fiber 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.

Fractions 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)

The 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.

The 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.

No. 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?"

As 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.

No. 506: An inexpensive new material for the electrolyte of a fuel cell (May 8, 2012)

Kyoto 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.

The 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.

No. 505: In search of rare metals in deep sea (May 7, 2012)

Tokyo 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.

The 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.

No. 503: Successful development of aluminum wire with the same strength as copper wire for vehicle wire harness (May 4, 2012)

With 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.

Because 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)

Two 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.

A 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.

No. 501: 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 arid region.

LIXIL, 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.

Nippon 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.


No. 597: Android-based digital camera from Nikon to compete with smartphones (August 24, 2012)

To compete with smartphones spreading explosively, Nikon will launch a new compact digital camera that incorporates Android as its operating system coming autumn. The new Android-based digital camera will be a new product on Nikon's Coolpix series. It can process images with the help of a supporting application and upload them on the Internet as a smartphone does, and send images to SNS directly. Nikon will be Japan's first camera maker that employs Android as the operating system of its digital cameras.

In the initial stage, the company will incorporate Android only into upmarket models. Samsung Electronics of Korea is reportedly developing an Android-based digital camera. The price of a digital camera shows a declining trend because smartphones are spreading quite rapidly. In addition, because the product cycle is rather short, volume retailers need to reduce the sales prices of digital cameras by about 30% in half a year after the introduction. According to Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA), the world shipments of compact digital cameras are supposed to decrease 0.8% from the previous year to 99 million units in 2012.

No. 596: IHI participates in biomass generation in the U.S. (August 23, 2012)

IHI will participate in the biomass generation business in the U.S. The company acquired stocks of five power generation plants in California owned by Exelon of the U.S. Taking the opportunity of the investment, it wishes to expand its energy-related business in the U.S. The five power plants are three plants that utilize wood waste and two coal thermal power plants.

Total investment is estimated at several billions yen. IHI plans to convert the two coal thermal plants into biomass generation plants in the future. IHI has been shipping core equipment including boiler to power plants in the U.S., but will participate in the management of power plants for the first time. With the favorable treatment given to generation facilities that use renewable energy, it is highly expected that construction and renewal of biomass generation facilities will grow in the U.S.

No. 595: Mass production of palm shell-based negative electrodes for lithium-ion battery (August 22, 2012)

A lithium-ion battery is composes of our major components: electrolyte, insulation, positive electrode, and negative electrode. Graphite is widespread as the material of negative electrode because it is inexpensive. Hitachi Chemical and Mitsubishi Chemical are the two leading manufacturers of graphite-based negative electrodes. To compete with them, Kuraray and Kureha will jointly build a plant to produce negative electrodes made of hard carbon instead of graphite with an investment of about 3 billion yen. Hard carbon is created by carbonizing palm shells. Because it has a more complicated structure than graphite, it does not deteriorate fast even though the battery is repeatedly charged and discharged. Construction work will start coming October, and the plant will be ready for operation in autumn next year.

Kuraray's subsidiary Kuraray Chemical and Kureha's subsidiary Kureha Battery Material Japan will establish a joint company exclusively for the production of plant-derived hard carbon negative electrodes within the month. The Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) will also invest up to 10 billion yen in this joint company. The number of lithium-ion battery e-vehicles built in 2011 was 1.2 million units, and it will supposedly increase to 12 million units in 2020 with the growing popularity of hybrid cars and e-vehicles. Accordingly, demand for negative electrodes is estimated to increase from the present 5,700 tons in 2011 to 76,000 tons in 2020. Although graphite is dominant in the market, the joint company wishes to increase the share of hard carbon from the present 5% to 20-30% in 2020 through reducing production cost. Related web page

No. 593: Japan's all-star team jointly develops a technology to explore sea bottom resources (August 20, 2012)

Under the initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, six leading Japanese universities collaborate to develop the technology for efficient exploration of sea bottom resources including rare metals. They are Tokyo University, Tokai University, Kochi University, Toyama University, Waseda University, and Kyoto University. Integrating knowledge and technology each university has developed independently, they plan to operate submarine prospecting using an unmanned probe vehicle in three years. The ministry helps the project financially. It has decided to appropriate necessary expenses for the project in the budget request for the next fiscal year.

