Friday, July 30, 2010

No. 118: Japanese small artificial satellites go abroad (July 31, 2010)

The Japanese government will sell small artificial satellites to emerging countries in alliance with the private sector. In the initial stage, it will sell a small artificial satellite to Vietnam. The governments of the two countries are close to reaching an agreement on a yen-loan-financed project that includes the launch of a satellite and the improvement of related infrastructure. The loan is estimated at 30 billion yen. Vietnam is scheduled to build a space center near Hanoi and launch a satellite for monitoring disasters in 2013. Japan is strong in the satellite station for mobile phone and satellite broadcast and the observation satellite for forest protection and resource exploration. A total of 128 global observation satellites were launched for the decade up to 2008, and a total of 260 satellites of this kinds is estimated to be launched for the decade after 2009. The Japanese government plans to expand the market to the Middle East and the South America in five years.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No. 117: Growing demand for rubber for fuel-efficient tires (July 30, 2010)

JSR Corp. (formerly Japan Synthetic Rubber Co.) decided to increase the production capacity of solution styrene-butadiene rubber (S-SBR) for fuel-efficient tires and with an investment of about five billion yen. The high-function synthetic rubber can control the exothermic heat generated by friction because it allows for tiny adjustments in designing rubber molecules. Demand for fuel-efficient tires is growing rapidly worldwide because of increasing gasoline prices. Besides, Japan introduced the leveling system that asks tire manufacturers to evaluate the fuel-efficiency of their fuel-efficient tires on an autonomous basis. Bridgestone estimates that domestic sales of its fuel-efficient tires will grow nine times to 3 million tires this year over the previous year. JSR is producing S-SBR at full capacity, but orders surpass its production capacity. Japan has nearly 50% share in the world S-SBR market.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No. 116: Fujifilm collects and reuses steam released in the production process (July 29, 2010)

Fujifilm will start to collect and reuse steam released into the atmosphere in the production process of liquid crystal panel materials. The plan will start in the three domestic plants in Japan that produce protective films for deflection plates. The company wishes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 6,000-7,000 tons per year beginning in 2011. The pressurized steam is released to the atmosphere after it is utilized, but the company developed the technology to repressurize the released steam and mix it with pressurized steam supplied by the boiler for reuse. Fujifilm projects the annual carbon dioxide emissions from its six major plants at 720,000 tons in 2012, which is the same level in 2009, despite the planned 20% production increase. The company has already introduced natural gas to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This technology will supposedly spread to production plants in various industries.

No. 115: Real estate companies focus on condominiums with a photovoltaic generation system (July 28, 2010)

Major Japanese real estate companies will start building condominiums with a photovoltaic generation system. JX Energy will build a six-storied condo designed for some 100 households. It will set about 500 panels on its rooftop and allocate panels with the generation capacity of 1.2 kW to each apartment. Surplus power will be sold to electric power companies. Each household is estimated to decrease the electricity charge by 4,000 yen per month. ORIX Real Estate will install photovoltaic general panels on the rooftop of a three-storied condo and allocate 12 panels to each household. Each household will have a generation capacity of 1.02 kW, and it will supposedly get monthly revenue of 2,000 yen on average by selling surplus power. The unit price of surplus power purchased by the electric power company doubled last November. This revision made real estate companies focus on building condos with a photovoltaic generation system.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

No. 114: Hot water heat pump for effective utilization of waste heat (July 27, 2010)

Tokyo Electric Power and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries jointly developed an industrial hot water heat pump for effective utilization of waste heat contained in plant effluent. The newly developed pump halves carbon dioxide emissions as compared with the city gas boiler, and it can be used for food and beverage plants because its hot water temperature is about 90 degrees centigrade, 10 degrees higher than that of the existing industrial heat pumps. In addition, it works in the temperature range between 10-50 degrees instead of 35-50 degrees that is workable for the existing hot water heat pumps, and it can collect waste heat contained in effluent from refrigerating machines. The new heat pump with the thermal capability of 547 kW is priced at 27 million yen. It can reduce the annual energy cost by 38% and carbon dioxide emissions by 56% as compared with the city gas boiler. Mitsubishi Heavy will put it on the market within this month.

