Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No. 424: Reducing the cost to introduce an image monitoring system for water supply plants (January 31, 2012)

Municipalities mostly hesitate to introduce an image monitoring system to their water supply plants because a 10-20 million yen investment is required. They currently explore the cause of unusual values of the water quality meter only by values without images. Metawater and Nippon Telecommunications Network jointly developed a very inexpensive image monitoring system for water supply plants. It costs only several hundred thousand yen to introduce, one hundredth of the cost required to introduce the conventional system. The company succeeded in reducing the cost of filming equipment by employing the image processing method with lower communication load and eliminating the necessity of special-purpose terminals because staff members can monitor the image using the existing PCs with the help of cloud computing.

Units made up of camera and communication device are installed in a water supply plant and staff members monitor image data through the cloud computing service provided by Nippon Telecommunications Network. Metawater employed the processing technology to change still images to moving images to reduce the load associated with filming and communication. LAN is used for the communication in the initial stage, but later a wireless communication environment will be established to make it possible to eliminate the expense for wiring and set the unit wherever an outlet is available. The newly developed system is designed for the monitoring of water quality of rivers and water purification plants.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

No. 423: Carbon fiber reinforced plastic becomes lighter and grows stronger (January 30, 2012)

Toray developed a new compound technology of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP)for injection molding. The company improved the adhesion properties between continuous carbon fiber and thermoplastic resin, and successfully obtained higher strength and better elasticity. The new technology makes it possible to reduce the weight by more than 20% as compared with the fiber-glass reinforced plastic of the same strength and increase the bending strength by more than 30%. Polypropylene (PP) and polyphenylene sulfide were used to develop the resin. A 20-30% weight reduction is possible by using PP pellets in place of fiber-glass reinforced plastic of the same strength. And a PP pellet has high heat resistance because its heat distortion temperature is above 260 degrees centigrade. Its chemical resistance and flame resistance are excellent, too.

The company modified the property of the surface of carbon fiber using nanostructure control technology and employed a small amount of an additive to produce the matrix resin. This realized the high degree of interface adhesion, while dispersing carbon fibers uniformly throughout the resin. The new product will be more expensive than the existing fiber-glass reinforced plastic, but it provides higher degree of design freedom and the ability to make a product lighter. The company plans to market it to auto makers and home electronics makers to help them reduce the weight of their products. Samples will be shipped within this year.   

Friday, January 27, 2012

No. 422: A new technology for the performance evaluation of a thermoelectric material (January 28, 2012)

Evaluating the performance of a thermoelectric material is time-consuming because it is necessary to create many samples with different electron concentrations and evaluate the performance of each sample. A research team led by Hiromich Ohta, an associate professor of Nagoya University, developed a new technology for the evaluation of a thermoelectric material that converts thermal energy to electric energy. The team members used strontium titanate for the thermoelectric material to measure thermoelectric energy conversion capacity and found that the structure of a field-effect transistor (EFT) is effective to the performance evaluation.

They built an EFT by evaporating a metallic electrode and a gate insulator on a strontium titanate material. They measured the thickness and electron concentration of the two-dimensional electron generated from strontium titanate simultaneously, and successfully measured thermoelectric energy conversion capacity by controlling the voltage on the gate terminal of the EFT. As a result of the measurement, they found that thermoelectric energy conversion capacity decreased initially, but it increased to about five times when the thickness of the gas becomes as thin as in nanometers. The new technology shortens the time for performance evaluation. At the same time, the research team expects the new technology to lead to early discovery of a high-performance thermoelectric material.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

No. 421: Research agencies intensify their efforts to reduce and prevent disaster damage (January 27, 2012)

Business trend
Japanese research agencies intensify their efforts to develop IT-based technology and system for the prevention and reduction of disaster damage, reflecting the fact that the empirical rule did not work in the Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011. The Institute of Statistical Mathematics started to develop a new computation approach to estimate the scale of tsunami by combining such enormous data as geography and undulation of the sea bottom with observation results of sound waves generated by air quake caused by earthquake. It takes one hour to finish the computation at present, but it is trying to shorten the computation time to make the new approach effective for a possible huge earthquake in the future.

