Saturday, September 29, 2012

No. 623: Successful development of the world’s smallest inductor (September 29, 2012)

TDK successfully developed the world’s smallest inductor that is the power supply circuit coil. The new inductor is 1.6 mm deep, 0.8 mm wide, and 1 mm high. It has 40% smaller volume than the existing products. It is 30 yen per piece and available in four sizes. The company has already started the mass production with a monthly capacity of 30 million pieces. It plans to increase the monthly production capacity to 100 million pieces by March 2013 and 200 million pieces by the end of 2013.

TDK employed a metallic material for the center core and applied the semiconductor production technology and utilized the technology to create coil wiring that can pass a minute and high electric current through a metal thin film. Applying a metallic material with a strong magnetic force to the center core makes it possible to built a small power supply circuit that can take out a large electric current.   
The world’s smallest inductor developed by TDK

Thursday, September 27, 2012

No. 622: Paper solar cell (September 27, 2012)

A research team led by Masaya Nogi of Osaka University developed paper that can generate electricity when irradiated. The research members combined wood pulp with a generating material made of ultrafine silver wiring and an organic substance. They thinned the fiber of wood pulp to 15 nanometers that is one third of the thickness of the existing wiring, and made a transparent paper sheet. Using the printing technology, they applied the organic substance that converts light into electricity and silver wiring that recovers electricity to the sheet. 

The trial paper solar cell is 2 cm deep, 5 mm wide, and 1 mm thick, and capable of lighting a bulb. The conversion efficiency from light to electricity is 3%, much lower than the existing solar cell used for photovoltaic generation. Because the printing technology is used to make this paper cell, applying a temperature higher than 300 degrees centigrade is necessary in the production process. However, the paper solar cell does not need large equipment for production, nor does it need so much energy as the existing cell for production. The new solar cell is foldable and superior to plastic in workability. The research team plans to put the paper solar cell into practical use in three years. They have already developed a technology to print an antenna on the sheet.  

A paper solar cell developed by a research 
team led by Masaya Nogi of Osaka University

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

No. 621: IHI and GE ally to develop a jet engine for business jets (September 26, 2012)

Business trend:
IHI allies with GE to develop a jet engine for business jets. IHI will be responsible for about 30% of total development and production. IHI will be asked to develop major parts including low-pressure turbine utilizing its advanced technology to develop light-weight and high-intensity parts. Kawasaki Heavy will also participate in the project. The engine on which IHI will work is the Passport 20 that Bombardier of Canada has already decided to employ.

The development is scheduled to end in 2015, and the new engine is expected to improve fuel consumption by 10-20%. The world business jet market in 2011 was about 17,000 jets, and it is estimated to grow three times to 50,000 in 2031 thanks to the growing demand in Asia and the Middle East. 

 GE’s Passport 20 jet engine 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

No. 620: Optical fiber capable of transmitting 5,000 movies in one second (September 21, 2012)

NTT, Fujikura, and Technical University of Denmark developed an optical fiber that can transmit pet bits per second that is 1,000 times more information that the current optical fiber can transmit. That is, the new optical fiber can transmit 5,000 high-vision movies in one second. The three organizations reached the peta level for the first time in the world.

Theoretically, it is possible to increase the volume of information to transmit by increasing the passages of light, but the problem is that passages affect each other adversely. The research members from the three organizations developed an optical fiber that has 12 passages by improving their arrangement. The volume of information transmitted on the Internet increased 10 times in the past 10 years. The development of an optical fiber capable of transmitting a large volume of information is urgently desired.  

Fujikura’s Optical Cabling System for Data Center

No. 619: Commercializing portable fuel cells (September 20, 2012)

Rohm, Kyoto University, and Aquafairy that is a venture company in Kyoto will jointly commercialize portable fuel cells toward next spring. They developed a light, inexpensive, and safe hydrogen generator. They will launch a portable generator and a credit-card size charger by combining a fuel cell with the newly developed hydrogen generator. The output is 5 W. The fuel cell is 50 g, and the disposable cartridge that contains fuel is 23 g. Named “Mobile Aqua,” the portable fuel cell will be used for charging a smartphone as shown in the photo on the left and for an emergency power source.  