Monday, July 26, 2010

No. 113: Catalyst to change extra heavy oil to standard oil resource (July 26, 2010)

A professor of Hokkaido University and his research team developed a catalyst that changes extra heavy oil contained in oil sand to standard oil resource. The newly-developed catalyst is made by burning and solidifying such oxidative products as iron, aluminum, and zirconium. When the catalyst is mixed with extra heavy oil and supercritical water that is 420 degrees centigrade at 220 atmospheric pressures, water was dissolved into hydrogen and oxygen. The catalyst facilitated the dissolution of extra heavy oil and produced oil with less viscosity that contains gasoline and light oil. The technology is not high in cost because the catalyst is mainly made of iron and because it is not necessary to add hydrogen. In the experiment, the team successfully changed 60-70% of super heavy oil to products made of gasoline and light oil. The professor plans to put this technology into practical use in less than 20 years.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

No. 112: Stainless steel that contains 23% less chrome (July 25, 2010)

Nippon Steel Corporation Sumitomo Metal Industries developed stainless steel that contains 23% less chrome than the conventional product. The company added about 0.1% tin to reduce the content of chrome whose price fluctuates greatly, and successfully reduced the price fluctuations of stainless steel besides increasing the corrosion resistance and workability. It named the new product NSSCFW1 and already started to ship samples. The chromium series stainless steel contains more than 18.0% chrome, but the new product contains only 14% chrome. Tin that the company added to stainless steel for the first time in the world increased the stability of the thin film on the surface of the steel plate. The new product is expected to be 10-20% cheaper than the high-end chromium series stainless steel, and the company plans to achieve annual sales of 100,000 tons in three years.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No. 111: Engineering company collaborates with a prefecture in Japan (July 24, 2010)

Chiyoda Corp., one of Japan’s leading plant engineering companies, will collaborate with Fukuoka Prefecture to help medium-sized companies in Fukuoka Prefecture materialize environment-related business in China and Vietnam. Chiyoda conducts research on the market in China and Vietnam and proposes a project to the prefecture. Based on the proposed project, the prefecture negotiates with medium-sized companies in the prefecture to materialize a project. Each of the medium-sized companies addresses licensing of technology for environment conservation, such as desulfurization equipment and water purifying equipment, to China and Vietnam. Fukuoka Prefecture concluded an agreement on exchange for solutions of environmental problems with Jiangsu of China and Hanoi of Vietnam. The collaboration between an engineering company and a prefecture seems to become a touchstone of Japan’s environment business for the global market.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No. 110: Toshiba sees good prospect for the next-generation reactor (July 23, 2010)

Toshiba has established the technology on the safety of piping and special pump to conduct heat generated by the reactor and seen good prospect for the practical application of the next-generation reactor that allows for long-term continuous run. The piping and special pump is the equipment vital to the new reactor called 4S that will also be utilized in another new reactor that Toshiba develops in alliance with Bill Gates. The 4S has an output between 10,000-50,000 kW. It uses liquid sodium for coolant to make the reactor smaller and reduce maintenance load considerably, thus it allows for continuous run for about 30 years. Because sodium is hard to treat, the company developed safe solenoid pump and heat transfer pipe. The pipe can resist the temperature of 500 degrees of centigrade. Toshiba will start the verification experiment to put the technology into practical use in the second half of 2010.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No. 109: Producing phenol from nonfood crops like rice straw (July 22, 2010)

