Sunday, December 29, 2013

No. 823: NTT DoCoMo markets traveling information collected from vehicles as big data (December 29, 2013)

NTTDoCoMo will market traveling information of a vehicle, such as speed and location, collected from the in-car device as big data in 2014. The in-car device will be developed jointly with Pioneer that is Japan’s leading maker of the car navigation system. The device will be as small as a palm, and ti will incorporate the GPS, communication function, and a sensor that measures the moves of a vehicle. Attached to a vehicle, it collects the traveling information. Collected information will be integrated in the data center to analyze the moves of each vehicle and traffic jams it comes across. The in-car device will essentially be distributed to consumers for free through automobile supplies retailers and nonlife insurance companies. The former will be able to predict the timing to replace tires and oil, and the latter will be able to give advice on safety and energy-saving driving besides developing a new insurance suitable most to each insured figured out on the basis of his or her driving behavior analyzed by the big data.

Image of NTT DoCoMo's big data service

Big data combined with analysis are sold for more than 100 million yen per year, and NTT DoCoMo is considering offering several service alternatives depending on the volume of the big data to be supplied. NTT DoCoMo itself will utilize the big data for its own car navigation application, and it is confident of increasing the precision of its application with the help of the big data. A car navigation application is mostly offered for 300 yen per month at present, and NTT DoCoMo’s new application will be offered for almost the same monthly charge. Toyota and Honda have already introduced the technology to collect big data for their genuine car navigation systems, but the number of vehicles equipped with the function to analyze big data is about five million, only 7% of all vehicles travelling across the country. NTT DoCoMo focuses on the remaining 93% of the market. 

 NTT DoCoMo's map applicaiton vs.
Google's navigation application

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No. 822: Personal authentification technology is developing fast (December 24, 2013)

As smartphones spread rapidly and widely, it has become crucial to develop the personal authentification technology for the prevention of impersonation. Several university professors are developing personal authentification technologies with the help of action, motion, and mannerism of each person. These technologies are expected to be put into practical use by 2020 and utilized for the strengthened security in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Yuji Watanabe of Nagoya City University is developing a technology to tell personal difference by the angle and speed of a fingertip that goes over the smartphone screen. The special software used in this technology memorizes the mannerism of a user and recognizes the user thereafter with a probability of more than 93%. It automatically identifies the user and rejects the operations by people other than the user. He is planning to start joint research with companies in a few years. Mutsumi Watanabe of Kagoshima University is developing a technology to identify a person by analyzing the handwriting (brushstroke) of a letter that he writes in the air by infrared sensor. This technology can be applied to the management of entering and leaving.

Yoshinobu Kajikawa of Kansai University focuses on the difference of subtle moves of lips of people even if they speak the same language. His technology analyzes the mannerism of each person using a camera, and it achieved 94% accuracy. It will likely be applied to the camera built in a smartphone. Yasushi Yagi of Osaka University is developing a technology to search a specific person by analyzing the walking posture of a person. His technology is about to be put into practical application for security camera searching a suspicious person.  

  A large-scale security camera capable of specifying a 
person out of 36 million facial data in one second

Sunday, December 22, 2013

No. 821: A new battery that has electrodes made of magnesium (December 22, 2013)

Takash Yabe of Tokyo Institute of Technology and his team members developed a new battery that has electrodes made of magnesium. They succeeded in the driving experiment of a vehicle that loaded the new battery. Theoretically, a magnesium battery can generate seven times more electricity than a lithium-ion battery, and it attracts wide attention as a new energy source. Although it is not rechargeable, it can operate a mobile phone for one month and run an electric vehicle for 500 km.