The left photo is the high output type called “High Power Aqua” that has an output of 200 W. The new technology is to react water with a sheet-like calcium compound mixed with resin and generate a large amount of hydrogen safely. The sheet-like calcium compound is combined with a small solid high-molecular form fuel cell. Because the new fuel celll does not contain toxic substances, it will be a burnable waste. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

No. 618: Sumitomo Rubber goes to Turkey (September 19, 2012)

Business trend:
Sumitomo Rubber will build a plant to produce automobile tires in Turkey with an investment of 40 billion yen. The construction will start in 2013, and the plant will go into operation in 2014 or 2015. This is Sumitomo’s first plant in Turkey. The company currently exports to Europe and the Middle East from Japan. It will establish a joint venture company with a Turkish local company. This plan is to increase the efficiency of logistics besides avoiding the risk caused by high yen. The Turkish government has been promoting a policy to stimulate investments from abroad to develop its domestic industry.

Thanks to the growing demand for automobile tires in foreign countries, Sumitomo’s domestic plants are operating nearly at full capacity. Sumitomo Rubber is building a plant in Brazil that is scheduled to go into operation in October 2013. Bridgestone is already producing tires in Turkey and scheduled to make another investment, and the Yokohama Rubber has started producing tires in Russia. Japanese tire makers are expanding their markets to newly industrialized countries where the car market is growing fast. 

Introduction of Sumitomo Rubbers’ booth 
in the Tokyo Motor Show in 2011

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

No. 617: Successful development of a diode with world’s smallest power loss (September 18, 2012)

Bellnix that specializes in semiconductor parts successfully developed a diode characterized by world’s smallest power loss. The company reduced the power loss of the new diode to 0.08 volt, one-seventh of the power loss of the schottky barrier diode assumed to have the world’s smallest power loss at present. Because a diode is a semiconductor element that applies electric current in one direction, it is used for the prevention of backflow and rectification. It loses a certain amount of power when electric current is applied. That is, the smaller the power loss is, the higher the energy efficiency is. Besides, no measures for heat releases are required.

Bellnix succeeded in minimizing the power loss by applying its original circuit technology. The new diode is 20% more expensive than the existing diode, but it does not need a radiator plate. Thanks to low power loss, it will help lengthen the travel distance of an e-vehicle and increase the generation efficiency of a photovoltaic generation panel. It will be put on the market in October. 

Demonstration of a digitally controlled helicopter by Bellnix

Sunday, September 16, 2012

No. 616: Successful development of a system to estimate rainfall over the next 15 hours more precisely (September 17, 2012)

A research team of the University of Tokyo developed a system to estimate expected rainfall more precisely. By analyzing big data, the system can estimate rainfall over the next 15 hours inside Japan. The researchers reckon that it can prevent a flood through appropriate discharge of water from the dam in the case of typhoon and localized torrential rain. They plan to start the substantiative experiment within the year and put the system into practical use in 1-2 years.

The system uses meteorological data from around the world that include images from radars and meteorological satellites. The volume of data it collects automatically is equivalent to more than 250,000 DVDs. It can estimate worldwide weather and rainfall in points around the world precisely. In addition, it can estimate the change of flow volume of rivers using such information as rainfall, water capacity, and geography for the control of multiple dams in the watershed. The researchers tried the new system by reproducing the flood caused by a river in the Kanto district in 2002 and found that the flood could have been prevented if discharge had started earlier because the new system could have been able to decrease the water volume of the river at peak hour by 10%.  

Integration and merger of global observation and predicted data

Saturday, September 15, 2012

No. 615: Developing parts and materials to thin a smartphone is accelerating (September 15, 2012)

Apple’s iPhone 5 will make a debut on September 21 in nine countries including the U.S. and Japan. As Apple introduced a new model, iPhone became thinner. The initial model launched in 2007 was 12 mm thick, but the 4S launched last year was 9 mm thick. The competitive edge of a smartphone is the weight and thickness besides the functions it provides to users, and 40% of parts and materials of a smartphone is developed by Japanese companies. Teijin dispersed carbon fiber wrapped by nickel evenly inside the resin used for an exterior part and increased the ability to prevent the leakage of electromagnetic wave by 50%.