NationalInstitute of Informatics developed a system that collects information on the intensity of elements through mobile phones from many people and displays the information on a map instantaneously. It developed a website to allow people toconfirm how close a rainstorm is using a mobile phone, and plans to operate it on a full-scale toward this year’s typhoon season. National Institute of RadiologicalSciences (NIRS) is planning to construct a worldwide network with specialized agencies around the world to allow doctors to give precise diagnosis and treatment if a large-scale radiation contamination occurs. Using the approach to estimate the amount of contamination precisely with the help of the microscopic images of withdrawn blood, member agencies will be asked to analyze them in different places. NIRS will present this idea in the international conference scheduled for May in Great Britain.        

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

No. 420: Competition in the gallium nitride power semiconductor market (January 26, 2012)

The technology to laminate thin gallium nitride films on a silicone or sapphire substrate to build a gallium nitride semiconductor is widespread at the present stage. Quality is important because different kinds of materials are laminated, and reliability is significant because a power semiconductor requires resistance against high current. This is why a gallium nitride semiconductor is not used for power semiconductors. A gallium nitride power semiconductor loses less energy than the existing silicon power semiconductor, but its resistance increases in high voltage operation. Rohm opened up the road to the practical application of a gallium nitride power semiconductor by controlling this phenomenon. The company will ship samples to prospective customers shortly to improve high-frequency power source and address measures against noise with them to achieve a higher than 1 MHz switching frequency.

The technology to build a substrate entirely of gallium nitride is also being developed. However, it costs too much to build a gallium nitride substrate at present. The production cost of a gallium nitride substrate of 2 inch in diameter is 100,000-150,000 yen that is 50 times higher than a sapphire substrate used for LEDs. However, Sumitomo Electric, the dominant producer of gallium nitride substrates, will increase the diameter of its products from 2 inches to 6 inches, and Mitsubishi Chemical plans to increase the production capacity of gallium nitride substrates to reduce the price to one tenth. Building the foundation to expand the gallium nitride semiconductor market is in progress. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No. 419: A new porous alumina material effective to eliminate arsenicum in drinking water (January 25, 2012)

Arsenicum is highly toxic to human body, and drinking arsenic-polluted water for a long period induces cancer through disorders in skins and nerves. It is reported that underground water in Asia, South America, and Africa is polluted by arsenicum over a wide range. In Bangladesh, arsenic pollution spreads across the country and creates is a very serious issue. A research group led by Dr. Sherif El-Safty of National Institute for Materials Science developed amaterial that can eliminate arsenicum dissolved in water.

It is a porous alumina material with numerous small holes, each of which is several tens of nanometers in diameter. On the inner surface of the alumina material, it has a structure that beds atom groups to adsorb only arsenicum. It is effective to eliminate arsenicum in drinking water. The newly developed material exhibited an elimination factor of higher than 90% for 18 ml water with an arsenic concentration of 2-5 ppm. Even if water contains metallic ions, it adsorbs arsenicum on a priority basis. Because its color changes when it adsorbs arsenicum, it can be a sensor to detect arsenicum for visual management. It is easily available for practical application and mass production.

No. 418: Producing chemical raw materials from rice straws using a new cultural method (January 24, 2012)

A joint venture jointly founded by Research Institute of Innovative Technology for theEarth (RITE) and the University of Tokyo Edge Capital will start to produce chemical raw materials from rice straws. The joint venture company, Green EarthTechnology, has established a cultural method that can synthesize only the target substance efficiently, while reducing the consumption of energy necessary for the growth of bacteria. Using the newly developed technology, it will be possible to produce phenol resins and amino acid at one dollar (about 77 yen) per kilogram. If the oil price maintains the current level of more than 80 dollars per barrel, chemical raw materials produced using the new established cultured method will have enough competitive edge in terms of production cost.