Currently, each university is working on seafloor development independently. Tokyo University developed a technology to draw a 3-D a sea floor map with the help of the time and intensity of sound waves that go to and come back from the seafloor deposit, while Kochi University developed a technology to know what kinds of resources are buried by studying the substances of water coming from the mineral deposit. The all-star team will integrate each technology and establish a high-precision exploration technology for commercial mining, necessary sensors, and software programs. Although Japan is not blessed with natural resources on land, Japan is supposed to have abundant sea bottom resources. As Article 549 reports, Tokyo University clarified the possibility of the existence of rare earthes in the sea inside the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ). A high-precision exploration technology is vital to the commercial mining of sea bottom resources.

No. 592: Japanese refuse disposal generation technology goes to China and Vietnam (August 18, 2012)

Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding will establish a joint venture to market biogas generation equipment with a Chinese company in Chongqing of China with a capital of 600 million yen on a 50:50 basis. Mitsui's technology smashes food residues after eliminating water and oil and ferments them, and subsequently recovers methane gas for power generation. Water will be discharged after treatment, and sludge will be dried and used as compost. The company used to focus on the Japanese domestic market, but it decided to expand the business to China because food residues are growing fast in China as it grows richer. The system costs between 500 million to 1,000 million yen each.

JEF Engineering got an order for a biogas generation plant scheduled for operation in 2013 from Shinyu of China. The plant has a capacity to treat 200 tons of food residues collected from restaurants per day. Hitachi Zosen is planning to establish a base in Hanoi of Vietnam to market its generation plant that uses waste heat recovered from burning municipal waste. Refuse disposal generation does not emit carbon dioxide. A research firm predicts that the world market of refuse disposal generation will grow from 25 billion yen in 2010 to 73 billion yen in 2015.

No. 591: Sharp goes to Kenya to purify well water with its photovoltaic generation technology (August 17, 2012)

Sharp will market a well water reuse system that combines photovoltaic generation and electrolysis water purification equipment in Kenya toward 2013. The system is designed to purify well water polluted by fluorine and highly concentrated sodium, and make it usable as daily life water. The company will develop a photovoltaic generation system suitable to the local solar radiation conditions. Because the water purification equipment is DC-operated, it works well with photovoltaic generation and consumes less electricity. In addition, neither fuel nor maintenance is required because it runs by electricity from photovoltaic generation. It is the size of a small container, and it can treat 25-30 tons of well water per day.

Major industries are rushing to get a big share of scarce water resources in Kenya affected by climate change. Reportedly, there are not a few failure wells polluted by harmful substances. As Sharp's system will be applied to treat storm water and polluted water, it will be usable for intermediate water supply for manufacturing plants and water supply for hotels. Sharp will collaborate with NTT Data Institute of Management Consulting and electrode manufacturers to set up a consortium. The company wishes to increase the presence in Kenya as an excellent provider of photovoltaic generation system and build a mega solar market in Kenya in the future.



No. 583: The development competition of exposure equipment heats up in the global market (August 8, 2012)

Nikon allies with Intel to develop a lithography system that will play a critical role in manufacturing the next-generation semiconductors. The company plans to put a technology to halve the production cost of semiconductors by drawing a circuit on a larger semiconductor wafer than the existing one into practical use by 2018. Intel reportedly decided to bear several tens of billion yen to help Nikon develop a new lithography system. It has become rather hard for a company to develop new lithography equipment independently because several hundreds of billion yen is required for the development. The same is true for the market leader ASML of the Netherlands that will accept an investment from semiconductor manufacturers including Intel.

The miniaturization technology that Intel has been developing under its initiative is reportedly approaching to the limit. Intel's strategy to compete Nikon and ASML indicates that further technological innovation in alliance with equipment manufacturers is critical for the development of the next-generation semiconductors. Like it or not, the move to form large syndicates is in progress on the global market. The trend to establish alliance between semiconductor manufacturers and equipment manufacturers is supposed to grow widespread in other parts of semiconductor manufacturing process.

