Sunday, December 26, 2010

No. 220: Reduce the usage of dysprosium (December 27, 2010)

Tohoku University developed the technology to reduce the usage of dysprosium in neodymium magnet by 40%. Neodymium magnet is vital to environment-responsive vehicles. Japan currently depends on import from China for nearly all dysprosium consumption. This newly-developed technology is expected to mitigate the tight supply and demand of dysprosium caused by the growing demand for eco-cars. The research team is joined by a total of eight companies including Tohoku University, such as Toyota Motors, TDK, and Intermetallics in Kyoto. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry supported the development. High-performance magnets are for motors for vehicles, information appliances, and air-conditioners. The technology improved magnetic energy by making the size of sintered crystal grains of neodymium smaller, and successfully reduced the usage of dysprosium by improving magnetic energy. The mass production technology is being developed toward 2012. Intermetallics plans to introduce equipment for mass production in alliance with Mitsubishi Corp. that is Intermetallics’ largest shareholder. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is expected to provide subsidy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No. 219: No more bar code on the package for payment at the cashier (December 25, 2010)

Image recognition technology has been making a remarkable progress these days. It has become possible to tell the species of an apple from color and luster. Toshiba built a trial system that tells the product name and its price instantly using the camera image. The new system allows the cashier to check out by simply holding vegetable and bread over the camera, eliminating the necessity to scan the bar codes. The computer spots the subtle difference of color and luster. In the experiment, the system successfully told 30 items including carrot and paprika at an accuracy rate of higher than 90%. The company plans to put this technology into practical used in 2-3 years for cashiers at retailers and supermarket to mitigate the congestion that annoys the shoppers. The camera memorizes shot images of the products and specifies them by color, figure, and marking, and it repeats the process of memorization in case of false recognition. Because electronic payment is growing popular among shoppers in Japan, faster checking out with the help of this newly-developed system is expected to add momentum to the spread of electronic payment.

Friday, December 24, 2010

No. 218: Inexpensive method to clean up arsenicum (December 24, 2010)

Shimizu Corp., one of Japan’s leading general contractors, developed the construction technology to purify low-concentrated arsenicum in the soil at a cost about one third of the existing construction technology. The new technology mixes upturned contaminated soil with water and a chemical agent, and separates heavy metals adhere to soil grains by melting them. Because it allows about 95% of the soil to be reused, it reduces the cost to dispose of industrial waste. In addition, the construction schedule remains almost unchanged. This technology is to cope with the intensified regulation due to the revised Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act enacted last April. The revised act classifies even the land contaminated with natural heavy metals as a contaminated area. Treatment equipment is installed in the field, and two kinds of agents are used. One is to make heavy metals adhere to the soil grain separate easily, and the other is to unstick the heavy metals. Almost soil treated in the field can be reclaimed. It costs 3,000-5,000 yen per ton to treat 100,000 tons of soil. Currently, about 30% of soil is discarded as industrial waste. Shimizu plans to market this technology to companies and local municipalities that have land in the coastal area.

Shimizu Corp., one of Japan’s leading general contractors, developed the construction technology to purify low-concentrated arsenicum in the soil at a cost about one third of the existing construction technology. The new technology mixes upturned contaminated soil with water and a chemical agent, and separates heavy metals adhere to soil grains by melting them. Because it allows about 95% of the soil to be reused, it reduces the cost to dispose of industrial waste. In addition, the construction schedule remains almost unchanged. This technology is to cope with the intensified regulation due to the revised Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act enacted last April. The revised act classifies even the land contaminated with natural heavy metals as a contaminated area. Treatment equipment is installed in the field, and two kinds of agents are used. One is to make heavy metals adhere to the soil grain separate easily, and the other is to unstick the heavy metals. Almost soil treated in the field can be reclaimed. It costs 3,000-5,000 yen per ton to treat 100,000 tons of soil. Currently, about 30% of soil is discarded as industrial waste. Shimizu plans to market this technology to companies and local municipalities that have land in the coastal area.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No. 217: Develop an even more fuel-efficient electric vehicle (December 23, 2010)

The Japanese government decided to develop an even more fuel-efficient electric vehicle in alliance with such leading companies as Toyota Motors, Mitsubishi Electric, and Nippon Steel. Loading the next-generation power semiconductor, the projected EV can travel 10% longer than the existing EV. The government plans to launch a trial EV toward 2014 and put the technology into practical use in 2018. Nippon Steel and Denso will develop the substrate material, electric appliance companies like Mitsubishi Electric and Toshiba will develop an inverter using the next-generation power semiconductor, and Toyoda and Honda will mount the converter on its cars. The projected EV will be priced between three and four million yen. The next-generation power semiconductor uses silicon carbide excellent in power control. If it is mounted on an EV, power loss will be one third of the present level. It is also strong against intense heat and high voltage. Large equipment using water is needed to cool the inverter, but small equipment using wind is enough to cool the inverter should the projected inverter be employed, allowing for weight saving. The power semiconductor will be used in household air-conditioner and industrial motors. In the future, the government expects it to be used in railways and electric power cables. If it grows widespread, some estimate that about 2,300,000, about 0.2% of Japan’s annual carbon dioxide missions, can be reduced in 2020.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No. 216: Advanced technology to detect hormone of the doping test (December 20, 2010)