Professor Yabe built this new battery in alliance with Fujikura Composites. They rolled up a thin magnesium film and sent it out inch by inch using the mechanism similar to tape recorder. The rolled out thin film magnesium reacts with salt water continually, eliminating the necessity of changing salt water. Although electrodes made of magnesium can be a battery in salt water, a large volume of salt waster needs to be exchanged every several hours. The research team conducted an experiment of the vehicle loaded with this new battery in one of the Fujikura’s plants. The new magnesium battery is 34 cm deep, 17 cm wide, and 2 cm thick, and it weighs 800 grams. An electric vehicle that loaded 40 new batteries with a total capacity of 560 watts travelled smoothly.  

 The driving experiment of an EV 
loaded with 40 new magnesium batteries

Friday, December 20, 2013

No. 820: Four leading JRs ally to export bullet trains and electromagnetic liner motorcars (December 20, 2013)

Business trend:
Four leading JRs, such as Central Japan Railway and East Japan Railway, will ally to export Japanese advanced railway technologies. They will establish an organization to integrate Japanese high-speed railway standards to make them acceptable in the global market next April and will ask countries planning to construct high-speed railway networks, such as the U.S. and Great Britain, to participate in the organization. The world railway infrastructure market that includes rolling stock cars and parts will increase 20% over the current level to 22,000 billion yen in 2020. The leading three companies in the world market are Bombardier of Canada, Alstom of France, and Siemens of Germany.

The big three sets up standards of high-speed railways that allow existing railway trains and freight trains to travel, whereas Japan wishes to sell a high-security high-speed railways system that uses a specialized railway track. Japan has only 1% share in the world market because it supplies only rolling stock cars and equipment, whereas the big three can supply operating systems besides supplying maintenance of trains and improvement of the operating system. Under the leadership of prime minister Shinzo Abe, Japan is exerting lots of energy to increase exports of infrastructure to 30,000 billion yen by 2020. The government plans to establish organizations to back up the export of railway and airport and fund them next year.   

 Japanese high speed bullet train by BBC

Acceleration to 501 km/h

Monday, December 16, 2013

No. 819: World’s first transport ship that uses ethanol as fuel is scheduled for 2016 (December 16, 2013)

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL73/78) enacted in January 2013 stipulates that new ships built after 2015 should reduce fuel consumption by 10% from the level in 2013 and those built after 2025 should reduce fuel consumption by 30% from the level in 2013. Japanese shipbuilding companies are developing various kinds of technologies to cope with the standards set by the MARPOL 73/78.         

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines has decided to operate a transport ship that uses ethanol as fuel for the first time in the world. The company will develop an engine for the ship in alliance with Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding. It will operate up to three ships of this kind for Methanex of Canada that is the world largest producer of methanol. Methanol is used to produce synthetic resins and agrichemicals besides being mixed with gasoline to use as fuel. It does not emit sulfur oxide that causes air contamination, but it decomposes metals. The two companies improved materials to be used for engine and feeding pipe, and developed a technology to control the injection of methanol for higher combustion efficiency. The project transport ship will cost about 5 billion yen, about 10% higher than a transport ship Methanex is currently operating. The projected transport ship will use methanol and heavy oil, and uses methanol for 10-20% of the operational route. Two times more methanol than heavy oil is required to travel the same distance. Methanol will be purchased from Methanex. Currently the purchase price of heavy oil is 60,000 yen per ton, while methanol is 40,000 yen per ton. With the spread of using methanol as fuel, the purchase price of methanol is expected to go down. The company has already been operating car carriers in which photovoltaic generation supplies part of electricity consumed inside the ship.  

NYK is operating three ships that employ the “air lubrication system” designed to reduce friction resistance by sending air to the ship bottom. Mitsubishi Heavy is building an energy-saving LNG transport ship that reduces air resistance named “Sayaendo (Podded pea).” Kawasaki Heavy is developing a ship that uses LNG as fuel. Maritime Innovation Japan Corp. is developing a ship that improves fuel consumption by 30%. 