RITE’s new technology is based on the gene recombination of corynebacteriaceae in soil. This technology makes it possible to produce various kinds of chemical raw materials from plant fibers. Corynebacteriaceae resolves plant fibers and synthesizes the target substance using the resultant sugar. A recombinant bacterium is used for the synthesis of electronic and auto parts, another recombinant bacterium is useful for the synthesis of lactic acid that is a raw material of biodegradable resins, and another recombinant bacterium is effective for the synthesis of valine that is amino acid for animal consumption. The joint venture will build a production facility with an annual production capacity between 2,000-3,000 tons with an investment of 3 billion yen coming summer. Private companies including Teijin, Sumitomo Bakelite, and Idemitsu Kosan will participate in the research on biodegradable resins, electronics parts, and various petrochemical raw materials, respectively. It is estimated that the market to produce chemical raw materials from plants grow to more than 100 billion dollars in 2020, the same market size of biofuel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

No. 417: A new floating dock to be installed not on the sea but on land (January 23, 2012)

Floating docks are resistant to tsunami, and they are installed on the sea and used for the anchorage of ferries. Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding developed the land version of a floating dock. It is a cavity concrete structure that floats almost without being submerged even if it is attacked by tsunami (tidal wave). When tsunami comes, the walls of the newly developed floating dock slant to the anticipated direction from which tsunami comes, and they pass off water. It can resist tunami with a velocity of about 10 m per second. Because it minimizes the damage caused by submergence, it can be used as the base on which emergency generators are installed, warehouses are built, and helicopters are stationed.

The newly developed land floating dock is a cavity concrete structure tied to the ground by chains and large piles. Because it puts together structures each of which is 10 m long and 2.5 m high, rubbles left after tsunami can be cleaned easily by detaching the structures. In the model experiment, the land floating dock tilts the 4 m high walls to let the tsunami’s water pressure go downward and floats by creating a water passage on the bottom. It is scheduled to be priced at 50-100 million yen per 10 m x 10 m, and the construction cost is about 500,000 yen per square meter. The term of works will be between 6 months to 12 months. The company will market it to domestic municipalities and Southeast Asian countries suffering from food damage.

Friday, January 20, 2012

No. 416: Successful development of a catalyst for efficient synthesis of organobromine compounds (January 21, 2012)

A research group led by Associate Prof. Yuta Nishina of Okayama University developed a technology to synthesize efficiently organobromine compounds known as intermediates of pharmaceuticals and organic electronic materials. At present, four reaction processes are required to synthesize bromocyclohexane, but the newly developed catalyst reduces the number of required processes to one. The existing catalyst loses activity because it reacts to hydrogen bromide that is a by-product of the reaction, but the newly developed catalyst is resistant to hydrogen bromide.

It is a metallic oxide that contains lithium and manganese. It can be produced easily by mixing hydrocarbon and bromine with off-the-shelf reagent and heating them. It costs merely about 10,000 yen per kg to produce. Because complicated reaction processes are required to produce organobromine compounds, it attracts attention as a new catalyst to eliminate complicated reaction processes. The research team recognizes the necessity to elaborate the mixing conditions and improve the method to eliminate by-products before the new catalyst is put into practical application.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

No. 415: Technology to reduce photovoltaic generation cost comes one after another (January 20, 2012)

Business trend
Material producers in the photovoltaic business are busily occupied with developing technology to reduce generation cost. Toray developed a technology to control the reflecting of sunlight by forming a special film on the glass that covers the solar battery to help sunlight pour in a solar battery more efficiently. This new technology will increases generation efficiency by 0.3-0.4 points and decrease generation cost by 3-4% should it be applied to the crystalline solar battery. Toray’s subsidiary Toray Engineering developed equipment that applies the special film quickly by correcting warpage of the glass substrate automatically. Toppan Printing is developing parts that have wiring not on the surface but on the reverse. Eliminating wiring on the surface is expected to increase the light receiving area by several percentages. The company has already started shipping samples, and it plans the mass production within the year.

SekisuiChemical is developing a product that integrates the protection material of a solar battery with its sealant that bonds it and a solar battery together. By integrating the two parts as a product can shorten the production process and reduce the production cost of solar panels. Currently, the cost of photovoltaic generation is over 30 yen per kW, while that of thermal power generation using LNG or coals is about 10 yen per kW. The price competition is growing harder quite rapidly in the market of photovoltaic generation system. In fact, the system for housing decreased 10% in the past one year because of the increasing presence of inexpensive foreign products. It is vital for every company involved to improve the generation efficiency to survive in the market that will be benefited by the new law to purchase all power generated by renewable energy to be enforced this year. 