Two professors of Kansai University developed the technology to detect hormone of the doping test and sickness-linked protein at one million times higher sensitivity than the conventional technology in collaboration with Dainippon Toryo and Shimadzu Corp. The research team developed the mass analysis technology of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The newly-developed technology can detect a molecule in less than one minute regardless of the size, and neither reagent nor additive is required. The technology uses an iron oxide film with dips on a stainless plate, and the film is a littler thicker than one nanometer, and irradiates a dried nano particle on the film with laser for ionization. It calculates the ion’s mass from the weight and narrows down substances. It costs only 500 yen to examine a drop because it uses iron. It successfully detected male hormone subject to the doping test in a volume that is one millionth of the volume needed by the conventional technology. It is useful even if the test substance contains impurities. It is based on the technology developed by Koichi Tanaka who captured the Noble Prize in Chemistry in 2002. Shimadzu is scheduled to put the technology into practical use next year because it will be useful for the test of a wide range of substances including blood, urine, and environmental pollutant.

Friday, December 17, 2010

No. 215: Erase printed letters and illustrations to reuse paper (December 18, 2010)

Toshiba Tec Corp. is scheduled to introduce a digital multifunction machine – a digital machine for copying, printing, scanning, and faxing – that can erase printed letter and illustrations instantly late 2011. The company developed this machine and its special toner that uses the erasable ink developed by Pilot Corp. This machine allows for the reuse of office paper to reduce office expense. In addition, carbon dioxide emissions in the production process of recycled paper can be reduced. The printing speed is expected to be 20-30 sheets per minute, and the machine will be priced at 20-30% higher than the conventional multifunctional machine on the market. It adopts the toner that utilizes color materials based on Pilot’s erasable ink technology. The print will be erased if the printed paper is heated at a certain temperature by a special eraser. The newly-developed machine makes it possible to reuse the printed paper for at least five times. About 60% of carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced should paper be reused for four times. Toshiba Tec expects great demand from government agencies and public offices as well as from private companies that emphasize the environment-conscious procurement approach.

No. 214: Manage shared electric vehicles via the Internet (December 17, 2010)

Namco Bandai Games and NEC will start the substantiative experiment of the system to manage information of electric vehicles (EVs) used in car sharing next January. The system will put together information on the location and charging status of the shared EVs on the Internet and enable the users to know what EVs are available in what parking lot and how much they are charged through PC and smart phone. The experiment will last for two months between mid-January and mid-March next year in Yokohama. Nissan Motor will provide two units of “Leaf” to be put on the market on 20th of this month. Each of the two units carries the standard built-in communications equipment, from which such information as location and charging status will be transmitted to the server, and the information in the server will be browed via the Internet. About 250 participants from general public will be recruited via the Internet. They will experience booking EVs and browsing information on EVs. This experiment is part of the substantiative experiment of IT infrastructure that supports smart grids. The smart grid is supposed to be effective if it is combined with in-vehicle battery.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No. 213: Mass produce silicon from sand of Sahara (December 16, 2010)

Japan and North African countries decided to start joint research in Sahara to produce silicon using almost inexhaustible sand of Sahara. Tokyo University and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) agreed with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of Algeria on the development project that extends to 2015. They already established a research organization for the project, and the research team is scheduled to open up the way for the technology in five years. They plan to mass produce silicon with a view to starting the generation business in the future. The expected technology changes oxide silicon contained in sand to silicon refined to higher than 99.9999% purity. Sahara’s sand hardly contains foreign particles, and is abundant in oxide silicon. As solar cells are spreading worldwide, there are concerns over the shortage of silicon. North African countries that place importance on photovoltaic generation as a promising industry in the future agreed with Japan on the necessity to develop the technology for future generation business in North Africa. JICA will invest 300 million yen. Besides Tokyo University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Hirosaki University, and National Institute for Materials Science will participate in the project.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No. 212: A camera system to trace a ball traveling at 200 km/h (December 15, 2010)

Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa of Tokyo University and his research team developed the ultrahigh-speed camera system that can trace a ball hit by a tennis racket traveling at a speed faster than 200 km/h. Theoretically, the system makes it possible to place a bullet of a pistol and an object running at the sound speed (about 340 meters per second) in the center of a camera frame. The team successfully developed the system by combining lenses and small mirrors that move quickly. The system can be used in a camera sensor that observes an object moving at a high speed and that covers a wide area independently. It is traditionally necessary to move the camera-mounted equipment itself to keep placing an object moving at a high speed in the center of a camera frame because the performance of the actuator is not enough. Moving two sheets of mirrors, each of which is about the size of half of a name card, to two directions is enough to operate the camera. This technology successfully downsized the actuator and allowed it to move at a high speed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No. 211: Mass production of heat-resistance materials for aerospace (December 14, 2010)

