Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No. 289: Home Energy Management System from leading housing companies (June 29, 2011)

Leading housing companies will make substantial efforts to market equipment to analyze energy consumption of household. The equipment collects information on energy consumption via the Internet and makes a comparison of ongoing performance with past performance and the average consumption of a standard household. Advice on energy saving is offered with the equipment. The equipment is called Home Energy Management System. Houses equipped with a photovoltaic generation system have a system to know electricity generated and used, and the function to access to the Internet is added to the existing system for analysis of energy consumption. Misawa Homes will put the equipment to see the consumption of electricity, gas, and water service on the market for about 200,000 yen a unit coming August. The company projects to sell the unit to 2,000 houses this year. Sekisui Chemical will start the serve to give advice on power saving for each season most suitable to each household coming August. This service will be offered for 100,000 yen as the supplementary function to the existing equipment that company launched in spring this year. The company plans to sell 17,000 units this year. Daiwa House adopted the equipment of this kind for the substantiative experiment of its housing with storage battery that the company has been doing since last year.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No. 288: World’s highest voltage superconducting cable (June 23, 2011)

The world’s highest voltage superconducting cable that can resist 275 kilovolts has been developed by Furukawa Electric. The new cable has four times higher performance than the existing cable being marketed by this company, and two times higher performance than the competitive product from Nexans of France. It allows for electric power transmission of 1,500,000 kW that is equivalent to that of a large-scale nuclear power plant or a thermal power plant. Furukawa’s existing cable has the maximum capacity of 66 kilovolts and Nexans’ existing cable 138 kilovolts. Furukawa improved the insulating paper wrapping the wire rods for higher degree of safety. Furukawa specializes in superconducting cables using wire rods containing yttrium, one of rare earthes. The company started the research on the factor technology of the new cable in 2008 as the project entrusted by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization with a research fund of about 300 million yen for three years. Furukawa will start substantiative experiments in alliance with electric power companies both at home and abroad to put it into practical use in 2020. The company projects to achieve sales of 10 billion yen per year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

No. 287: Japanese supercomputer regains the position of the world’s best for the first time in seven years (June 21, 2011)

The next-generation supercomputer under development jointly by RIKEN and Fujitsu rank first in the contest to decide the best supercomputer in the world. Named Kei (10 to the 16th power), this supercomputer will be completed next year. In the performance test, Japan’s latest supercomputer achieved more than three times higher computational capability than the Chinese supercomputer that ranked first in the previous contest. Japan’s supercomputer that ranked first in the world before Kei is the “Earth Simulator” developed by Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. This supercomputer maintained the word’s best position between 2002 and 2004. IBM of the U.S. has been developing a supercomputer comparable to Kei, but the development is behind the schedule. A female Diet member left a very famous phrase in 2009. “Why is it necessary to be the world’s best? Why aren’t you satisfied with the second place?” Possibly this awkward opinion stimulated the development team. Supercomputers are vital to the computation that needs tremendous amount of data processing, such as simulation of car collision and search for new agents for pharmaceuticals. The female Diet member responded to this achievement by saying calmly that the new supercomputer will hopefully be of great help to Japan’s technological development.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

No. 286: Two technologies to null the standby electricity of home electronics (June 16, 2011)

A Tohoku University Professor Hideo Ohno developed a semiconductor that nulls the standby electricity of home electronics like PC and TV set in alliance with NEC. Current home electronics need standby electricity for data detention, and standby electricity is estimated to account for 6% of all power consumption in a household. The professor wishes to put the technology into practical use in five years. He developed a kind of nonvolatile memory to be built in the control circuit of home electronics. This circuit is like the brain that retains indispensable data while the device is in operation. Dealing an electron as s small magnet, the new technology makes it possible to read and write by maneuvering the direction of the magnet. It enables you to retain data even if you turn off the current. Toshiba also developed a semiconductor that nulls the standby electricity. Named Eco Chip, it has the function to take off the relay circuit connected to the AC outlet while the device is in the idle mode. The power stored in the capacitor while the device is in operation is supplied to the Eco Chip, and subsequently to the relay circuit. The capacitor will start to be charged in 12 hours after the device is in the idle mode. The Eco Chip consumes only one tenth as much power as the existing semiconductor. It will be built in Toshiba’s Blu-ray video recorders to be put on the market within the year.

Friday, June 10, 2011

No. 285: A Japanese robot goes to Fukushima (June 10, 2011)

Tokyo Electric Power decided to use the robot developed by a research team led by Chiba Institute of Technology for the jobs in the Fukushima Plant. The robot will go inside the contaminated buildings to collect the contaminated water and measure the water level. Named Quince, it was developed jointly by Chiba Institute of Technology, Tohoku University, and International Rescue System Institute. It is 1 m long and 50 cm wide. It is a wire remote control robot, and the operator navigates it on the screen of a PC. It can rise and fall a staircase because it climbs over a steep slope and a 40-cm bump by swinging the four caterpillar tracks. The robot is scheduled to film the inside of the buildings besides collecting contaminated water and measuring the water level using the arm. It can operate for several hours even in the place where workers cannot work because the radiation dosage is such a high degree of about 20 sievert per hour. The robot will be shipped to Fukushima in a few days. Tokyo Electric Power is currently using American robots to measure radiation dosage in the Fukushima Plant, and Quince is the first Japanese robot to work there.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

No. 284: Final test of the efficient integrated gasification combined cycle in July (June 6, 2011)

The final text of the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) 20% more efficient than the existing system will start shortly. Located in Fukushima Prefecture, Clean Coal Power Research Institute founded jointly by 10 electric power companies will start the final test of its system coming July. The test to verify the durability and economic potential is scheduled for March 2013. The demonstration system has a capacity of 250,000 kW enough to supply electricity for about 100,000 households. The IGCC drives the gas turbine by burning coal gas, creates steam using the exhaust heat after burning, and runs the steam turbine using the created steam and the steam inside the furnace of coal gasification. The new system has 20% higher generation efficiency with 20% smaller amount of carbon dioxide emissions. In the demonstration test between Sept. 2007 and Mar. 2011, the company successfully achieved the running time of 5,000 hours and the generation efficiency of 42%. In the final test, it aims for the running time between 6,000-7,000 hours that is equivalent to 70-80% of the annual operation rate. Maintenance cost will also be studied. The demonstration system was damaged by the great earthquake, but the maintenance is expected to end mid-July.