No. 414: A solar battery with 100 times more generation capacity than the existing one (January 19, 2012)

A researcher of National Institute of Materials Science developed a solar battery that has a new structure to increase the generation of a silicon solar battery to 100 times as compared with the existing one. Naoki Fukata lined an infinite number of peaked micro silicon bars to increase the area that receives sunlight. Theoretically, it is possible to decrease the area to one hundredth for the same generation capacity. That is, a 5 x 5 m solar battery installed on the roof can be made smaller to a 5 x 5 cm solar battery. That is, the new solar battery will be installable regardless of the place with easiness of maintenance.

The newly developed solar battery has numerous standing peaked silicon bars, each of which is about 5 micrometers long and 90 nanometers in diameter, at intervals of about 100 nanometers on the surface. This structure made it possible to convert the light whose wavelength is less than 600 nanometers that has been wasted. Accordingly, it has become possible to get 100 times more generation capacity per area as compared with the existing structure that piles up silicon materials. Because a small solar battery can maintain a certain amount of generation capacity, the newly developed solar battery will very suitable for solar-tracking generation equipment. The research group plans to put the new technology into practical application in five years.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

No. 413: A new technology to weld two different kinds of metals strong using electric discharge (January 18, 2012)

Welding two different kinds of metals requires heating each of them to increase the strength with the help of a nickel-containing alloy before and after welding. A research team of Institute for Materials Research of Tohoku University developed a new technology to weld two different kinds of metals strong without the extra jobs before and after welding using a high-purity metal whose rate of impurities is as low as one hundredth of the present level.

The team members led by Prof. Kenji Abiko inserted a high-purity stainless steel whose rate of impurity contents, such as carbon and nitrogen, is 100 nanograms per one gram between a stainless steel used for plumbing and an ally used for the container of a boiler, and successfully melted and welded them strong at a high temperature using electric discharge. The welded part does not break even it is folded by 180 degrees. It can be applied widely to power generation plants because it can maintain durability for a long period at a high temperature. Highly efficient thermal power generation requires pipe arrangements resistant to 700 degrees centigrade. A high-purity metal is most suitable for the welding of these pipe arrangements, according to the research team.

No. 412: A demonstration plant of energy-saving membrane separation bioreactor (January 17, 2012)

The sewage treatment method that uses water treatment membrane is called membrane separation bioreactor (MBR). The MBR started to spread for wastewater recycling in foreign countries because the quality of water treated by this method is excellent. However, it consumes two times more energy than the conventional activated sludge method for treatment. Kubota will start the demonstration operation of a new plant that reduces energy consumption of the MBR by 40% this year. The company opened up the way to reduce energy consumption by more than 30% through the newly developed water treatment membrane with two times more disposal capacity and control approach that adjusts air supply depending on the treatment condition. While running the new plant, it plans to decrease energy consumption by as much as 40% and put it on the sewage and wastewater recycling market in 2014.

The new plant is equipped with a water treatment membrane that permeates one ton of water per square meter daily. Because water permeate flow doubled, the required number of water treatment membranes halved. Subsequently, this halved the energy flushing air consumes to eliminate the contamination attached to the treatment membranes. Ultimately, the company plans to decrease the energy consumption to a quarter of the present level with the aid of the system to monitor the contamination of the membranes and adjust the air volume. Kubota is the world second largest producer of water treatment membranes for the MBR. The company is strengthening its competitive edge in the energy-saving plant market. The world wastewater recycling market is estimated to increase 20 times over the current level to 2 trillion yen in 2025.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

No. 411: Successful development of cold setting photosensitive positive polyimide (January 16, 2012)

With growing demand for more sophisticated and higher performance personal digital assistants, it is increasingly necessary to improve the processing capacity of a semiconductor. Accordingly, photosensitive positive coating materials that allows for high resolution by making the exposed part soluble are in great demand. Toray developed cold setting photosensitive positive polyimide that realized cold setting at 170 degrees centigrade with chemical resistance and heat resistance for the next-generation semiconductor protective film.