Ube Industries will build up the production system of fibers for the next-generation aircraft engines. The company will start mass production of heat-resistant materials for aerospace by 2016 and put the composite material made of fiber and resin being developed jointly with Boeing into practical use. Ube’s heat-resistant materials are excellent in functionality and used in the planetary exploration spacecraft “Hayabusa (Falcon)” launched by Japan Space Exploration Agency. Heat control polyimide film used in “Hayabusa (Falcon)” is excellent in heat resistance and hard to deteriorate against radiation and ultraviolet. It will be used in BepiColombo that is the exploration spacecraft for Mercury to be launched in the partnership between Europe and Japan. Materials for aerospace have to clear very high requirements both in heat resistance and weight saving, and Japanese companies are very active in new product development and increasing use. Toray is schedule to ship carbon fibers to Airbus starting 2011. Teijin will supply carbon fibers to the next small passenger aircraft of Bombardier of Canada for 10 years. Osaka Titanium Technologies will increase production of sponge titanium by 20%.

Friday, December 10, 2010

No. 210: Technology to reuse effluent from the toner plant (December 10, 2010)

Ricoh developed the technology to purify effluent from the production process of toners for printers and complex machines. The newly-developed technology dissolves harmful organic substances using ozonic ultramicro bubbles. The company developed the technology in alliance with National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and REO Research Institute in Miyagi Prefecture. The technology utilizes the characteristic of an ultramicro bubble less than 50 micrometers in diameter that dissolves organic substances around it when it contacts to less than 100 nanometers and gets dissolved in water. Equipment that generates ozone with decomposition energy from the atmosphere to produce ultramicro bubbles will be built in the effluent treatment process. So far it is hard to dissolve and treat effluent generated in the toner plant using microorganisms, and organic substances are incinerated after being concentrated. The newly-developed technology changes organic substances into water and carbon dioxide, and separates them out into water as fine particles. Generated fine articles are harmless and can be used as cement materials. The newly-developed technology will make it possible to reuse permanently water used in the toner plant except the volume that decreases due to natural evaporation.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

No. 209: Technology for high accuracy analysis of sugarcane gene (December 9, 2010)

Toyota Motors developed the technology for high accuracy analysis of sugarcane gene in collaboration with National Agricultural Research Center for Kyushu and Okinawa Region affiliated with National Agriculture and Food Research Organization. The technology will be useful for shorter period for breed improvement and helpful for the spread of bio fuels. It enabled the research team to draw a gene map, which shows the positional relationship of DNA sequences, five times more in detail than the existing technology. With this technology, it will be possible to locate important genes helpful for improved productivity and strengthened disease resistance of sugarcane and halve the period for breed improvement. Because sugarcane has much DNA volume, the existing technology does not allow breed improvement based on the analysis of gene information. If the newly-developed technology allows for stable and increased production of sugarcane, it will give momentum to the spread of bio fuels that do not emit carbon dioxide. Toyoda Motors has already developed the technology to enable its gasoline vehicles built after June 2006 to run fuel that contains 10% bioethanol in volume. The company plans to disclose the technology after obtaining the patent to prepare for the growing demand for biofuels worldwide.

No. 208: Transform information to energy (December 8, 2010)

Eiro Muneyuki, a professor of Chuo University, and Masaki Sano, a professor of Tokyo University succeeded in the experiment to show that information can be transformed to energy for the first time in the world. They did the experiment in the situation where two-packed plastic particles, each of which is 300 nanometers in diameter, roll freely because of the Brownian motion caused by the surrounding heat, and made the mechanism that the energy situation of the particles goes up and down the stair by applying alternative voltage from outside. They observed the moves of the particles using a high-speed camera and successfully made the energy climb the energy stair by changing the electric field instantly depending on the information obtained from the observation. The conversion efficiency that can be obtained by dividing obtained energy by the energy equivalent to the acquired amount of information was 30% at a maximum. The energy can be applied to the control of the micro machine that operates inside the body. The research results seemingly contradict the “second law of thermodynamics,” but they confirmed that no contradiction would occur should energy necessary for information processing be taken into consideration. British science magazine Nature Physics placed the research results in the December issue.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

No. 207: Use vegetative materials for lithium-ion battery (December 6, 2010)

Sony used vegetative materials for the major components of lithium-ion battery and successfully built a trial product. The company used strained lees of corns and coffee beans, wood for the interior of the container, and biodegradable plastic for exterior of the container. The trial lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 8 mAh. By connecting two units of the trial product, the company operated a mobile music player without LCD screen for one hour. Because the trial product remains usable after it was discharged and charged for 10 times, it is suitable for the remote controller of an electric home appliance. The company used lithium rhodizonate made of corn’s sugar in place of cobalt for the positive electrode, materials created by burning strained lees of coffee beans for the negative electrode, and film made of wood’s cellulose for the separator. The trial product is a thin square battery. Sony plans to increase the capacity of the newly-developed lithium-ion battery by more than 100 times and increase the frequency of discharge and charge to 100 times. It needs lots of experiments to increase its reliability because vegetative materials are heat-sensitive and easily dissoluble. Sony wishes to commercialize the trail product toward 2030.