No. 580: Japanese high-speed rail trains go to Great Britain (August 4, 2012)

Hitachi officially got an order for 596 high-speed rail trains from Great Britain. They are for the high-speed railway departing from London for Edinburgh of Scotland, etc. The contract amounts to 550 billion yen including the maintenance service of the trains for 30 years. It is Hitachi's biggest order from the railway business abroad. The company will build a manufacturing plant in Newton Aycliffe in Great Britain to start the production in 2016.

In the world railway business, Siemens of Germany, Alstom of France, and Bombardier of Canada have a combined share of more than 50%. Each of them enjoys an established reputation thanks to the ability to provide integrated business including trains, maintenance, and traffic management. Japanese companies including Hitachi are one step behind them because of the inability to provide an integrated service. Hitachi plans to build a manufacturing plant in India and Brazil to satisfy growing demand for railway improvement in newly industrialized countries.

No. 563: Japanese electric motorcycles are ready to go abroad (July 16, 2012)

Terra Motors, Japan's leading maker of electric motorcycles, will develop foreign markets. As the first step, the company plans to export its products to Korea and Mexico. It already received orders for 100 units of its SEED series. Later, it will go to Europe and African. The models it plans to put on foreign markets are the basic model SEED 48 priced at 99,800 yen and its higher-grade model SEED 60 prices at 149,800 yen. These two models are characterized by excellent fuel economy. They need a fuel cost that is about from one sixth to one tenth of a gasoline motorcycle.

Although Terra Motors has focused on the domestic market, it decided to cultivate foreign markets in view of the growing demand for fuel-efficient electric motorcycles worldwide. With the background of increasing fuel cost in Europe, it has received inquiries from Europe including Greece. The company is planning to launch a new electric motorcycle to be positioned as the strategic model for the world market within the year. It wishes to increase its worldwide sales of electric motorcycles for the year ending March 2013 by 3.3 times to more than 10,000 units.

No. 562: Increasing the presence of Japanese energy-related technology in developing countries (July 14, 2012)

Japanese engineering companies are actively expanding energy-related business to developing countries. JEF Engineering, for example, will promote sales of such garbage-disposal facilities as incinerators and gasification melting furnace, water purification facilities, and facilities related to thermal power generation. As the market of garbage-disposal facilities is expected to grow with a population increase in developing countries, the company wishes to increase overseas sales three times over the level in 2012 to 70 billion yen in 2015. In developing countries, it will draw design anew to increase local content for cost reduction instead of modifying the design for the Japanese market.

Nippon Steel Engineering established a marketing base in Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam to expand overseas sales. The company plans to increase the ratio of overseas sales to its total sales from 25% in 2011 to 40% in 2016. Japanese engineering companies that originated from a steelmaker exhibit strength in incinerators and gasification melting furnaces. Especially, the gasification melting furnace can enjoy growing demand even in advanced countries, because the policy to reduce landfilled solid waste will grow widespread against the background of environmental restrictions that grow more stringent. Unlike the conventional furnace, the gasification melting furnace produces ashes reusable for a roadbed material not to mention exhaust heat for power generation, and it reduces landfilled solid waste because it can process flammables and metals together.

No. 558: Recycling rare metals as a way to diversify sources of supply (July 10, 2012)

Rare metals are increasing important for autos and IT-related products. It is urgent for manufacturers of these products to diversify supply sources of rare metals for stable procurement. Sumitomo Electric will build a new plant to recycle such rare metals as tungsten with an investment of 2,200 million yen, and the plant will begin operation coming August. In this plant, superhard tools will be powderized using a heat treat furnace, and collected rare metals will be recycled as raw materials of superhard tools. The new plant will have a processing capacity of 5 tons per month. Because the company built a plant of the same kind last April, the two plant combined will be able to process all superhard tools, or 48 tons per month, it sells in the domestic market.