The new product is used for surface protection and warpage prevention. Its stress after hardening is 13 MPa, about half of the stress of the existing cold setting hardening. It hardly creates warpage even if it is applied to a thin wafer. Because of the low stress and the ability to harden at a low temperature, it is suitable for the Through-Silicon-Via (TSV) structure that accumulates multiple semiconductor chips vertically, and it contributes to improving the reliability of the next-generation semiconductor devices. It is being evaluated by semiconductor producers, and shipment is scheduled to start coming April. The company plans to increase its share of positive photosensitive polyimide in the world market to more than 50% by 2014.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

No. 410: A state-of-the-art farmland combined with IT and robotics for higher productivity (January 14, 2012)

Business trend
The government will create a large-scale and state-of-the-art farmland in the coastal area of the disaster-stricken prefecture in the Tohoku district. The farmland will have an area of 200-250 ha, and the project will be participated by such IT-related companies as Fujitsu and Hitachi. They will increase agricultural productivity using IT and robotics. The government and the participating companies will make a total investment of 10 billion yen for six years starting this year. They will entrust agricultural corporations with the management of the farmland. Agricultural production will start as soon as the salt of the field is removed.

In the farmland, fruits and vegetables besides rice, wheat, and beans will be cultivated with the help of IT-based advanced technologies. They include a sensor system to monitor the growth of agricultural products and the conditions of farmland conditions like moisture and amount of fertilizers, a system to operate robots to load crops into containers, a system to irradiate LEDs to prevent disease and pest damage for the reduction of agrichemical consumption, and a system to run unmanned tractors to break ground. A research center to be built inside the farmland will collect and gather information and data. In addition data and information analysis, it will also work on the system to control the water level of paddies for the purpose of cultivating several kinds of farm products in the same farmland, the system to accelerate photosynthesis using carbon dioxide generated by in-house power generation, and the know-how on production management based on delivery date.

Friday, January 13, 2012

No. 409: A faster LSI without standby electricity (January 13, 2012)

Data writing in the spintronics element increases power consumption in a high-speed electronic circuit with an operating frequency in excess of 400 MHz. However, Tohoku University and NEC successfully decreased the power consumption required by writing to one tenth. The two organizations developed a technology to increase the operating speed of an LSI electronics circuit capable of eliminating standby electricity 1.5 times to 600 MHz by eliminating unnecessary data rewriting, using the nature of an element containing data that does not write data unless a certain amount of current is added. They plan to complete the technology to materialize a low-power LSI that consumes power only at the point of use toward 2013.

A research team led by Professors Tetsuro Endo and Hideo Ohno of Tohoku University developed this technology in alliance with NEC in a project sponsored by the government. The research members increased the speed of a hybrid circuit that merges the spintronics element and the complementary metal-oxide semiconductor. They increased the operation speed and decreased the power consumption required for writing by decreasing the number of writing frequencies considerably. In the future, they wish to realize a system LSI without standby electricity by incorporating the hydride circuit in the memory and central processing unit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

No. 408: Using coffee beans for a water purification agent (January 12, 2012)

Generally, such inorganic substances as calcium and shell power are used to neutralize and agglutinate pollutants in water for water purification. Nippon Poly-Glu, a maker of water purification agents, developed an agent for water purification using coffee beans for developing countries. The new agent agglutinates pollutants in water by utilizing the stringent taste contained in the peel of coffee fruit. With this coffee bean-based agent, it is possible to reduce the water purification cost to 75 yen per ton, half of the cost required by the existing method that uses such inorganic substances as those mentioned above.

Because coffee peels are abandoned, the cost to procure raw materials is not high. In addition, all ingredients contained in the new agent are organic, they resolve in the body and nature ultimately. This benefit is helpful to reduce the amount of inorganic residues that is a big problem to purify water in ponds and rivers in developing countries. The company is marketing water that it infiltrates using its own agents in Bangladesh. It plans to expand the market to other Asian countries and Africa. Production of the new agent will start in Brazil and Kenya this summer with projected sales of 300 million yen in the initial year.

