Saturday, April 30, 2011

No. 271: NEC develops the fundamental technology for graphene (April 30, 2011)

NEC and National Institute for Materials Science jointly developed the fundamental technology to produce the semiconductor material called graphene that has been increasing the presence as a new nanotechnology material lately. The new technology makes it possible to create this ultrathin carbon sheet that weighs as light as an atom on various heat resistant materials. Graphene is strong and highly flexible with small electric resistance. It can apply electric current 10-100 times faster than silicone used for semiconductor chips and hopefully achieve miniaturization required by semiconductor that grows higher in performance every year. The newly developed approach is to heat up liquefied metallic gallium to 1,000 degrees centigrade and dissolve a small amount of carbon that is the raw material of graphene. Subsequently, cool down the resultant product on the substrate to separate out graphene. The research team successfully synthesized graphene on such materials excellent in heat resistance as sapphire, glass, and silicon carbide. Until now, graphene can be synthesized only on such specific materials as copper foil, and it is necessary to peel off the ultrathin film and paste it on the target substrate. The new technology has opened up the possibility of mass producing graphene chips and covering various materials with graphene.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

No. 270: Inexpensive industrial fuel cell (April 27, 2011)

Responding to the growing demand for private power generation, Fuji Electric launched an inexpensive industrial fuel cell, which is offered at half price of the existing model, for hospitals, buildings, and plants. The fuel cell generates power by making oxygen react with hydrogen extracted from city gas and propane gas. Priced at about 80 million yen, the new model has an output of 100 kW. The company successfully realized such a low price by downsizing the existing model by integrating the body with peripherals like waste heat processing equipment. The new model allows a hospital with 300 beds to continue an emergency surgery even if power supply is cut off. It usually uses city gas, and it can keep generating power with the reserved propane gas even if the network of city gas breaks down in a disaster. The company has already spun off the special team of fuel cells to start marketing fuel cells in full swing both at home and abroad.

Monday, April 25, 2011

No. 269: Growing demand for high performance food films (April 26, 2011)

Toppan Printing will buy the business of high performance films from Kureha to cope with the growing demand for high performance food films. Toppan will buy Kureha’s goodwill and intellectual property right of Besela, Kureha’s high performance film, for one billion yen and produce Besela in its plant with licensing of technology. Kureha has excellent technology to prevent seal performance from decreasing even if film is folded, but has only a minimal share in the world market. Taking into consideration the business efficiency, Kureha decided to sell the business to Toppan. Toppan produces high performance films GL Film that prevents oxidation and humidity of food and seals precision components, and has a 40% share in this product line in the world. With the spread of retort pouch foods worldwide, demand for high performance films is growing fast. The world market of high performance food films is estimated at 400 billion yen at present and expected to grow to 600 billion yen in 2015. Toppan plans to develop new products making the best use of Kureha’s technology. Kureha’s decision is totally rational because it is hardly possible for a technology to survive in the world market without a sufficient share in the world market, however excellent it is.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

No. 268: A new product for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (April 25, 2011)

Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) is the technology to separate and store carbon dioxide emitted from manufacturing plants and power plants belowground. It is developing rapidly, and some estimate that more than 100 CCS facilities will be built in 2020 worldwide. Hitachi Zosen successfully developed the filtration equipment using thin films and plans to put it into practical use in 2012. The new product is expected to reduce the running cost by 20% from the existing method that requires special absorption agents and solution. It is a roll filtering machine, and inorganic material called zeolite is applied on its leachy ceramic surface. It is 115 cm long and 1.6 cm in diameter, and can separate 3 kg of carbon dioxide per day. It will cost about 30,000 yen. The customer can decided the number of rolls depending on its requirements. The company has already commercialized zeolite films and accumulated delivery results of the production facilities of plant-derived bioethanol. It modified the synthesis ratio of composition of zeolite including aluminum and silicone and elaborated the structure of crystal of the compound. CCS is expected to reduce 19% of 43 billion tons of carbon dioxide to be reduced by 2050 worldwide, and it is followed by utilization of natural energy, 17%, and utilization of nuclear power plants, 6%.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No. 267: World’s smallest and thinnest sensor for vein authentification (April 21, 2011)

The world’s smallest and thinnest sensor that reads palm vein to authenticate the user has been developed by Fujitsu. It can easily be built in electronics devices for authentification using palm. With the user-friendliness and strong security capability, it is expected to increase the competitiveness of electronic devices. It is 29 mm both in width and depth, and 11.2 mm in height. Besides making the lens thinner, Fujitsu increased the integration degree of the substrate and successfully reduced the volume to less than one third of the existing systems it has developed to make the sensor world’s smallest and thinnest. Fujitsu developed this system in alliance with Fujitsu Frontech, one of its subsidiaries, that develops and builds industrial machinery like ATMs. Featuring the ability to provide a high degree of security without the necessity to input the password or put an ID card, the company will launch notebooks PCs incorporating this authentification system for industrial use shortly. It is planning to put the notebook PCs of this kind on the consumer market too in the future. The world market of sensors that read vein and fingerprint is expected to grow at a rate of 20% on average annually.