Mitsubishi Materials is also strengthening the system to recycle rare metals by increasing the production of intermediate materials of tungsten at its subsidiary Japan New Metals to stabilize procurement. Union Tool, one of the leading makers of precision tools for drilling semiconductor substrates, tripled sales of tools that reduced the consumption of rare metals through the change of geometry in two years. Rare metals including cobalt and tungsten account for more than 90% of a superhard tool in weight. Japan's recycling rate of rare metals is about 25%. It is lower than 50% in the U.S. and 40% in Europe. Demand for tungsten remains strong thanks to the brisk auto business. Tungsten was 200 dollars per 10 kg in the spring of 2010, but it went up to 470 dollars in May of 2011. It stays around 430 dollars at present. The high price and possible shortage due to export restriction by China motivated Japan to increase the recycling rate of rare metals.

No. 556: HEMS grows widespread to promote energy saving efforts in households (July 7, 2012)

Consumer electronics makers and housing companies alike are planning to introduce products supporting the house energy management system (HEMS) in succession. According to the government, industrial energy consumption decreased 12% between 1990 and 2009, but household energy consumption increased 23% in the same period largely due to growing size of home electronics including TV set. Toshiba Lighting and Technology launched HEMS-supporting control equipment for air-conditioners and lighting fixtures. As the government absorbs 100,000 yen for the purchase of this equipment, the amount consumer needs to pay is around 50,000 yen. The Toshiba group is planning to commercialize the HEMS-supporting photovoltaic generation system and storage battery in the near future.

Misawa Homes will put HEMS housing that incorporates its self-developed HEMS-supporting control equipment on the market soon. Mitsui Fudosan Residential will introduce the HEMS to the apartment complex it is developing in Tokyo. Both companies employ the ECHONET that is the communication standard recommended by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Because this standard allows for integrated control of home electronics regardless of their makers, the market will supposedly start to grow rapidly after coming October. The spread of the HEMS will facilitate the growth of the market related to smart house. According to a survey company, the smart house-related market will grow about three times over the level in 2011 to 3,500 billion yen in 2020.

No. 555: Japanese waste power generation technology goes to Vietnam (July 6, 2012)

Hitachi Zosen will construct Vietnamese first waste power generation facilities in collaboration with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The facilities will be constructed in the suburbs of Hanoi with an investment of about 2.4 billion yen. NEDO absorbs about 1.6 billion yen, and the remaining 0.8 billion yen will be split between Hitachi Zosen and Hanoi. NEDO will exchange memorandums with the Vietnamese government on July 6. Rapid urbanization is increasing the amount of industrial waste quite rapidly in Vietnam, and there is a growing concern about power shortage.

Hanoi produces 225 tons of industrial waste daily. The facilities will incinerate 75 tons, or 30% of the 225 tons, of industrial waste for generation daily and sell electricity to the neighboring industrial park. In Southeast Asian countries, land reclamation is widespread to dispose of industrial waste, but disposal fields are in short supply and emissions of toxic substances as dioxine attract wide attention these days. It is highly likely that power generation from waste will grow popular in such countries ad Indonesia and Malaysia that have great power demand. NEDO will exert lots of energy to export Japanese waste power generation technology in alliance with private companies.

No. 550: A Japanese supercomputer goes to Taiwan (June 30, 2012)

Fujitsu got a formal order for its supercomputer from the Meteorological Agency of Taiwan. The supercomputer going to Taiwan is the "PRIMEHPC FX10" developed by Fujitsu that is the commercial version of Japan's supercomputer "Kei (K)." Although IBM's supercomputer became the world's best beating the K on June 18, but Fujitsu is receiving inquiries from national agencies and universities of newly industrialized countries, and some of them include the construction of an information system.

While U.S. supercomputers enjoy the dominant position in the world supercomputer market thanks to stable demand from military concerns worldwide, Japanese supercomputers show strength in such fields as meteorology and disaster prevention. Fujitsu's president showed his company's determination to pursue the world's No. 1 position in the general shareholders' meeting. Fujitsu plans to increase the sales of supercomputers from the present 20 billion yen to 100 billion yen by 2015, aiming at 10% share in the world supercomputer market.