No. 407: A hazardous metal-free module for exhaust heat generation (January 11, 2012)

Modules for exhaust heat generation at lower than 300 degrees centigrade are available on the market, but Hitachi Chemical opened up the road to a hazardous metal-free module for exhaust heat generation supporting temperatures between 400-500 degrees centigrade. The company has already shipped two kinds of samples supporting two different kinds of temperatures. Because some metals that exhibit high generation efficiency at a high temperature contain antimony and lead that need special care for handling, none of them has been used as a material for a generation module for exhaust heat generation. The new module will be applied to the effective utilization of exhaust heat of industrial forges and vehicles for the reduction of energy consumption.

The company established the prospect for a module that generates 11-12 watts at 450 degrees centigrade on the high temperature side and 20 degrees centigrade on the low temperature side using metals of the magnesium and silicon systems. The module for even higher temperature uses metals of the silicon and germanium systems, and it generates 8.4 watts at 650 degrees centigrade on the higher temperature side and 20 degrees centigrade on the low temperature side. The company plans to increase the generation capacity to 10 watts. For low temperature exhaust heat generation, it uses metals of the bismuth and tellurium systems that contain hazardous substances because there are no suitable materials. It wishes to realize generation capacity of 4 watts at 180 degrees centigrade and 20 degrees centigrade in 2012. Each module is a square of 55 mm by 55 mm with a total of 20 elements connected in series.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No. 406: A rubber spring two times more durable than the existing rubber spring (January 10, 2012)

A rubber spring generally increases its durability as it grows bigger. Because it is not easy to increase the durability of rubber itself, producers adjust the durability of a rubber spring by modifying the size and hardness. Tokai Rubber, Japan’s leading rubber spring producer, developed a rubber spring two times moredurable against wrest and compression than the existing products. The new product is the suspension bush that a vehicle needs 10-40 pieces. It exhibited the same durability even if it is made 30% lighter than the existing product. That is, it will help fuel consumption improve besides reducing the production cost of rubber spring.

The company increased the durability of a rubber spring by bonding polymer and reinforcement materials stronger, and successfully realized a chemical bond with stronger binding force not only by using physical absorption but also by improving the additive and the reaction conditions. Parts for lighter autobody are enjoying great demand as hybrid and electric vehicles spread. At the same time, newly industrialized countries with lots of unpaved roads require rubber springs to have a high degree of durability. At present, producers increase the durability of a rubber spring by making rubber harder at the sacrifice of ride quality. Tokai Rubber plans to mass produce the new product in 2014.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

No. 405: A semiconductor made of monocrystalline gallium oxide-based substrate for transistor (January 9, 2012)

A transistor that uses a semiconductor with monocrystalline gallium oxide-based substrate has higher pressure resistance and lower loss than the widespread transistor that uses a semiconductor with silicon-based substrate. National Institute of Information and communicationsTechnology succeeded in the validation of the new transistor for the first time in the world in alliance with Tamura and Koha. The new transistor is expected to realize device characteristics more efficient and higher in performance should it be applied to the power device of semiconductor element for electricity apparatus. The research team opened up the road to the practical application of the next-generation power device for the solution of energy-saving issues.

If gallium oxide is applied to power devices, it will help reduce the loss associated with switching operation. In addition, gallium oxide-based semiconductors will require considerably lower cost and energy in production than the existing wide-gap semiconductors based on silicon carbide and gallium nitride. It will be applied to a wide range of devices ranging from high-voltage electric power cable to low and medium withstand pressure devices for hybrid vehicles and home electric appliances. Tamura plans to commercialize the new transistor in five years.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No. 404: A new breed of cultured fish by king salmon and rainbow trout (January 8, 2012)

King salmon is very delicious, but it is not cultured in Japan because of the difficulty to breed it. However, YamanashiPrefectural Fishery Technology Center developed a new breed by king salmon and rainbow trout. The new breed is name “Nijinosuke.” With the help of the chromosome manipulation technology used to produce seedless watermelons, the research team increased the number of chromosomes by immersing fertilized eggs of rainbow trout for a given length of time and successfully grew them to be about 60 cm in length and 2 kg in weight in three years.