Monday, April 18, 2011

No. 266: Low-cost floating type power generation plant on the ocean (April 18, 2011)

A subsidiary of IHI, one of Japan’s leading heavy industries companies, started to develop a wind generation plant on the ocean without a weight. By giving a twist to the floating body, the company plans to halve the introduction cost required to install the existing floating wind generation plant. In alliance with University of Tokyo, IHI Marine United has been conducting experiments using a model about one fiftieth of the actual model, and successfully has paved the way to practical application. The floating body system is in greater demand than the implanted system in Japan because Japan’s home waters are deep, though the former costs two times as much as the latter because it needs a weight. However, IHI’s new technology that employs a highly stable floating body has made it possible to build the floating system at almost the same cost required to build the implanted system. The IHI’s model to be built in the waters about 50-200 meters deep will have an output of around 5,000 kW, and the wings are about 120 meters each. The construction cost is three billion yen, and the company plans to build several tens of plants per year in 2020. It is estimated that power generation on the ocean will reach 5,800,000 kW, which is equivalent to the output of six nuclear power plants, in 2030.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

No. 265: Fabric to absorb iodine in water (April 14, 2011)

KJK that specializes in radiation technology developed fabric that can absorb iodine in water rather efficiently. Using the technology called graft polymerization, the company incorporates the function to make it become attached to iodine into fabric. At present, it only examined the fabric using iodine that does not produce nuclear radiation, but it is confident that the fabric will have the same effect on radioactive iodine. It plans to develop the technology to eliminate iodine from the contaminated water in the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture with the help of the technology it employed to develop this fabric. The graft polymerization is the technology to cut molecules by radiating gamma ray and add another material with a new function to the molecule. KJK added iodine adsorption agent called Glycidyl methacrylate Triethylenediamine (GMA-TEDA). The newly-developed fabric successfully absorbed about 40 g of iodine per kg of fabric in the water containing iodine. Japan Society of Ion Exchange told that the newly-developed fabric has the possibility to be effective for the treatment of the contaminated water because it can absorb iodine rather fast, but he emphasized the necessity to confirm if it can exhibit same function against radioactive iodine.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Japanese High Technology No. 264: Large-scale storage system for scheduled power outage (April 6, 2011)

Facing the possible power shortage due to the disaster of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, all companies concerned are busily occupied with preparing for scheduled power outage. Shin-Kobe Electric Machinery developed a large-scale storage system including a led battery that can be introduced for about 700 million yen for a plant with power requirements up to 2,000 kW. Users can store power at night to prevent plant operation from being interrupted. They can set the time zone of scheduled power outage beforehand, and the storage system recharges and discharges automatically in accordance with the prearranged setups. It comes with the control device and the self-developed led battery that has a life of 17 years, more than six times longer life than that of the conventional model, and the ability to run the system for three hours. The control device allows for efficient usage of direct current and alternate current. The company developed this system for wind generation in 2008, and developed the software for control with haste. It takes three months to take delivery after placing an order, and another one week is needed for installation. The system is being built in its plant in Mie Prefecture that is not subject to scheduled power outage.

Monday, April 4, 2011

No. 263: Light, printable, and foldable next-generation photovoltaic cell (April 5, 2011)

The next-generation photovoltaic cell will be available toward the summer of 2012. Mitsubishi Chemical is scheduled to commercialize a printable photovoltaic cell that weighs one tenth of the existing photovoltaic cell next summer. It can be sheeted and folded. Should it be printed on a car body, the car body will be a photovoltaic cell. It can be applied to the development of generating roofs and roll curtains. The company will collaborate with automakers for the development from now on. The new printable and foldable photovoltaic cell uses carbon and nitrogen in place of silicon as the raw material. Called organic thin-film photovoltaic cell, it is about several hundred nanometers thick and available for printing on a curved surface using the ink-jet system. In the joint research with the University of Tokyo, the research team achieved the conversion efficiency of 9.2% that is the world’s highest for this type of cell, and plans to improve it to 15% currently offered by a photovoltaic cell of the silicon system by 2015. The company plans to sell this next-generation photovoltaic cell to automakers for the charging equipment of electric vehicles and plug-in-hybrid cars. Technological progress is amazingly fast.

Friday, April 1, 2011

No. 262: Producing a synthesized speech on the Internet (April 1, 2011)

You can produce a synthesized speech on the Internet by putting sentences on the website. Toshiba launched the new service named “ToSpeak Online” that comes with two kinds of male voices and three kinds of female voices. You can get instantaneously a high quality voice close to real voice by putting sentences on the Toshiba’s specialized web page. Toshiba developed this software by applying its software for car navigation systems and game software programs. Users can change the tone in accordance with their preference of accent and intonation. The new service can be utilized for the announcement in public facilities, narration for websites, and speech output of e-books. It eliminates the necessity to record voice every time the content is changed in broadcasting announcement for expenditure reduction. Because the service is a cloud service available on the Internet, users do not have to own a specialized server. It is available for a monthly charge starting from 50,000 yen for up to 200,000 letters and for a monthly fixed charge starting from 180,000 yen.