Tuesday, October 26, 2010

No. 181: Technology to collect phosphorus from sewage (October 26, 2010)

Toshiba Corp. developed the technology to collect phosphorus from sewage to reuse it as fertilizer. Japan depends totally on import for phosphorus that is the major raw material of chemical fertilizer. The new technology can recycle phosphorus in effluent at a low cost. The company plans to build a recovery unit for trial to put the technology into practical use in the water treatment business. The absorbent used for collection is made of the substance containing calcium and iron. It sorbs phosphorus and collects nearly the whole amount of phosphorus in the sewage. Used absorbents can be used as fertilizer. Toshiba will do the substantiative experiment in the sewage plant, and sell the absorbent and the recovery unit. The collection cost is estimated to be higher than the import price of phosphate rocks, but the technology will be an effective measure for water pollution and resource depletion. Demand for phosphorus is expanding quite rapidly because of the increased food production worldwide, and the price of phosphorus is several times higher than it was five years ago. It is estimated that about 10% of 55,000 tons of imported phosphorus is discharged in effluent to cause red tides.
Related web page: http://www.toshiba.co.jp/tech/review/2008/12/63_12pdf/rd01.pdf

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No. 180: A robot table tennis player (October 25, 2010)

Professors of Nara Institute of Science and Technology developed a robot table tennis player who develops the skill by learning the idiosyncrasies of the opponent. A man who carries the sensor is the opponent, and the robot estimates the position of the returned table tennis ball by analyzing how he swings the racket to increase the probability of hitting back the ball. The system is made up of a robot arm, a PC for information processing, two cameras, and a sensor to be worn by the opponent. The camera instantly knows the orbit of the ball hit by the opponent, and the PC analyzes the orbit together with the data of the opponent’s moves, and estimates the orbit and let the robot swing the racket. Although the area to which the robot can hit the ball is limited because he cannot move as fast as a man, he successfully hit back about 70% of balls that were returned to the area about 20 cm around the racket. Experienced table tennis players have their own idiosyncrasies in their moves of the neck, shoulders, and wrists because they developed their own shapes of the swing. It is 20% easier to estimate the orbit of the ball hit by an experience player than by an inexperienced payer. The developers plan to apply this technology to an industrial robot.
Related web page: http://www.naist.jp/en/

Friday, October 22, 2010

No. 179: Culture algae using industrial effluent (October 23, 2010)

JFE Engineering and Tsukuba University plan to culture algae using industrial effluent to produce bio fuel. In the experiment, they successfully increased the amount of algae, which can become a raw material of fat and oil, by more than two times than the existing method even in the industrial effluent that contains too much organic substances. The experimental success indicates that it will become possible to use the sewage disposal facilities as the culture apparatus at a low cost, eliminating the necessity to build a large-scale special storage tank. Culturing algae is not widespread because of the high cultural cost, but the two organizations opened up the way how to culture algae at a low cost. They are scheduled to quintuple the production efficiency of bio fuel in about three years for industrialization. They will shortly build a small-sized experiment system inside the plant of JFE Engineering to construct a fuel production system that can produce 50 liters bio fuel for each one-square-meter water tank annually.
Related web page: http://kevin67.cocolog-nifty.com/blog/2010/07/post-5727.html

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No. 178: Buoy-type robot for tracking oil spill on the ocean (October 18, 2010)

Port and Airport Research Institute in Japan developed a buoy-type robot that tracks oil spill created by a tanker accident and tells the location of the spilled oil in collaboration of Naomi Kato, professor of Osaka University. It travels side by side an oil spill that expands because of wind and drift of the tide with the help of the specialized sail and visual sensor. Tracking by this robot is less costly than the observation by airplane. The robot is about 60 cm in diameter, and it carries a sail and a visual sensor. The visual sensor detects wind velocity, wind direction, and azimuth direction, and knows the location of the spilled oil using GPS. In the demonstrative experiment, the buoy-type robot successfully moved along the spill of oil. It can be used for continuous monitoring of oilfields. The research institute and the university professor plan to install the driving mechanism that can adjust the robot’s position autonomously. The driving mechanism is scheduled to look like a fish fin.
Related web page: http://www.pari.go.jp/english/index.htm

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No. 177: Use brain science to know the real intention of consumers (October 12, 2010)

Dainippon Printing, a leading printing company, and Asatsu-DK, a leading ad agency, will collaborate to develop the marketing approach using brain science. The two companies will address the approach that tells how much advertising and packaging attract consumers by analyzing their psychological state, and put it into practical use toward next spring. They will visualize consumers’ real intention that the questionnaire can hardly detect for better advertising messages and product appearances. The approach is based on the idea that harder the specific part of the brain activates, the more the consumer get interested in the product. Dainippon Printing developed light-weight and low-impact brain wave measurement equipment in collaboration with a professor of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. The company wishes to combine the technology with Asatsu-DK’s know-how on advertising and promotion method, and offer the service that covers from survey to consulting on improvement to companies. It will soon start an experimental survey with 120 examinees and publish the survey results in December to show the effectiveness of its integrated approach.
Related web page: http://www.adk.jp/english/index.html

Sunday, October 10, 2010

No. 176: Carbon fibers for the autobody of production vehicles (October 11, 2010)

Toray Industries, leader of the world carbon fiber market, will start to ship carbon fibers to Toyota and Fuji Heavy for their production vehicles. No Japanese production vehicles have ever employed carbon fibers for the autobody. Toyota will employ carbon fibers to the hood and roof of its luxury sports car Lexus LFA scheduled for production coming December. Toyota is diversifying materials for its cars from two viewpoints of weight saving and environment measures. It has already employed polycarbonate resin for the window and plans to increase the ratio of carbon fiber judging from cost effectiveness and craft-friendliness. Fuji Heavy will start to sell carbon fiber roofs as the option part for its sporty cars. Toray established the new manufacturing technology that can halve the mold cost in shaping carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is more than 20 times as more expensive as steel, but the new technology successfully reduced the difference to five times. As steel plate is growing higher in price, the cost difference between steel plate and carbon fiber is growing smaller. Vehicles currently account for less than 1% of carbon fiber shipments, but a new market of 30,000 tons, which is equivalent to the present total demand for carbon fiber, will be created if the application of carbon fibers to the autobody grows widespread. Three Japanese companies have a combined share of 73% in the world market. Toray is the leader with a 34% share, followed by Mitsubishi Rayon with a 20% share and Toho Tenax with a 19% share.
Related web page: http://www.toray.co.jp/

No. 175: Technology to increase the cleansing precision by 100 times (October 10, 2010)

Dainippon Screen developed the technology to increase the cleaning precision of cleaning equipment in the semiconductor manufacturing process by about 100 times. The technology equalizes water drops to clean semiconductor substrates to clean the state-of-the-art semiconductor circuits of 30 nano wide each without damaging them. The water drop is 15-30 micrometers in diameter, and the speed is 10-50 meters per second. The equipment splashes several tens of million water drops per second to clean semiconductor circuits. It is possible to control the size of the water drop down to the micrometer and the speed down to the meter per second. The existing cleaning equipment splashes nebulized water that contains nitrogen gas, and the diameter of a water drop fluctuates between 10-100 micrometers and the speed fluctuates between 10-90 meters, making it rather hard to control them uniformly. That is, increased speed to improve cleaning effect may destroy the circuit. Currently the yield of the state-of-the-art semiconductors circuits of 30 nano wide each is at most 50%. Dainippon’s newly developed technology is expected to increase the yield greatly. The company already built a prototype and plans to put the product on the market early next year.
Related web page: http://www.screen.co.jp/index.html