Sumitomo Bakelite will start to conduct research on producing phenol from nonfood crops like rice straw and cornstalk in alliance with Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE). The two organizations will build a pilot plant in three years to see the quality and the mass productivity of the new product. The basic technology developed by RITE will be used for the development. RITE incorporated several tens of genes into the coryneform group and improved enzymes created by fungus considerably. It has already located the reaction pathway to dissolve nonfood crops and collect the sugar group for the production of phenol. Because phenol has a complicated molecular architecture with circular configuration, it is rather hard to produce fungus. However, it is expected to process the sugar group to phenol in one operation with the help of large amount genetically-engineered fungus. The world phenol market is estimated at more than 1,000 billion yen.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No. 108: Low-cost and easily-expandable next-generation smart grid (July 21, 2010)

Osaka Gas, Waseda University, and VPEC that is a venture company in the power system development will jointly develop the smart grid technology for developing countries. The new system will link several simplified systems, each of which is made up of photovoltaic generation equipment, inverter, and storage cell. A Waseda university professor who is the professional in smart grip joined the development team. Named Eco network, the new system is primarily for a cluster of about 30 households and easily expandable. It allows for expansion depending on the number of population. The excess and deficiency of power that cannot be adjusted inside a cluster is manageable with the help of inverter. In the laboratory experiment, they saw good prospect of the technology. This system has the underling concept of local production for local consumption to decrease the dependency of the existing power system. The market related to smart grip is estimated at about 19 trillion yen in 2020.

Monday, July 19, 2010

No. 107: Japanese steelmakers strengthen the efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (July 20, 2010)

Major steelmakers in Japan will strengthen the efforts to resolve and collect carbon dioxide from gas emissions of shaft furnaces. Nippon Steel started to operate the equipment to process 30 tons of carbon dioxide a day this spring. The company adopted the chemical absorption method. In this method, carbon dioxide is absorbed in alkaline aqueous solution, and the resulting solution is heated to resolve and collect carbon dioxide. The company plans to increase the processing capacity to one millions tons a year in the future. JFE Steel adopted the physical absorption method, and it will build equipment to process three tons of carbon dioxide a day. In the physical absorption method, carbon dioxide is adsorbed to zeolite used in detergent, and the resulting product is depressurized to resolve and collect carbon dioxide. Leading steelmakers are expected to put these two methods into practical use by 2030 and use them simultaneously. Collected carbon dioxide will be buried and stored in the ground.

No. 106: Japanese photovoltaic generation technology goes to Tunisia (July 19, 2010)

The Japanese government will reach an agreement with the Tunisian government to build a pilot plant of photovoltaic generation in Tunisia on July 23. It wishes to assist Japanese companies with their efforts to expand the market in foreign countries. NEDO, a government-affiliated research institute, will build a generation plant of 5 mega watts with an investment of about three billion yen. Tunisia, on its part, will build a gas complex generation plant for the integrated operation with the photovoltaic generation plant. The Japanese government wishes to start the operation next year, and build another four to five plants with yen loans. The world photovoltaic generation capacity is estimated to grow three times over the 2008 level to 20 giga watts. As the project grows in scale, support from the government grows more important because no company is big enough to implement such as big plan to expand the market for Japanese photovoltaic generation technology independently.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

No. 105: Utilize IT to revitalize paddy fields (July 18, 2010)

Paddy fields are not merely for cultivating rice. Various creatures, such as weatherfish and hoptoad, are living in the paddy field. Japan is schedule to propose utilizing paddy fields for preserving biodiversity in the COP10 to be held in Nagoya coming October. Various activities have already started to utilize the paddy field. NEC revitalized the paddy field of about 4,000 square meters in collaboration with a NPO in 2004. This paddy field had been wasteland, but NEC and the NPO successfully grew brewer’s rice enough for the annual production of 2,000 bottles of Japanese sake in this wasteland. In addition, it is now the egg-laying site of Japanese brown frogs. In the end of this paddy field, an NEC-built system that measures temperature, humidity, and amount of insolation every 10 minutes is being operated on trial. NEC is doing research on how to satisfy both agriculture development and ecology preservation with the help of IT.