Friday, December 3, 2010

No. 206: Wheelchair vehicle from Japan (December 4, 2010)

A company that designs cars and motorcycles has been developing a wheelchair vehicle for the past one year in cooperation with rehabilitation centers. The company is YDS in Kanagawa Prefecture. The newly-developed wheelchair vehicle is scheduled to be put on the market next spring. It is an electric three-wheeler designed for wheelchair users. You can ride on this wheelchair vehicle with your wheelchair and enjoy wind while you are riding it. The wheelchair vehicle can make a maximum speed of 40 km per hour. It mounts two lithium-ion batteries that you can recharge using home electric outlet. Four hours’ recharging allows the wheelchair vehicle to run for about 50 km. You can ride it on by lifting the lever to fix your wheelchair. You can get on easily without assistance. You need a driver’s license to ride it. The price is scheduled to be between 500,000 and 600,000 yen a unit.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

No. 205: Low temperature carbonization plant from Toshiba (December 2, 2010)

Toshiba participates in the sewage and sludge treatment business with its newly-developed low temperature carbonization plant. The new plant can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 80% as compared with the currently widespread incineration plant. The company also developed the technology to use the treated sludge as fuel. Because domestic sewage plants burn sludge at about 850 degrees centigrade, they emit a large amount of carbon dioxide in the burning process and generates industrial wastes like incinerated ashes. Toshiba’s new plant burns sludge at a medium temperature between 500 and 600 degrees centigrade for carbonization. Besides reducing the carbon dioxide emissions by more than 80%, carbonized sludge can be sold as fuel to heat power plants to reduce the operation cost. Toshiba verified such vital factors as treatment efficiency in the pilot plant in Kyushu last year. Toshiba’s new plant with a treatment capacity of 50 tons per day will be priced between 100 million and 200 million yen. Sewage sludge is reported to reach between 70 million and 80 million tons annually and account for nearly 30% of domestic industrial wastes in Japan. Treatment of industrial wastes is a tremendous financial burden to local governments. The company wishes to get several orders after 2011 and explore the possibility of expanding the market overseas and being entrusted with the management of a sewage and sludge plant in the future.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No. 204: Use slag of steelmaking to mitigate global warming (December 1, 2010)

Japanese steelmakers will strengthen their efforts to use slag, a by-product in the steelmaking process, to mitigate global warming. JFE Steel will cement steel slag produced in the process to adjust iron’s constituents in the plate shape to use them for the regeneration of coral reefs in Okinawa Prefecture. The company will raise the coral branches planted on the plates in an aquarium and put them back to the sea. It will expand these activities in Indonesia where it is now conducting the preliminary study. Nippon Steel put a total of 500 tons of slag blocks and feed materials made of steel slag and fermented thinned wood in the sea off Hokkaido. Iron of the feed materials steeps in the sea and helps kelps grow. The company plans to produce resins made of kelps to prevent rotten kelps from emitting carbon dioxide. It estimates that 23 million tons of carbon dioxide can be reduced if the same activities spread the coastline throughout Japan. Sumitomo Metal also put slag blocks in the sea off Wakayama Prefecture to proliferate lobsters and algae in alliance with local fisheries cooperatives. Steel slag is mainly used as the road bed in road maintenance and improvement, but demand for steel slag has been decreasing drastically because of the decreasing number of public projects. Currently, only one percent of steel slag is used for marine purposes, and the Japanese steelmaking industry plans to increase the ratio to 25% in the future.

Monday, November 29, 2010

No. 203: Build carbon nanotube transistor using the ink-jet printing technology (November 30, 2010)

NEC developed the technology to build high-performance carbon nanotube transistors using the ink-jet printing technology. The technology makes it possible to create more elaborate circuits than the conventional printing technology for higher performance of a transistor. A carbon nanotube transistor is applicable to a thin and bendable display should it be printed on a plastic substrate. The company improved the refinement method of nanotube and increased the purity of nanotube contained in the ink. Besides, it devised the composition of the ink to prevent the exhaust nozzle of a printer from getting clogged even if high concentration ink is used. In the experiment, the technology successfully created a circuit with lines of about 70 micrometers wide. The width of a line that the current technology can print is about several hundreds of micrometers. NEC plans to put the newly-developed technology into practical use in five years.

