Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No. 300: The capacity of a hard disc drive increases six times (September 1, 2011)

Toshiba developed the magnetic reproducing head technology that increases the recording capacity about six times without modifying the existing production process greatly. The company confirmed that the technology read the information written in a density of 2.5 terabits per square inch correctly. It plans to put the technology into practical use toward 2014. It said that it could theoretically increase the density up to 5.0 terabits per square inch. Toshiba elaborated the existing structure that the metal layers sandwich the thin insulating film in collaboration with a Tohoku University professor Masashi Sahashi. The research team created lots of holes one nanometer in diameter each in the insulating film and made the metals on the both sides penetrate part of the insulating film to increase the sensitivity. This technology makes it possible to read information written closely in a small area. The magnetic reproducing head that can read information written in a density of 0.75 terabit is widespread now, and the existing technology allows up to 2 terabits per square inch. This is an achievement of the project organized by NEDO, and the research results will be made public in the academic meeting in the U.S.

Monday, August 29, 2011

No. 299: Generation efficiency of a photovoltaic cell increases to 18% (August 30, 2011)

A research team made up of Kyoto University and Tohoku University developed the technology to increase the generation efficiency of the multicrystalline silicon photovoltaic cell to 18%, 2% higher than that of the existing product on the market. Multicrystalline silicon photovoltaic cells are the major player for photovoltaic cells for housing because they are inexpensive and because multicrystalline silicon is easy to make. The research team successfully developed the production technology to increase the generation efficiency by making silicon crystals free from strain. A crystal of 10 cm square realized the efficiency of 18.2%. The production process and production cost are estimated to remain the same as those of the existing product. It plans to build trial equipment for the production in alliance with Dai-Ichi Kiden in Tokyo in two years and explore the possibility of commercial viability. The research team believes that the new technology has the potential to increase the generation efficiency to 20%. One year is reportedly required to increase the generation efficiency by 0.1%, and all companies involved in the photovoltaic business are in the midst of tough competition.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

No. 298: A university professor succeeds in electric generation using ultrasound (August 22, 2011)

A Tohoku University professor and his graduate student developed the technology to generate electricity using sound in alliance with Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany. In experiments, Professor Eiji Saito and his graduate student attached an ultrasound generator to a film made up of ferrioxide and yttrium, and transmitted sound with frequency of about 5 mega Hz to the film. The surface of a magnetic material, which is 6 mm long and 2 mm wide, vibrated with amplitude of 5 nano to generate electricity of about 100 nano volts. They found that when the sound came in the magnetic material, electrons inside it created a flow of tiny magnet and generated electricity. It is expected that 2-3 volts will be attainable should the area of the film be expanded in four directions 800 times to 10 cm square with the same amplitude. They plan to use sound sources other than ultrasound to explore the practicality of their technology. In the future, it may be possible to develop a new element that can generate electricity using sound nearby by attaching it to the wall and floor. The research results are to be published in the August 22 issue of Nature Materials of Great Britain.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No. 297: Mass production technology of algae for biofuel (August 18, 2011)

DIC, one of the Japanese leading chemical companies, and Tsukuba University have started joint research to develop the technology for mass production of algae for biofuel. The two organizations plan to finish the development toward 2013. Biofuel of algal origin attracts wide attention because it does not face such a fierce competition between food demand and fuel demand as biofuel of corn origin. They will develop the know-how on mass production using DIC’s culturing technology of algae for food colorants. The alga used for the joint research is botryococcus braunii, and they will develop the method to culture botryococcus braunii in volume outdoors. Tsukuba University dispatched its researchers to DIC’s subsidiary in California, Earthrise Nutritionals (EN), to conduct culturing experiments in EN’s production ponds. Tsukuba University has established the technology to extract and refine oil from algae to produce biofuel. The university is currently culturing algae in the laboratory, but reducing the cost through mass production is the critical factor for practical application. DIC started to produce a kind of algae, spirulina, in the U.S. in 1974. It has the capacity to produce 1,000 tons of spirulina per year.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No. 296: Decrease the room temperature inside a plant only by natural ventilation (August 11, 2011)

A construction company developed the building technology to decrease the room temperature inside a plant by about 10 degrees centigrade only by natural ventilation. Sumitomo Mitsui Construction worked out the system that takes outer air cooled down by the humidification and refrigeration function by water sprinkling and emits the hot air inside the plant through the exhaust smoke stack. This system is designed for medium-sized manufacturing companies. It installs a louver made up of horizontally-aligned sloping boards in the air supply side. The humidification and refrigeration function created by the water sprinkling near the louver cools down the air inside the plant, and the cooled air goes down to decrease the temperature of the work area. At the same time, the hot air goes up accordingly, and will be discharged automatically through the exhaust smoke stack heated by the exhaust heat of the plant. The work area of cardboard manufacturing plants is as high as 40 degrees centigrade in summer, and the new technology successfully decreased it to 33 degrees centigrade. The construction cost is 15 million yen for a medium-sized plant with an area of 1,500 square meters. It takes about a week to install the system.

Friday, August 5, 2011

No. 295: Measure the radiation dose of foods in package in 12 seconds (August 5, 2011)

It is currently necessary to cut such fresh foods as vegetables, meats, and fish products into pieces to measure their radiation dose, and this process takes several tens of minutes. A device that can measure the radiation dose of fresh foods in 12 seconds without opening the package has been developed by Fuji Electric. The company is scheduled to put the device on the market coming September for companies and organizations involved in food marketing, such as food distributors, agricultural cooperatives, and fisheries cooperatives. It is priced at 4.3 million yen. The newly-developed device can measure cesium and iodine for the amount that exceeds the tentative regulation value for food that is 500 becquerels per kilogram. Alarm is activated when it detects the amount that exceeds the tentative regulatory value. The system puts two highly sensitive sensors in two points and measures the radiation dose of packaged foods while they are running between the two points. With this device, it has become possible to measure 200 cardboard boxes per hour continuously. The company applied the technology used in the highly sensitive radiation does measuring device for hospitals to food evaluation. This kind of device is expected to be launched one after another.