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.
Related web page:

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.
Related web page: http://www.nec.com/

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.
Related web page: http://www.showa-shell.co.jp/english/index.html

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No. 182: Water-resistant cardboard box to ship tuna (November 8, 2010)

Oji Paper, one of Japan’s leading paper companies, developed a water-resistant cardboard box to ship big fish like tuna with ice in collaboration with Kinki University that has been making strenuously efforts to establish a system for complete farming of tunas. The newly-developed cardboard box hardly sorbs water and can contain a heavy load up to 100 kg. A standard cardboard box absorbs 300 grams water for every square meter and loses shape if it is immersed in water for 30 minutes, but this new cardboard box absorbs only 3 grams of water even if it is immersed in water for 30 minutes and bears 2.5 tons for every square meter. The company applied special synthetic resin to the multilayer paperboard that hardly absorbs water. It examined the durability and usability of this new cardboard box with Kinki University. This water-resistant cardboard box will be put on the market at nearly the same price of polystyrene foam. Wooden boxes and polystyrene foam boxes are widespread to ship big fish, but the new water-resistant cardboard boxes can replace them because they can be easily fabricated in the field and recycled as used paper.
Related web page: http://www.ojipaper.co.jp/english/index.html