No. 202: A complex system for the optimal combination (November 29, 2010)

Experiment facilities to conduct research for the optimal combination of biofuel, photovoltaic generation, and fuel cell are under construction in the premises of the University of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture for the purpose of developing the supply system of the next-generation clean energy. The facilities are made up of equipment that cultures oil-producing algae to produce biofuel, solar panels, wind power generators, and fuel cells. The culture equipment has transparent pipes overtop to put algae and tracks the sun to activate photosynthesis. The facilities are scheduled to be completed to start the research toward the end of this year. Researchers from Japan’s leading research agencies, such as Advance Industrial Science and Technology, National Institute for Material Science, and National Institute for Environmental Studies, will participate in the research. In addition to producing alga oil, the research team will produce hydrogen from the strained lees of algae and radiate LED light that uses electricity generated by the sunlight in the night to the algae. It will also study the system that does not require the conversion from direct current to alternative current. The collaboration and merger of the different research agencies attracts a wide attention.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

No. 201: Japan assists Thailand with nuclear power generation (November 28, 2010)

The Japan Atomic Power Company concluded an agreement on technological cooperation to introduce nuclear power generation to Thailand with Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) that is the state-run electric power company in Thailand. The Thai government plans to start the operation of Thai’s first operate nuclear power generation around 2020. The Japan Atomic Power gives EGAT a comprehensive support that includes advice on the development project and training for engineers for three years that is the period stipulated in the agreement. Thailand is the third country that the company concluded the agreement on technological cooperation because it had already concluded such agreement with Republic of Kazakhstan and Vietnam. EGAT concluded the same agreement with China last November. It is unknown whether or not Japanese technology will be adopted in the process of developing the nuclear power generation plan in Thailand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

No. 200: An organic superconductive material (November 27, 2010)

Organic materials supposed to be unsuitable for superconductivity attract worldwide attention. A research team participated by researchers of Okayama University and Nagasaki Institute of Applied Science found a material able to null electric resistance at about 80 degrees centigrade higher than the current level. Should this material be synthesized, the research has the possibility to become epoch-making. Currently, cooling a metal down to minus 259 degrees centigrade is required to make it superconductive. However, a researcher of Okayama University published an organic material that can be superconductive at four degrees centigrade higher than the existing level in the English science magazine Nature last March. He mixed potassium with picene that is an inexpensive oil component. The above research team showed the possibility of achieving superconductivity at minus 173 degrees centigrade if an organic substance phenanthrene is used in place of picene by theoretical calculation this month. Currently, all materials including ceramic have to be cooled to become superconductive. However, if the critical temperature to null electric resistance goes above minus 196 that is the temperature of liquid nitrogen, the technology will be totally practical.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

No. 199: Aluminum wire harness for vehicles (November 26, 2010)

Furukawa Electric will start mass production of aluminum wire harness for vehicles in Indonesia and Vietnam in 2011. Aluminum wire harness is about 40% lighter than copper wire harness. The electric vehicle and the hybrid vehicle carry more electric components than the gasoline vehicle, it has been a critical issue to make wire harness lighter. The company will produce the intermediate materials from aluminum alloy in its company established jointly with Toyoda Tsusho and local capital, and process them electric wires in Vietnam. The scheduled production capacity is six tons per month, and finished products will mostly be shipped to Japan. The aluminum alloy contains magnesium, iron, and copper for higher electric conductivity, more strength, and better flexibility. The conductor of aluminum wire harness weighs half as copper wire harness. Even if it is coated for insulation, it is about 40% lighter than copper wire harness. Furukawa Electric wishes to reduce the production cost to the same or lower the level of copper wire harness by dint of mass production in several years. Aluminum wire harness will be used for power transmission to the motor and information exchange of the sensor. A vehicle carries about 40 kg of wire harness, and the weight of wire harness can be reduced to two thirds if aluminum wire harness is used for the two purposes.

No. 198: Robot for the purification of water quality (November 25, 2010)

NAC Corp. in Gifu Prefecture developed a robot to purify water quality in alliance with Wabot-House Laboratory of Waseda University and Gifu Pharmaceutical University. The company combined its ultrafine froth generation equipment with the underwater exploration robot of Wabot-House Laboratory. The robot looks into the underwater of a pond and lake, locates dysoxic areas, and oxygenizes them effectively, whereby it activates the activities of aerobic microbes to purify water quality. Gifu Pharmaceutical University collected data in the experiments and verified the water quality, and a trial product was built. The company plans to sell this robot. It designs and builds a robot responding to the environment of the lake, pond, and river to be explored. The mounted sensor measures the underwater oxygen concentration around the robot. If the area is found to be a dysoxic area, the operator on the land remote-controls the robot to let the equipment on the robot generate ultrafine froths using air. Equipped with such apparatus as postural sensor, underwater camera, and sound navigation and ranging (sonar), and can move forward, dive, and emerge using four screws. The equipment developed by NAC sends compressed air of 0.1 MPa to the inside of the cylindrical special porous film. Compared with the conventional method to compress froths to ultrafine froths, NAC’s equipment can generate ultrafine froths even in the deep area inside water only by adjusting the pressure of air to send.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No. 197: Build the regeneration medicine market (November 24, 2010)

