Wednesday, August 30, 2017

No. 893: Earth observation satellite that can travel at a low altitude for shooting (August 30, 2017)

The Japanese government is scheduled to launch a testing model of earth observation satellite that travels low over the ground within 2017. While most existing earth observation satellites travel at 600-800 km above the ground, the testing model can travel at 180-300 km above the ground. Because a satellite has 1,000 times more air resistance at a low altitude than it has in space, it goes down unless some measures are taken. The testing model keeps its altitude by emitting a highly efficient ion propulsion engine, and its airframe is modified to reduce air resistance. 

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is scheduled to launch the testing model using the H2A rocket within 2017. Because it travels low over the ground, it can take clear photos using a low performance sensor. It is nicknamed “Tsubame (Swallow).” In addition to the ability to take clear photos for conventional earth observation, it can hopefully be used for security.

Tsubame (Swallow) earth observation satellite

Monday, August 28, 2017

No. 892: New titanium material that is three times as strong as existing titanium material (August 29, 2017)

Katsuyoshi Kondo, professor at Osaka University, developed a new titanium material, which is three times as strong as the existing titanium material jointly with Takefu Special Steel in Fukui Prefecture and Charmant that is one of Japan’s leading glassframe makers in Fukui Prefecture. They consolidated oxidized titanium at high temperature and high pressure, and successfully increased the strength of the existing titanium material by three times. They plan to translate the new technology into practical application for medical apparatus and aircraft materials in three years.

For the development, they adopted the method of power metallurgy that consolidates power materials. They mixed titanium and powder of oxidized titanium at 1,000 degrees centigrade and consolidated them at 60-80 pressure. The new material has tensile strength of 1250 mega, which is three times as high as that of the existing titanium material. Professor Kondo told that because the new titanium material is free from rare earths, it is low-priced and as safe as a kitten. He eyes the possibility of applying it to parts of aircraft engine and apparatus for brain surgery. 

Subaru Impreza: Sound through 
an exhaust pipe made of titanium 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

No. 891: Bendable organic electroluminescence for vehicle lighting is developed by Pioneer (August 28, 2017)

Pioneer developed bendable electroluminescence device applicable to vehicle lighting unit, allowing automakers to develop highly-designed lighting units that can be tailored to vehicle shape. The company successfully opened the way for the practical use by doubling the product life to 10 years, while meeting the requirements of automakers, such as color and brightness. Practical applications are scheduled for 2020. Pioneer has already started marketing the new technology to automakers both at home and abroad. It focuses on the application for tail lamps of luxury cars and self-driving cars because bendable organic electroluminescence allows automakers to pursue originality in car design.

The existing organic electroluminescence is hardly bendable because it made of glass substrate. Pioneer has been developing bendable electroluminescence made of resin substrate. Water makes inroads into resin more easily than into glass, makes resin deteriorate fast. The company reduced the influence of water by improving the constituent materials like luminous elements and resin substrate. Pioneer established Konica MinoltaPioneer OLED last June by integrating the organic EL lighting business of Pioneer and Konica Minolta on an equal basis.

Bendable organic electroluminescence developed by Pioneer

Flexible 4K organic EL display developed by 

Friday, December 23, 2016

No. 890: Lithium-ion battery that allows travel distance of 400 km per charge (December 23, 2016)

Hitachi developed a technology of lithium-ion battery that allows an EV to travel about 400 km per charge. The new lithium-ion battery has two times higher capacity than the existing lithium-ion battery and increases the travel distance per charge of an EV by about 40%. Nissan’s Leaf can travel 280 km per charge that is currently the longest travel distance per charge. Hitachi aims to achieve energy density of 320 watts per kg that is about two times higher than the current level.   

Nissan's Leaf
It can travel 280 km per charge

The newly developed battery uses an anode composed mainly of nickel that is two times as thicker than the existing anode. The cathode is composed mainly of silicone instead of carbon-based materials. Hitachi’s research team covered the anode with an oxidized material and added a fluorinated additive to the electrolyte to reduce the generation of membranes. It successfully kept the capacity of the lithium-ion battery at 90% of the initial level even after repeating charge and discharge for more than 100 times. Furthermore, it estimates that the cost of the new lithium-ion battery will not increase greatly.   