Meiko Electronics developed a technology to shape a copper film thinner than 0.1 micrometer on a resin film to be used as the base of a flexible printed board. With this technology, a flexible printed board can be 30% thinner. The company pasted the copper film on the resin film using a special material called molecular junction agent. The new technology decreases the power consumption to a quarter and the number of working processes. Taiyo Yuden developed a laminated ceramic coil as small as 0.3 mm wide and 0.6 mm deep, and Murata Mfg decreased the volume of a laminated ceramic capacitor to one fourth to 0.125 mm wide and 0.25 mm deep. The competition to develop a technology to help a smartphone thinner and lighter is intensifying. 

Flexible printed boards 

Friday, September 14, 2012

No. 614: Japan’s largest LED floodlight from Toppan (September 14, 2012)

Toppan Printing will launch Japan’s largest floodlight that uses LEDs within this month. The new LED floodlight has achieved the brightness of 2,000 W generated by a mercury lamp at 700 W. It can conserve power consumption up to 65% in the same brightness. Although it is more expensive than a mercury lamp, the energy-saving effect makes it possible to collect the investment in 3-5 years.

Power Eco Japan that is a specialist in floodlights developed this new product with Hyundai LED of Korea, and Toppan Cosmo will market it. A total of 40 models will be put on the market. All the 40 models have the diffusion effect provided by light diffusion lens or mirrors as a glare protection measure. Because this measure eliminates the influence of the straight light specific LED, they can be installed in sport facilities hesitant to the introduction of an LED floodlight. 

Toppan’s new LED floodlight can be installed in 
sports facilities thanks to its glare protection measure. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No. 613: Developing materials for better performance of organic thin film solar cells is accelerating (September 13, 2012)

The development of new materials to increase the performance of organic solar cells is accelerating because the printing technology makes it possible to produce organic thin film solar cells at a very competitive cost. Toshiba developed a material that utilizes long wave light left unutilized for power generation. The new material prevents electrons generated by light from going out halfway by eliminating surface irregularities created in the process to print the power generation part. Toshiba built a trial organic thin film solar cell using this new material. The trial cell that is 5 cm square has a generating efficiency of 7.7%, about 1.5 times higher than the generating efficiency of the existing products. Toshiba wishes to increase the generating efficiency to 10% necessary for commercialization in two years.

Kyoto University’s Shinzaburo Ito and Hideo Ohkita developed a cell by combining two kinds of organic materials - one is liable to become positive if it gets light and the other tends to collect negative electrons - to increase the voltage to be generated. In addition, they allowed the new material to absorb more light by enlarging its molecule. Because the newly developed cell does not need expensive and precious materials, it can be produced at a lower cost than the existing products. The trial product is 3 mm in diameter and its generating efficiency is as low as 2.7%, but they are confident that they will increase the efficiency to 10% by improving its electrode.

An organic thin film cell is expected to be mass produced at a cost one third of a silicone cell, making the generation cost comparable to the generation cost of nuclear power generation. It can generate even with the room lighting besides being light and soft. Japanese companies involved in the development of organic thin film cell are busily occupied with improving printing technology and microfabrication technology in addition to developing new materials. 

A 5 cm square organic thin film cell Toshiba built on trial. It has a generating capacity of 7.7%, currently the world’s highest generating capacity of this size.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

No. 612: Growing demand for wind generation raises the price of carbon fibers (September 12, 2012)

Business trend: 
Toray will raise the price of its carbon fibers for industrial purposes by 10-20% from 27 dollars to higher than 30 dollars per kg coming October. The price increase is due to the growing demand for windmills of wind generators. Because demand for wind generation is expected to double in five years, the company wishes to increase the profitability by the price hike for growth investment. Production of carbon fiber is estimated at 37,000 tons worldwide, of which Toray accounts for 40%. Three Japanese companies of Toray, Teijin, and Mitsubishi Rayon have a combined share of 70% in the world market. It is likely that Teijin and Mitsubishi Rayon will follow suit.