No. 549: Yes, we made it (June 29, 2012)

A research team organized by Yasuhiro Kato of the University of Tokyo found mud that contains a large amount of rare earthes in the sea bottom near Minamitorishma Island of the Ogasawara Islands that is inside the Japanese exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Last year, Japan found a seafloor deposit containing rare earthes in the high seas, but this is the first time that it found mud containing rare earthes inside the Japanese exclusive economic zone. This area is supposed to provide rare earthes equivalent to satisfy Japan's annual domestic consumption for more than 200 years. The point that the research team collected the mud is in the sea bottom 5,600 m below the surface of the sea and about 300 km offshore of Minamitorishma Island.

This seafloor deposit extends to more than 1,000 square meters and supposedly contain about 6,800,000 tons of rare earthes. In particular, such heavy rare earthes required to increase the performance of the magnet of motor as dysprosium were found available in abundance. The research team started conducting the substantiative experiment to collect mud from the sea bottom in alliance with private companies. Technological issues need to be solved to collect rare earthes effectively and efficiently, but it is clear that Japan will depend less on imports for rare earthes.

No. 522: Japanese railway technology is increasing its presence in Asia (May 26, 2012)

Thanks to the strong reliability and excellent energy saving ability, Japanese railway technology gets orders from abroad in succession. Sojitz, one of Japan's leading general trading companies, got an order for a power storage system from Hong Kong in alliance with Meidensha. They got an order for the power storage unit that stores regenerative energy a railway car generates when it applies the brake together with electric substation equipment. Meidensha's unit called CAPAPOST stores electricity in capacitors that allow for input and output of a large volume of electricity at a time. It has a discharge and charge capacity of 2,000 kW. As compared with the power storage unit that uses lithium-ion battery, Meidensha's unit is suitable for transportation that needs a great deal of power current in arrival and departure.

Sojitz plans to increase sales of the railway business to 150 billion yen in three years, and even plants to participate in railway management business for long-term stable revenue. Other general trading companies are also active. Marubeni acquired an order for the amount of 80 billion yen from the Philippines. The order includes railway cars and related electrical equipment. Sumitomo also received an order for the amount of 63 billion yen from Vietnam. The order is expected to include Japanese railway cars. Because the Japanese railway technology can exhibit excellent competitive edge, it will likely get more orders from Asian countries where railway construction grows widespread in an accelerating pace.

No. 520: Japanese clean coal technology goes to Kazakhstan and Kirghiz (May 24, 2012)

Japan decided to strengthen its relations with Republic of Kazakhstan and Kirghiz Republic with the help of the clean coal technology that increases the efficiency of a coal thermal power plant and reduces environmental load. The Japanese government concluded cooperative documents with the two countries. It wishes to stabilize the procurement of rare earths by strengthening the relations with them. The clean coal technology is to extract the moisture content in coals to reduce CO2 emissions for higher combustion efficiency.

Kazakhstan has many obsolete coal thermal power plants built by the former Soviet Union. It enacted the Energy-Saving Act by reference to Japanese laws and regulations and the profession of energy administrator was established in last December. The Energy-Saving Act stipulated that an energy administrator be stationed in each of the power plants and manufacturing plants that use electricity. The Japanese government will invite about 20 engineers for training from Kazakhstan besides giving seminars in Kazakhstan. Kirghiz has reserve of about 2 billion tons of brown coals. It strongly seeks the Japanese technology that dries brown coals to increase combustion efficiency. New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NIDO) will help Kirghiz.

No. 519: Seeking the coexistence of different charging standards for electric vehicles (May 23, 2012)

Japanese automakers established the Japanese charging standard for electric vehicles and a total of 8 western automakers including GM and Volkswagen promote the Combined Charging System.CHAdeMO Association promotes the Japanese standard, and Toshiyuki Shiba, Chief Operating Office of Nissan Motor, is the president of the CHAdeMO that puns for "Let's have a tea while charging" in English. He stated in a press conference that his association would seek the way for the coexistence of the Japanese standard and the western standard, instead of allowing them to compete. He will collaborate with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to seek the coexistence of the two standards.