The moves of bio ventures to put their technologies of regeneration medicine into practical use get a boost. Japan Tissue Engineering, a group company of Fujifilm Holdings, will build Japan’s first mass production system of cultured cartilages used to regenerate the cartilage of knee joint in Japan by next fall. CellSeeds will apply for the permit to produce and sell cultured corneal used to generate the corneal damaged by burn and disease in Europe next year. Japan Tissue’s technology is to implant the cultured cartilage whose cells contain jellylike collagen in the diseased part to regenerate the cartilage. Being jellylike, the cultured cartilage is easily settled in the diseased part. The permit to produce and sell the cultured cartilage is being examined by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. CellSeeds will market the cultured corneal throughout Europe starting in 2012 after obtaining the permit of production and sales. CellSeeds’ technology is to produce epithelium of corneal by culturing cells collected from the mucosa of a patient’s mouth and implant the cultured corneal to the patient. CellSeeds’ product is expected to have less rejection response to immunity because it uses the cells of a patient. At present, the skin regeneration technology developed by Japan Tissue Engineering is the only one regeneration technology permitted in Japan. Some estimate that the regeneration medicine market will grow to 1,000 billion yen worldwide in a few years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

No. 196: Integrated waste and sewage treatment plant (November 23, 2010)

Kawasaki Heavy Industries plans to put an integrated plant for the treatment of municipal waste and sewage into practical application in 2013. Exhaust heat and electric energy created by the refuse incinerator will be used to dry sewage sludge and purify sewage. The new kind of plant is made up of such equipment as refuse incinerator, exhaust heat generation equipment, and sewage recycling equipment. It will be built alongside a cement plant, and it generates using the exhaust heat created in the cement plant to operate the sewage disposal facilities. It costs less than half the amount needed to build a waste disposal facility and sewage disposal facility independently. Refuse incineration ashes will be used as a cement material. The company will operate demonstration equipment in 2011 to collect data of the collection efficiency of exhaust heat, and wishes to get the first order in 2013. It will cost 5-10 billion yen to build this kind of plant to treat the waste and sewage produced by a city with a population of 100,000 people. With the population concentration in the urban area, cities in China and Southeast countries face rapidly increasing amount of waste and sewage and demand for the waste treatment plan is growing rapidly, too. The market of the waste treatment business in China and Southeast countries is estimated at about 5,000 billion yen (US$\60 billion) in 2020, three times as big as the estimate for 2010.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No. 195: Desalination equipment using photovoltaic generation (November 22, 2010)

The groups companies of Toray Industries jointly developed small-size desalination equipment that comes with a photovoltaic generation panel. It is designed to purify river water by dint of photovoltaic generation in the mountain area where no transmission line is available. Toray plans to start the substantiative experiment early next year in the islands of Indonesia and supply it to local healthcare centers. Toray International took the initiative in the development of this equipment by basing it on the small-size desalination apparatus for natural disasters. River water put in a drum can is filtered by sand, and subsequently the bacteria and others are eliminated by Toray’s reverse osmosis membrane. The photovoltaic generation panel is about 1 meter wide and 1 meter deep, and it can process about 60-liter water per hour. It is scheduled to be price at 2,000,000 yen and additional 10,000 yen is necessary for every five years as the cost to replace membrane. Toray International will take care of marketing and procurement of parts, and Toray’s affiliated companies in Indonesia will cooperate in the substantiative experiment. Toray plans to market this equipment in countries other than Indonesia.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

No. 194: NTT develops the technology to display related image on the mobile phone (November 20, 2010)

NTT Cyber Communications Laboratory Group developed the technology to display the image related to several lines of sentences on the scene, if the reader shoots them by the camera of his mobile phone. He can make a biography connected with an interview image and a textbook connected with the image of the days of the description. This technology expands the way to enjoy books, and NTT will negotiate with publishing companies and printing companies on the fee structure to industrialize the technology after next year. The user transmits the image of part of the sentences to the outside server, and the server locates the title of the book and the number of page on the basis of the transmitted image. And it transmits related video and image back to the mobile phone in a few seconds. It does not matter whether the sentence is written vertically or horizontally. NTT already developed the software that connects sentence in a book with a moving image in alliance with publishing companies and printing companies. The reader can add his impression and comments via the mobile phone. If the reader shoots the explanation of a famous restaurant in a travel guide, he can read the impression of the people who visited and had a meal there. Because he can read books with images, NTT wishes to spread this technology as the new way of reading based on the merger between books and digital technology.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No. 193: Electrode made of alumina cement for fluorescent lamp (November 19, 2010)

Asahi Glass, Japan’s leading glass manufacturer, developed a fluorescent lamp using an electrode made of a cement material with the cooperation of a professor of the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo. The new electrode consumes 30% less power and has four times longer life than the conventional electrode made of rare metals. The material used in the new electrode is alumina cement that is a kind of reinforced cement. Alumina cement is originally an insulant, but the research team changed part of its internal structure using vacuum equipment and made it electricity-conducting. Using the resulting alumina cement as an electrode, electrons jumping out depending on the energy situation hit the fluorescent material to emit light. Asahi Glass plans to collaborate with electronic appliance manufacturers to utilize it for indoor lighting and backlights of liquid crystal displays. Because the electrode of the present fluorescent lamp is made of rare metals like nickel, there is much concern about resource depletion. The cement material like alumina cement is easily obtainable and processable. The company greatly expects alumina cement to become a promising material to replace rare metals.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No. 192: Hydrazine-free fuel for the attitude-control engine (November 18, 2010)