The windmills of wind generation will grow in size to be several tens of meters each, carbon fibers will in greater demand because of its lightweight and excellent strength. Carbon fiber is one quarter of iron in weight and 10 times stronger than iron. Plans to build an off-shore wind generation plant are announced one after another in Japan after the introduction of the system to purchase renewable energy at fixed pries in July this year. Because Toray plans to increase the production capacity of carbon fiber by 50% by 2015, it invested 45 billion yen in Japan and France. Global Wind Energy Council predicts that the construction of wind power generation facilities will increase 13% over the previous year in 2012. Wind generation is expected to have a capacity of 500 gigwatts worlwide in 2016, about two times of the capacity in 2011.   

Windmills made of Toray’s carbon fiber. Toray will raise the price of its carbon fiber in October to increase profitability for growth investment, and Teijin and Mitsubishi Rayon will presumably follow suit.

Monday, September 10, 2012

No. 611: A car-mounted water purification system (September 11, 2012)

Metawater launched a car-mounted water purification system. A truck loaded with this system can create drinking water from turbid water and supply daily life water for about 3,700 people. In the initial stage, the company will ship the system to Kenya, Malawi, and Togo. The company was founded because of the merger between the water-related divisions of Fuji Electric and NGK Insulators. 

Because the truck carries a generator and the water purification system, it can purify water even in areas without electricity. The purification system uses a ceramic membrane for filtration, and can filter up to 75 tons of water per day. Because the membrane is ultrafine, it can eliminate bacterial and protozoa. This car-mounted system is priced at 35 million yen.  
Metawater’s ceramic membrane filtration system
The movie that introduces Metawater's water purification system 

No. 610: Producing hydrogen from sewage sludge (September 10, 2012)

A total of four companies have launched a project to produce hydrogen from sewage sludge for fuel-cell vehicles. They are Mitsui Chemical, Toyota Tsusho, Daiwa Lease, and Japan Blue Energy that has a technology to produce hydrogen from biomass including sewage sludge. Toyota and Daiwa House support this project. The four companies have already started substantiative experiments.

They are working on a technology to recover hydrogen from sewage sludge using heated metal balls. The balls are made of highly thermally-conductive oxidized aluminum for effective utilization of heat inside the plant. The new technology emits 75% less CO2 than the existing technology to recover hydrogen from liquefied natural gas (LNG). Currently, producing hydrogen using fossil fuels like LNG is widespread, but a technology to reduce the production cost is urgently desired. The four companies plan to get the technology in operation in 2015. 

The Blue Tower of Japan Blue Energy

Sunday, September 9, 2012

No. 609: Fuji Xerox goes to Vietnam to satisfy the growing demand for printers in Asia (September 8, 2012)

Business trend:
Fuji Xerox will build a new plant to manufacture multi-function printers and A4 printers in Vietnam with an investment of 9 billion yen. The new plant will start operation in November 2013 with an annual production capacity of 700,000 units, and the annual production capacity will increase to 2 million units by 2015. It will have an area of 170,000 square meters and the total floor space will be 46,000 square meters, employ 700 workers. It will be built in Hai-phong in the north part of Vietnam.

Unlike in advanced countries where multi-function printers are dominant, demand for low-priced small printers, especially for A4 printers, is growing rapidly in newly industrialized countries. Although Fuji Xerox has focused on industrial market, it is hastily expanding the market for small printers. Other Japanese business machine manufacturers are also increasing the presence in Vietnam. Canon has been operating a printer plant in Hanoi since 2002, and will build a new plant in the Philippines in 2013. Richo built a plant in Thailand to export printers worldwide from Thailand. The moves of these Japanese business machine manufactures are part of the strategy to diversify the production base to avoid the risk of overconcentration in China. The strategy of the three companies is quite reasonable. As economy grows, demand for more expensive and higher performance machines will automatically grows. Who predicted the advent of a paperless society?   