Friday, July 16, 2010

No. 104: Mitsui and Omron jointly mass produces a new storage system (July 17, 2010)

Mitsui, one of Japan’s largest general trading companies, and Omron, one of leading electric device makers, will mass produce the new large power storage system through the subsidiary they jointly founded. Toyota and GE decided to introduce the new system called electric double layer capacitor. The capacitor of this system has smaller capacity than the secondary battery, but it allows for quick charge and lasts long. It helps to increase energy efficiency by 30-40% should it be used for the power source of cranes and automated guided vehicles inside the plant. Toyota decided to introduce it to the production system inside the plant, while GE decided to use it as the power sources of its environment-friendly products. The storage system that can store power enjoys rapidly growing demand because it allows for efficient energy utilization and leads to reduced environment load. The subsidiary plans to achieve sales of five billion yen by 2015.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No. 103: Mobile phone that can read out information in IC tag (July 16, 2010)

Hitachi and KDDI jointly developed a mobile phone that can read out information in IC tag. It allows for the user to read out information in the label tag on the commodity and organize the information for efficient inventory management. It will be put into practical use in 2011. A composite part to read out a tag is incorporated into KDDI’s mobile phone, and information is traded using electric waves in the UHF zone. Communication distance is 2-3 meters for a tag without build-in battery and more than 10 meters for a tag with built-in battery. The newly-developed mobile phone can recognize multiple tags simultaneously. Using the service number of the commodity, the user can access to the server on the Internet with his mobile phone to get information and images related to the tag. The two companies plan to use the technology for signboards in sightseeing spots and advertising boards.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

No. 102: Gas stations are generally positive about installing chargers (July 15, 2010)

According to a survey that covered 165 companies operating gas stations nationwide, 60% (87 companies) are positive about introducing chargers for electronic vehicles: 7.3% (12 companies) wish to install chargers and 52.7% (87 companies) are interested in installing chargers. Asked why they are positive about installing chargers, they said that EV would increase in number to create new business prospect, some kind of measure would be needed to cope with the decreasing gasoline sales, it would be necessary to expand the business scope to become a base for fuel supply. However, 17% (28 companies) are not interested in installing chargers in view of the possibility whether charging becomes viable business. Asked whey they are against installing chargers, 17% (28 companies) said that installing a charger system would not create high cost effect because nearly 10 million yen is required to build a charging station, it takes too much time to charge, and no charging station will be required because it would be possible to charge a car at home. The Japanese government plans to install 2 million standard chargers and 5,000 rapid chargers by 2020. As always, cost to build a charging facility will decrease as the number of charging stations increases in the future.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

No. 101: New technologies for the next-generation mobile phone (July 14, 2010)

NTT DoCoMo and KDDI, Japan’s two leading mobile phone companies, developed technologies for the next-generation mobile phone. DoCoMo developed the 3D technology using a 2.5-inch liquid crystal screen. A transparent panel with numerous numbers of swells on the surface is put on the screen to refract light coming from the screen, and eight images are combined to create one 3D scenography. Users can move the object on the screen by 360 degrees by a finger. The technology is scheduled to be built in a mobile phone within five years. KDDI’s new technology allows a mobile phone to recognize the image of the billboard on the street and superimpose the predefined computer graphic image stored in the mobile phone on the real image. The company developed this technology using the image-recognition technology, sensor for the measurement of angle, and the GPS. It will be applied to mobile phone games that combine the actual space and computer graphics within three years.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No. 100: New charging apparatus for electric vehicles for 500,000 yen (July 13, 2010)

Toyota Industries Corp. will put its newly-developed charging apparatus for electric vehicles on the market coming October. It incorporates the communication function to allow for uniform management of charging stations in remote areas. Using mobile phone circuits, the company can manage data on power consumption and utilization status of each station in an integrated manner. It will dispatch collected data to each charging station on a regular basis besides keeping it informed about the operation of the apparatus. The apparatus has an external I/O terminal so that it can collaborate with existing instruments like collection machine of parking fees. It will be offered for 500,000 yen. Not only gas stations but also convenience stores seem to be the target market because it allows for integrated management of many units installed in many locations. The infrastructure market for electric vehicles grows highly competitive, and the technology to make the unit smaller and incorporate the communication function seems to be crucial.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