Experiments started in 2007, and the researchers confirmed in October 2011 that female Nijinosuke does not have the reproduction function, though male Nijinosuke has it. They are currently working on the technology to produce and nurture eggs that brings only female Nijinosuke. If a new breed is culture, it is necessary to verify that it does not have the reproduction function to prevent ecology from being destroyed. Otherwise, it is impossible to get approval from the Ministry of Agriculture,Forestry and Fisheries. Nagano Prefectural Fisheries Experimental Station has already launched “Shinshu Salmon” by rainbow trout and brown trout using the chromosome manipulation technology. Shinshu Salmon is growing popular and sold at a high price on the market.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No. 403: Successful development of a semiconductor element that emits yellow laser light (January 7, 2012)

Yellow laser light is effective to the treatment of retinopathy caused by diabetes. Hitachi developed a semiconductor element that emits yellow laser light in collaboration with National Instituteof Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. The new technology decreased the required number of oscillation parts to one seven hundredth and reduced the power consumption to one tenth to get the same output from the existing technology. In addition, the simple structure of the new element will contribute to cost reduction. The company plans to put the new technology into practical application to medical devices for the treatment of retinopathy in a few years.

The research team used a beryllium compound for the material of the new element that is only 0.3 cubic centimeters and able to emit a yellow laser light with a wavelength of 570 nanometers at room temperature. It consumes only 1.2 watts for an output of 50 milliwatts. The existing method that converts infrared light to yellow laser using a special crystal consumes 15 watts. Another difficult part of the development is how to miniaturize the oscillation part of laser light. The new semiconductor element is also expected to help the image by a laser project clearer.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

No. 402: A new syrup with the ability to reduce weight and body fat (January 6, 2012)

There are more than 50 kinds of rare sugars in nature, one of which is xylitol blended into chewing gum. Some of them are low in calories and used as a sweetener in place of sugar. The Faculty ofMedicine of Kagawa University developed a syrup based on D-psicose and D-allose, both of which are effective to control blood sugar level and reduce blood pressure, in collaboration with Matsutani Chemical Industry. The new syrup is characterized by refreshing sweetness and the ability to reduce weight and body fat. The company already started to ship the new syrup to food companies.  

A research team of the university let a total of 17 males and females drink a jelly beverage that contains the new syrup for 30 grams before every breakfast for 12 weeks. The examinees reduced weight and body fat by 1.8 kg and 1.7% respectively on average. Another group of 17 males and females who did not ingest the syrup remained the same both in weight and body fat. Kagawa University takes the lead in the research on rare sugars in the world after it succeeded in the mass production of D-psicose for the first time in the world in 2001. The research team plans to expand the applications of rare sugars under the leadership of ProfessorMasaaki Tokuda.  

No. 401: Eliminating rare earth contents from the next-generation motor for EVs (January 5, 2012)

Business trend
Electronic parts makers are accelerating their efforts to eliminate rare earth contents from the next-generation motor to be mounted on electric vehicles. Currently, such rare earths as neodymium and dysprosium are mixed with iron to create the strongest permanent magnet to be used for motors for EVs. Mitsubishi Electric developed a car-mounted motor utilizing the principle of electric magnet that does not use rare earth in alliance with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The principle is to convert strong magnet energy generated by electrifying the coil wound around the circumference of iron oxide to the drive force. The motor based on this principle has lower energy efficiency than the existing motor in acceleration, but there is no difference in performance between the two at constant speed.

TDK developed a dysprosium-free permanent magnet that has the same magnet energy as a dysprosium-containing permanent magnet by minimizing and equalizing the molecules of materials. The company is scheduled to incorporate it in a car-mounted motor after 2014. Toshiba is developing a dysprosium-free magnet, using samarium abundant in Australia and the U.S. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will support these efforts. It plans to establish a technology & research organization to develop magnets with enough magnet energy and heat tolerance using abundant materials like nitriding iron. The organization to be participated by automotive makers, magnet makers, universities, and public research agencies is expected to develop rare earth-free magnets in a scheduled period of 10 years.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

No. 400: A new paint that allows for mirror finish on the front face by spray application on the rear face (January 4, 2012)

Every company is making strenuous efforts to improve productivity and reduce environmental load for more marketable products. Asahipen, one of Japan’s leading paint companies, developed a technology that allows for mirror finish on the front face by applying spray coating on the rear face of a transparent plastic. The newly developed paint can be sprayed in the air, and it needs only two painting processes of the first coat and the finish coat. It is based on the self-developed aluminum paste made of uniform imbricate aluminum that is several micrometers in size and a nano level in thickness.