Fuji Xerox builds a plant in Vietnam to satisfy the 
growing demand for small printers in Asia and Russia. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

No. 608: Japanese companies increase presence in the water business abroad (September 7, 2012)

Business trend:
Hitachi will start to operate an IT-based water management system in Republic of Maldives in the Indian Sea. The company already invested in the water and sewerage company in Maldives to supply an efficient water management service to Maldives’ islands. Hitachi Plant Technology acquired the China’s state-owned water management company jointly with a Chinese local company and participated in the water management service in China. Toshiba will collaborate with Siemens of Germany to build an IT-based next-generation network of water supply. The company will participate in the substantiative experiment of the water service system adopted by the European Union in Italy and Romania.

Global Water Recyclingand Reuse System Association will help Japanese companies and local government expand business in foreign countries. Japanese high technology keeps the water leakage at less than 5%. The world water business is expected to increase from 36 trillion yen in 2007 to 86.5 trillion yen in 2025. Water supply is 38.8 trillion yen, sewage treatment 35.5 trillion yen, seawater desalination 4.4 trillion, water supply and sewage treatment of plants 5.7 trillion yen, and reuse water 2.1 trillion yen. 

 The fantastic world of Maldives

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No. 607: Japanese equipment goes to Russia to construct the world’s largest pulp mill (September 6, 2012)

Business trend: 
Marubeni is scheduled to get an order for constructing the world’s largest pulp mill from Russian for about 280 billion yen. The construction will start in the spring of 2013 and full-scale operation will start late 2017. The plant will be constructed in Krasnoyarsk in the central part of Russia. It will have an annual production capacity of 900,000 tons for paper manufacturing and 300,000 tons for fiber production. The total annual capacity of 1,200,000 tons is equivalent to 5% of the trade volume of softwood pulp worldwide. It is planned to ship 80% of pulp produced by the new plant to Asia including Japan.

Marubeni will adopt Japanese equipment for generation turbines using biomass fuel, effluent treatment facilities, and control systems featured by high environmental performance and cost competitiveness. Because Japan currently relies on North America and North Europe for softwood pulp, the Russian plant will help Japanese paper companies reduce production cost. The Japanese intention agrees with Russian intention because Russia has mostly been exporting lumber. Softwood pulp is stronger than hardwood pulp, it is vital for the production of wrapping paper and paper bags. Japanese investment in Russia has been growing. Japan and Russia are expected to agree with the cooperation to construct a base for the development of liquefied natural gas resources in Vladivostok in the APEC 2012 scheduled for this month. 

Krasnoyarsk in the central part of Russia where world’s largest pulp mill will be constructed under Marubeni’s initiative. The new pulp mill will have a combined production capacity of 1,200,000 tons per year for paper manufacturing and fiber production.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

No. 606: The image of the new Shinkansen bullet train is unveiled (September 5, 2012)

East Japan Railway and West Japan Railway unveiled the image of the new Shinkansen bullet train for the new Shinkansen Line being constructed in the Hokuriku district that is scheduled into operation in 2014. Besides the streamline shape of the body, it has a very sophisticated interior design featured by harmony. In the interview, president of East Japan Railway emphasized the integration between the traditional beauty and the state-of-the-art technology of Japan.

A train of 12 cars has the maximum speed of 260 km/h. The braking ability is improved by 10% as a measure for earthquake. The new bullet train can travel between Tokyo and Kanazawa of the Hokuriku district in about 2 and half hours. Japan can be proud of its highly sophisticated railway technology both in hardware and software. It is hardly possible for foreigners to believe that the average delay of a Tokaido Shinkansen train between Tokyo and Osaka for a distance of 550 km is merely one tenth of a minute. That is, it is merely 6 seconds. In the busy hours, more than 10 bullet trains are traveling at 250 km/h simultaneously on the same 550 km-long rail. No fatal accident due to poor operation management has occurred since the inauguration in 1964. Amazing!