No. 99: Operate audio-visual equipment by natural energy (July 12, 2010)

One of Sony’s subsidiaries developed the technology to operate audio-visual equipment by natural energy like photovoltaic generation. It is the technology to generate power by sunlight and biomass and store the generated power in the lithium ion battery, and supply power as needed. It allows AV equipment to use direct current with less power loss as compared with using the alternative current. The company tested the technology in a football game in Ghana. The system generated by photovoltaic panels of 500 kW in the daytime and supplied power stored in the battery to the projectors and speakers used to screen the game. The company confirmed that about four hours’ charge was enough to screen a game little longer than two hours. This technology seems very promising in developing countries where demand for AV equipment is growing because it can establish a distributed system to satisfy local power demand locally.

No. 98: Simplified ethanol production equipment (July 11, 2010)

Shimane Bioethanol Research Institute, an NPO headquartered in Matsue of Shimane Prefecture, has developed simplified ethanol production equipment in collaboration with Shimane University and a local engineering company. Shimane Prefecture faces the Japan Sea. Besides being easily operable, the equipment makes it possible to produce bioethanol using rice unfit for human consumption and leftover foods. Unlike large-scale equipment, the newly-developed equipment is small and capable of executing five processes that require five tanks in one tank. Because it is small in size, it can be installed in restaurants where leftover foods are available easily. It takes the equipment about 100 hours to process rice and leftover foods to produce ethanol of 40% concentration. The produced ethanol is collected and processed by the distillation and dehydration equipment to produce bioethanol of higher than 99.5% concentration. The bioethanol can be used for cars and disinfectants. This kind of grass-roots effort shows that environment awareness is spreading among ordinary Japanese.

Friday, July 9, 2010

No. 97: Smartphones are supplied to a trucking company (June 10, 2010)

KDDI, one of Japan’s three leading mobile phone carriers, will supply smartphones to Yamato Transport Co. that is Japan’s leader of the door-to-door delivery service. The company will supply 53,000 units to Yamato’s drivers coming October. It plans to expand the market to financial institutions and pharmaceutical companies in the future. This smartphone was developed jointly by KDDI and Toshiba using Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. It allows for wireless communications with other devices and information terminals. That is, the driver can trade payment information wirelessly to settle payment and send information on collection and delivery of goods every 15 minutes automatically. The new product also allows for cloud computing from which the driver can get new functions via the Internet. The driver can use the fingerprint authentification function, and he can delete data by remote control should his smartphone be misplaced. The company is developing smartphones suitable for drug management of pharmaceutical companies and sales activities of salespeople of insurance companies. KDDI’s strategy will motivate other carriers to develop the industrial market for their smartphones.

No. 96: Large electric storage device for power by photovoltaic generation (July 9, 2010)

Panasonic will introduce a large electric storage device for power by photovoltaic generation for housing self-sufficient for power consumed domestically. The housing will be introduced after 2011 in Japan. Eliy Power in which Daiwa House and Sharp invested will build a new plant to produce this electric storage device. The new product is made up of lithium ion battery, power exchanger, and control software. Panasonic will launch a storage system made up of cylindrical cells installed in the notebook PC in 2011. This storage system is almost the same size as the outdoor unit of an air-conditioner. The system has a storage capacity of 6 kW/hour equivalent to half of power requirements of a standard household. It is scheduled to be available for several hundred thousand yen. Currently, photovoltaic generation spreads to about 400,000 households in Japan. It is necessary to increase the number to 6.6 million households at least to realize the country’s objective to reduce global warming gases by 25% compared with the 1995 level by 2020.

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