He told, "It is possible to let the two standards coexist and make them compatible because they are almost the same with only a 5% difference in structure that includes the connector figure and the charge control system." IEC is scheduled to register the Japanese standard, western standard, and Chinese standard and bring them into effect next summer. Before IEC's decision, his association will make strenuous efforts to work with foreign governments for the coexistence of the three standards.

No. 518: Japanese high-tech companies increase their presence in Saudi Arabia rapidly (May 22, 2012)

Saudi Arabia is hastily diversifying its industrial structure to avoid overdependence on oil, and Japanese companies began operation one after another for local production. J-Power Systems, jointly founded by Hitachi Cable and Sumitomo Electric, will start to manufacture composite undersea cables that combine copper wire and optical fiber coming August. They can be used not only for electric transmission but also for communications. The company plans to manufacture 160 km annually to achieve sales of about 240 billion yen in 2013. Toyobo and Itochu started to operate the local plant to produce reverse osmosis membrane used for seawater desalination in alliance with a local company. They plan to get sales of 4 billion yen in three years.

Isuzu Motors is scheduled to start constructing a plant to build up medium-size trucks in Damman toward mid-December. The investment is 9 billion yen. The initial production is 600 units annually, and it will increase to 25,000 units annually in incremental steps. Mitsubishi Rayon plans to produce carbon fiber and Azbil wishes to produce valves for petrochemical plants locally. Asahi Kasei considers producing raw materials of high-performance resins locally. LG Electronics of Korea constructed a production base of air-conditioners, and Dow Chemical of the U.S. decided to construct the world largest petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia, and Japanese high-tech companies follow them.

No. 517: Collaboration between a Japanese research laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy for biofuel (May 21, 2012)

Honda Research and Development, a subsidiary of Honda Motor, started a joint research with the Department of Energy of the U.S. to develop biofuel from nonfood steams and leaves of corn and cane pomace. Green Earth Institute that is a venture company originating from Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth will also participate in the joint project. The two Japanese organizations will ferment sugar using their self-developed gene-modified fungus to produce sugar through fermentation. The U.S. side will take care of the pretreatment process that begins with processing trees and plants and ends in extracting sugar. The U.S. side reckons that the Japanese technology will halve the price of bioethanol to 2.5 dollars. A gallon is about 3.8 liters.

When both sides successfully pave the way for practical application, the U.S. Department Energy will advertise for participating companies and incorporate the new technology into the production mechanism of bioethanol plants. The test production is scheduled for 2014, and the target for the practical application is in 2016. Finished product will be marketed inside the U.S. World bioethanol production in 2011 was about 26 billion gallons, most of which was consumed by vehicles. The U.S. plans to increase the production of biofuel made from nonfood to 16 billion gallons in 10 years.

No. 504: Building a bridgehead in Myanmar (May 5, 2012)

Myanmar is called the last frontier in Asia. With a population of more than 600 million, it is rich in natural resources and expected to achieve substantial economic growth for years to come. The Japanese government decided to resume extending yen loan to Myanmar in April for the first time in the past 25 years, and leading general trading companies are busily occupied in drawing plans to build a bridgehead in Myanmar. China is dominant in direct investment in Myanmar. It invested $8,300 million in 2010 alone, but Japan invested only $200 million between 1990 and 2010.

Itochu started the feasibility study on developing mines of rare metals. It will start geological research in search for molybdenum for special steel and tungsten for superhard tool this month. At the same time, it will conduct feasibility study on developing offshore gas fields in alliance with several Japanese companies. Marubeni will start renovating the thermal electric power station and hydraulic power station. Mitsui and Co. started feasibility study on renovating the aging chemical fertilizer plant and exploring a business possibility of renovating the transforming station and water supply and sewerage systems in Yangon with the support of the Japanese government. It will resume the system to dispatch its employees to Myanmar for one year to study at a local university and increase the resident officer from two to four. Mitsubishi Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. will open a representative office in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.

Kubota will establish an office in Yangon to market agricultural machinery this summer, Foster Electric will start local production of its speakers, NTT Data will build a development base of software, and the convenience chain Lawson plans to open the first outlet in alliance with the local retailer coming December. Other companies are expected to follow the above companies. The sooner, the better. Victory goes to one who makes the first move.