New Energy and IndustrialTechnology Development Organization (NEDO) that supports the development activities estimates that the new lithium-ion battery will be put into practical used in 2020. Because the performance of a lithium-ion battery is approaching the limit, NEDO is currently developing a totally new type battery to realize a longer travel distance per charge with a view to translating it into practical applications in 2030.  

Saturday, March 26, 2016

No. 889: Hokkaido Shinkansen is inaugurated on March 26, 2016 (March 26, 2016)

The long-cherished Hokkaido Shinkansen (Bullet train) was inaugurated on March 26, 2016. It travels 149 km between Aomori in Honshu and Hakodate in Hokkaido in about one hour through the tunnel under the Tsugaru Straits. Now you can travel from Tokyo to Hakodate in four hours and two minutes. The Hokkaido Shinkansen is scheduled to be extended up to Sapporo, the largest and prefectural capital of Hokkaido, by the end of 2018. With the extension, you can travel from Tokyo to Sapporo in about five hours. 

 The 149 km from Hakodate to Aomori, 
in most of which the train travels under the water.

Various highly sophisticated technologies have been developed to make the Hokkaido Shinkansen a reality. For example, it uses the existing line for the first time as a Shinkansen Line. That is, a Shinkansen train and a freight train go by each other on the existing line as shown in the following video. 

A Shinkansen train and a freight train go by each other on the existing line.

Now you can visit Hokkaido aboard a Shinkansen train and enjoy wonderful cuisines in Hokkaido without being worried about flying above the ground. Japan wishes people from every part of the world to enjoy Tokyo and Hokkaido during their stay in Japan. 

Can you believe this? A bar in Tokyo has a miniature Hokkaido Shinkansen to 
entertain customers. This is typically Japanese hospitality.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

No. 888: Reducing the price of graphene to less than half (January 5, 2016)

Osaka Gas developed a technology to reduce the price of graphene to less than half. The company mixed coal-derived fluorene and water, etc. With the help of an additive, it successfully made the resulting product collide with graphite to extract graphene. Because the traditional method to extract graphene needs equipment that creates a vacuum state, it costs more than 20,000 yen to produce 1 kg of graphene. The newly-developed method increases the production efficiency by more than two times besides reducing the production cost to less than half. The company will begin full production within the year.

ADEKA is scheduled to start commercial production of graphene under license from the University of Tokyo. The company will mix graphite and special chemicals and extract graphene while radiating micro waves to graphite. The company thinks that it is possible to reduce the production cost to about 10,000 yen per kg. If the price of graphene is reduced to half of the present level, it will be mixed with resin to build stronger and lighter automotive parts, radiation material, conducting material, touch panel, electrode of smartphone. New Energy and IndustrialTechnology Development Organization (NEDO) reckons that the world market of graphene will grow from 1.3 billion yen in 2013 to 100 billion yen in 2030. 

Graphene: The future of solar energy technology

World's smallest ENE-FARM 
with high generation efficiency from Osaka Gas

Monday, December 7, 2015

No. 887: Automotive industry is making a step forward for the next 100 years (2/2) (December 7, 2015)

It is said that a vehicle loaded only with an engine cannot survive in the future. Toyota plans to decrease sales of vehicles loaded only with an engine to zero by 2050. Following Toyota, Honda will introduce fuel-cell vehicles, and preparations for mass production are under way in its plant in Tochigi Prefecture.

Future vehicles change the entire industry structure

Information technology
Artificial intelligence decides the destination.
Sensors avoid a risk
Automated driving spreads, and taxies and buses will be automatically operated.
Driver’s license will not be required for driving.
Parts and components
Progress of automotive parts will change part and component formation drastically.  
From gas station to charging and hydrogen stations
Instead of iron, resin and carbon will increase their shares.
From gasoline engine vehicles to motor-driven like EV and FCV

As the above table shows, the automotive parts industry needs to prepare for the drastic change. NipponPiston Rings, one of Japan’s leading manufacturers of piston rings, is diversifying its business by producing aluminum parts for semiconductors and dental implant. According to a survey company, economic effect created by fuel cell vehicles will amount to 4.4 trillion yen in 2030.   

Toyota i-road test driving in Tokyo

Toyota i-road test driving