In addition to adding an additive, the company improved the ratio between the binder and aluminum to realize a cohesive line even with fewer additive amount of acrylic resin used as the binder. Unlike vacuum deposition widespread in mirror production, the new technology needs only two processes. Therefore, it will shorten the production lead-time, reduce equipment cost, and improve yield ratio. At the same time, because the coated film of the first coat is rather thin, the new paint can prevent dusts from attaching and decrease the defective fraction. Recreation facilities decided to adopt the new paint for ornamentation, and automotive and cosmetics industries show interest in the new paint. The company plans to market if for cosmetic containers and mobile phone cases.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

No. 399: Using water in place of working fluid for the cutting and grinding processes (January 3, 2012)

Working fluid that contains oil, lubricant agent, and antirust agent is generally used in the cutting and grinding processes, and water is never used in these two processes to prevent rust. Naohiro Nishikawa, an Iwate University assistant professor, developed a system that allows for the machining process using water in place of working fluid. Because the system uses only water, it does not need time-consuming treatment of the working fluid. Used water can be reused after purification treatment.

The system immerses a workpiece and the working machine in water, connects them electrically from without, and processes them as if they are two electrodes. Water used in the process cannot be used without treatment because it contains abrasive grains and iron ion. The system has a built-in purification unit composed of filter and reverse osmosis membrane. It can treat 10 liters of used water per minute. Although the newly developed system is lower in performance than the system using working fluid, it can improve productivity because it does not need the process to eliminate working fluid. It can save more than 100 billion yen to dispose of water oil that amounts to 800,000-900,000 kiloliters annually and prevent carbon dioxide emissions that amount to 1,500,000 tons annually. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

No. 398: A scratch-resistant polycarbonate resin with the H hardness (January 2, 2012)

Teijin Chemicals developed a highly scratch-resistant polycarbonate resin. The new product increased the surface hardness from 2B to H in the pencil hardness. The hardness H is the highest level of hardness for a polycarbonate resin. It eliminates the necessity of such surface treatment as paint application and hard coating. Although higher in price than the existing products, it will help reduce the total cost of a product because the surface treatment process is eliminated. The company will put it on the market coming autumn.

The company reviewed the molecular design of the polymer and increased the hardness without impairing the characteristics of the existing polycarbonate resin, such as transparency and impact resistance. It is more shapable with a higher degree of fluidity than the existing products, making it suitable for thin-wall molding. In addition, it is characterized not by fragile breaking that scatters fragments on impact but by ductile breaking that tears off a product. The company plans to apply it to vehicle interior, office automation equipment, and housing of PC and smartphone. The new product scheduled to be available also in film and sheet in the future. The company plans to increase the production capacity to 500 tons per year starting in 2016.   

No. 397: A heat-resistant polyamide resin with a 56% bio content (January 1, 2012)

Unitika, one of Japan’s leading material producers, developed a high performance biomass-derived heat-resistant polyamide resin with a melting point as high as 310 degrees centigrade. Named XecoT, it contains 56% bio content. Despite the high content ratio, it is a low-absorbent material excellent both in wear resistance and chemical resistance. It is based on ricinus collected from nonfood castor-oil plants. The new product is suitable for injection molding and can be processed as fiber and film because it rarely gelates. The company plans to mass-produce XecoT by next summer.

The heat-resistant polyamide resin market is growing at an annual rate of 12%. Unitika wishes to focus on the high bio content ratio and functionality to differentiate XecoT from competitive products and expand the market worldwide, responding to the growing concern about oil depletion and environment. The company plans to sell it to the market of automotive parts and such electronics parts as SMT connector and LED reflector plate. The annual production will start at 100-200 tons in 2012, increase to 500 tons in 2013, and subsequently increase to 5,000 tons in 2015.