Mitsubishi Heavy developed hydrazine-free fuel for the attitude-control engine to be used for artificial satellites. Because hydrazine is highly toxic, the company used hydroxylammonium nitrate (HAN) instead that is less harmful for the human body and increased the safety and fuel efficiency. Because HAN has lower toxicity than hydrazine, neither gas protection clothes nor special equipment is needed in filling fuel. In fact, the HAN-dependent fuel reduces the cost to launch a satellite by about 20%. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is also developing the HAN fuel, and Mitsubishi Heavy successfully optimized the ratio of water and ethanol to be mixed with HAN and made the fuel more easily burnable. Mitsubishi Heavy also developed figure and material of the catalyst that converts fuel to gas of the propulsion device and increased the efficiency. The newly-developed propulsion device secured the same amount of thrust with less than two thirds of the weight of the conventional model. As Mitsubishi Heavy expects growing demand for the low orbit satellite that goes around the earth at an altitude below 1,000 km, it plans to market the new fuel and the propulsion device for low orbit satellites. The new propulsion device will be about 30% lower in price that the hydrazine-dependent propulsion device. The company projects to launch a satellite incorporating its new fuel and propulsion device in two years.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No. 191: Charge an electric bicycle by photovoltaic generation (November 17, 2010)

Kyocera will put a charging system for electric bicycles that utilizes photovoltaic generation on the market today. The system generates electricity using sunlight and charges a battery connected to the control panel. Because shoppers can charge their electric bicycles while they are shopping, the system offers great deal of convenience to them. The company plans to sell this new charging system to commercial establishments, local governments, companies, and schools. The solar battery module installed on the fence at the corner of the bicycle parking lot generates electricity and transmits it to the control panel. The user detaches the battery from his electric bicycle and connects it to the control panel for charging. Because no storage device is installed, commercial power automatically supplies electricity in place of photovoltaic generation. The solar battery module has a maximum output of 208 watts, and the standard system made up of three modules can charge six electric bicycles simultaneously. The standard system is priced at 1,890,000 yen. It takes one or two days to install the system and costs several hundreds of thousand yen for installation. One of Kyocera’s group companies takes care of the installation.

Monday, November 15, 2010

No. 190: Generate hydrogen through artificial photosynthesis (November 16, 2010)

Tokyo University and Mitsubishi Chemical jointly developed a new artificial photosynthesis technology that generates energy using light. This technology makes it possible to generate hydrogen without emitting carbon dioxide by irradiating light on water containing a special chemical compound. If this chemical compound can respond to light of various wavelengths, it is possible to build a plant to produce hydrogen using sunlight as a plant generates high energy hydrogen using sunlight. The chemical compound developed by the two organizations incorporates tungsten oxide and tantalum oxynitride and resolves water into hydrogen and oxygen if it is put in water and light is irradiated. The newly-developed compound generates hydrogen using 6.3% of the visible light with a wavelength of 420 nanometers when it is irradiated on the compound. It is estimated that if 10% of sunlight is used and this compound is put in a water reservoir of 5 km by 5 km, 570 tons of hydrogen can be obtained daily. If this kind of water reservoir is built near a thermal plant, raw materials of the chemical industry like methanol can be produced by reacting hydrogen with carbon dioxide generated by the thermal plant. The two organizations plan to put this technology into practical use in five years.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No. 189: Estimate warming of cities around the world (November 15, 2010)

Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Mitsubishi Estate jointly developed the software that estimates warming of cities around the world. Using the supercomputer technology, the software shows the areas that tend to be hot, such as high-rise building area and shopping area, in color image. Besides the two organizations, Building Research Institute and the Tokyo metropolitan government helped the development. The development team combined the supercomputer called “Earth Simulator” that JAMSTEC uses to estimate global warming and Google Earth that is the world map service Google provides on the Internet. The newly-developed software can estimate minutely how hot it is in summer and how warm air flows depending on the direction of the wind in any cities of the world as long as data on such items as amount of exhaust heat of buildings and traffic volume are available. The development team created the moving image of an area of 3 km by 3 km of the business district in Tokyo to show the temperature change in summer. It is possible to see the warm air generated on the heated pavement flowing in whirls from any angles on the PC. The software is expected to be helpful to verification of the cooling effect of urban greening and planning of urban development with few sweltering nights.