The image of the new Shinkansen bullet train for the Hokuriku Shinkansen Line


The image of the gorgeous interior design featured by the integration between the traditional beauty and state-of-the-art technology of Japan

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

No. 605: A new unmanned underwater robot competent enough to avoid a collision (September 4, 2012)

It takes three days for an existing unmanned underwater robot to survey an area of 5 km square because operating more than one unmanned robot simultaneously may cause a collision between robots. Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding will develop an unmanned underwater robot that can avoid a collision with another robot toward the end of this year. The new robot with highly advanced built-in sensors can cover an area of 5 km square alone in one day without the fear of collision.

Mitsui’s robot automatically submerges and surveys the geology of the sea bottom in accordance with the preinstalled program. The research vessel locates the surfacing point using GSP and recovers the robot. Mitsui’s robot can go under the sea as deep as 4,000 m. The new robot is designed to help government agencies and research institutes with their efforts to survey the seabed resources close to Japan. It will be priced at hundreds of million of yen. 

The existing model. Mitsui will develop a new model that can avoid a collision by itself. The new model will be able to survey the seabed resources of an area of 5 km square in one day by itself. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

No. 604: Kobe Steel gets an order for its reduced iron plant technology from Russia (September 3, 2012)

Business trend:
Midrex, Kobe Steel’s subsidiary in the U.S., and Siemens of Germany jointly got an order for the construction of a reduced iron plant for 27 billion yen from Metalloinvest of Russia. The plant will be constructed in Gubkin in western part of Russia and is scheduled to start operation in 2014. It will have an annual production capacity of 1,800,000 tons. The plant that Midrex will construct is the third reduced iron plant of Metalloinvest in Gubkin.

A blast furnace has an annual production capacity of over 3,000,000 tons, while a reducer iron plant has an annual production capacity of about 1,000,000 tons. Midrex, however, developed the technology to increase the annual production capacity to 1,800,000 tons. Unlike a blast furnace, a reduced iron plant does not need a facility to process iron ores and coals. Thanks to its low initial investment, demand for a reduce iron plant is growing in the Middle East and Russia blessed with natural gas resources.  

The reduced iron plant Midrex constructed in Oman

Sunday, September 2, 2012

No. 603: IHI and Paul Wurth of Luxemburg ally to establish a joint company in Japan (September 1, 2012)

Business trend:
Paul Wurth of Luxemburg and IHI, the world largest and second largest in blast furnace construction, ally to establish a joint company in Japan with a capital of 400 million yen on a 50:50 basis. The new company will cover Asia and Oceania, but China and India where Paul Wurth has been doing business independently are excluded. Paul Wurth has 11% market share in the construction of blast furnace bigger than 40 million cubic meters in volume and IHI has 10% market share in the world.

Paul Wurth has state-of-the-art technology in designing and constructing coke ovens that bake coals efficiently, while IHI has its self-developed coke by quenching (CDQ) technology that utilizes waste heat from iron works for power generation. The two companies wish to integrate their technologies to construct iron works characterized by energy saving and efficient usage of raw materials. Established in 1870, Paul Wurth has close and strong business relations with leading steelmakers in Europe and Brazil. IHI has constructed or renovated more than 100 blast furnaces since 1940.   

A blast furnace in Nippon Steel constructed by IHI

Saturday, September 1, 2012

No. 602: Toyota’s Prius goes to Ukraine (August 31, 2012)

Business trend:
Toyota will ship 1,220 Prius hybrid vehicles to the Ukrainian Police Department starting in February 2013. Sumitomo Corp. got an official order for the 1,220 units for 2,700 million yen as the exclusive agent of Toyota’s Lexus brand vehicles in Ukraine.

At present, only 300 hybrid vehicles are running in Ukraine. Sumitomo Corp. wishes to increase the sales of Toyota Prius taking this opportunity. The 1,220 units of Prius to be shipped to Ukraine will be painted specially for police. 

Toyota’s Prius goes to Ukraine starting in February 2013.