No. 188: A vending machine that recommends drinks (November 14, 2010)

JR East Water Business, a subsidiary of JR (Japan Railways) East, decided to install extensively vending machines that display recommendable drinks on the screen depending on the attributes of the shopper using the face recognition technology. Currently, there are only two vending machines of this kind in Tokyo, and the company will increase the total number to 100 units by next spring and to 500 units by March 2012. The large touch-screen of the vending machine tells the age and gender of the shopper and display recommendable drinks. For example, if the shopper is a male, it displays recommendable drinks like canned coffee as soon as he stands before the vending machine, and then display standard products. The new vending machine can change recommendable products automatically depending on the temperature and the hour. The two units currently operating in Tokyo achieved about three times more sales than the conventional vending machine. The new vending machine will replace the conventional vending machine in terminal stations in Tokyo, and will account for 12% of all vending machines in the Tokyo Metropolitan area by March 2012.

Friday, November 12, 2010

No. 187: Color toner made of plant-derived materials (November 13, 2010)

Kyocera Mita Corp., one of Japan’s leading copy machine companies, will launch color toners made of plant-derived polyester resin early next year for the first time in the world. Monochrome toners made of plant-derived materials are available from other copy machine companies, but the company is the first to put color toners made of plant-derived materials on the market. The new color toners emit 30% less carbon dioxide as compared with the existing color toners when they are burnt. Pigments of red, blue, yellow, etc. are mixed with resin to produce color toners. Kyocera Mita mixes several plant-derived materials, such as rice husk and palm berry husk, with the conventional color toners by 30%. The company is scheduled to introduce a multifunction machine for the new color toners early next year. The new color toners will be more expensive than the existing color toners, but the company is confident that the price will go down as they are mass produced.

No. 186: Mass production technology of large-size organic electro luminescent display (November 12, 2010)

Seiko Epson and Tokyo Electron announced that they would ally to develop the mass production technology of large-size organic electro luminescent (EL) display, making the best use of Seiko Epson's ink-jet technology and Tokyo Electron's manufacturing equipment technology. The organic EL is widespread for displays smaller than 10 inches, but the technology to form a film of organic materials on the glass substrate for large display has not been established. Seiko Epson has the technology to form a film of a material uniformly using the ink-jet system that it accumulated in the printer business, while Tokyo Electron builds manufacturing equipment for the large-size liquid crystal panels called the 10th generation. Instead of the current technology to spray organic materials on the glass substrate in vacuum, the two companies try to establish the manufacturing technology based on the printing system that uses ink jet.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No. 185: Technology to build a thin-film lithium-ion battery in the normal temperature process (November 11, 2010)

Toyota Motors and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) jointly built an all-solid thin-film lithium-ion battery in the normal temperature process for the first time in the world. Different from the existing thin film technology, the new technology shortens production time, increases productivity, and reduces production cost because it does not need heating. The two organizations used the aerosol deposition method that is the high-speed and normal-temperature coating process of ceramics materials developed by AIST. They made the oxide system positive-electrode material, negative-electrode material and fixed electrode material thinner and laminated, and built a trilaminar all-solid thin-film lithium-ion battery on trial. They confirmed the charge-discharge characteristics as a battery. Details of the research results will be presented in the 3rd International Congress on Ceramics scheduled between 14th and 18th of coming November in Osaka.
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No. 184: NEC’s new image conversion technology (November 10, 2010)

NEC developed the image conversion technology that converts low-resolution image to high definition image in a short time. The new technology can convert a one-hour analog video to a high definition image video in 10 hours, one seventieth of the current processing time. It can be used to increase the image resolution of security camera. In the initial stage, however, NEC wishes to put it into practical use for broadcasting stations in a few years. The color quality deteriorates and noise comes up if a low-resolution image is projected on the high definition screen. A clear image can be created if resolution can be restored in image processing. The current technology uses the system to uncompress one high definition frame among multiple frames that construct an image. It takes more than one month for the current technology to convert a one-hour image into high definition image, but NEC improved the calculation method and successfully shortened the necessary time to about 10 hours. It will be possible to convert past analog sports programs and dramas into high definition image videos. Moreover it can draw the profile of a criminal if it is applied to the image of security camera. NEC plans to install it in the PC in the future.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

No. 183: Research on infrastructure of photovoltaic generation (November 9, 2010)

Tokyo University and Show Shell Sekiyu started joint research on the next-generation energy infrastructure. They designated Niigata Prefecture where Show Shell Sekiyu operates a large-scale photovoltaic generation plant and Thailand that has long hours of sunshine. They will study problems with technology and cost specific to the local conditions of these two regions, such as installation of storage batteries and coordination with power systems. Showa Shell Sekiyu has been operating a photovoltaic generation plant with a generation capacity of 1,000 kW since last August in Niigata. Tokyo University will interview residents living nearby to know their demand for more user-friendly infrastructure, and will do the same in Thailand in collaboration with universities in Thailand to know more about the operation of the photovoltaic generation system. The university will look into the climate difference between Niigata Prefecture that has many cloudy days and Thailand that has many fine days, and confirm the infrastructure preferred by the people of these two regions and the acceptable range of increase of energy cost in the two regions. No specific period is set for the research. Based on the research findings, Show Shell Sekiyu wishes to establish business of proposing energy infrastructures in the future.
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