Mitsubishi Heavy's Eco-ship
Sayanedo (Podded pea)

 NYK Super Eco-ship Concept Design 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

No. 818: Research and development in search of more versatile secondary batteries gains momentum (December 13, 2013)

Daiso and Osaka Prefecture University jointly developed an organic secondary battery expected to be the major candidate to succeed lithium-ion battery. They used an organic compound for the positive-electrode material and opened up the road to realize nearly the same performance achieved by a lithium-ion battery. They built a positive electrode using triquinoxalinylene made up of such substances as nitrogen and carbon. They built a secondary battery using this positive electrode and solid electrolyte instead of liquid electrolyte. The secondary battery built on trial has a capacity close to 80% of a lithium-ion battery, and did not deteriorate performance after 500 times of discharge and charge. They used lithium for the negative electrode this time, but are planning to replace lithium by carbon in the future. Because a battery needs the ability to endure 3,000 times of discharge and charge, practical application of the newly developed technology will be in the late 2020s.

Itaru Honma from Tohoku University and his colleagues built positive and negative electrodes using anthraquione composed of oxygen and carbon. At present, the battery using these two electrodes has only a quarter of capacity of a lithium-ion battery, but it successfully endured 1,000 times of discharge and charge. They predict that increased amount of the organic compound of the two electrodes will allow it to have the same level of capacity as a lithium-ion battery. The battery they envision is scheduled to be put into practical application around 2020. Currently, as the positive electrode of a lithium-ion battery uses lithium and cobalt, the necessary cost to store electric energy at 1 kW/h is about 200,000 yen, four times higher than a lead battery.

Race to develop batteries to succeed lithium-ion battery
Toyota and NTT are now developing an air battery. It has 2-4 more capacity than a lithium-ion battery, and will allow an electric vehicle to travel 400-800 km per charge. The two companies plan to translate it into practical application in the 2030s. Nissan is working on a lithium-sulfur battery that uses lithium and sulfur for the electrodes. It has two times more capacity than a lithium-ion battery, and it does not deteriorate as easily as an air battery. The critical issue is how to overcome the unstable discharge and charge. Practical application is scheduled for 2020.

Sumitomo Electric and Kyoto University are jointly developing a sodium ion battery. The battery they are developing successfully endured 1,000 times discharge and charge at 20 degrees centigrade. A sodium ion battery will be put on the market for the residential storage system to store electricity generated by photovoltaic generation in 2015. Each of Kyoto University and Osaka University is developing a multivalent ion battery that uses magnesium electrode or aluminum electrode. Each of them has already confirmed that it can endure up to 100 times of discharge and charge.

 Toyota's fuel-cell vehicles unveiled in the 

Friday, December 13, 2013

No. 817: Successful development of the world’s thinnest glass (December 12, 2013)

Nippon Electric Glass developed the world’s thinnest glass for large-scale glass to be incorporated in an organic EL display and solar cell. The thickness is 35 micrometers that is smaller than the diameter of a hair that is 60-90 micrometers. A glass sheet available from other manufacturers is usually 50 micrometers. The new glass is named “G-Leaf.” 

 Booth of Nippon Electric Glass at CEATEC 2013

 Presentation of Nippon Electric Glass at CEATEC 2013

The company built the new glass by shaping thinly the glass material founded in the furnace about several tens of meters high using gravity force. It can be shaped to a glass sheet 100 m long and 0.5 m wide. It can be rolled on a cylinder with radium 26 mm. It is suitable for bendable liquid crystal display and touch panel. It can also be used as the substrate glass in the ink-jet type continuous production process of organic EL panel and solar cell. Nippon Electric Glass has already shipped samples of the super thin glass to more than 500 electronic parts manufacturers and manufacturing equipment makers both at home and abroad. Finished products that incorporate the super thin glass will be put on the market in 2015.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

No. 816: Big data for precise prediction to increase vegetable yield (December 11, 2013)

NTTData and the Japan Research Institute jointly developed a service to predict the picking season and yield of vegetables. The new service calculates such basic information as kinds of crops and date of planting besides weather information. Predictions based on the analysis of these big data will be offered to farming corporations. Currently, there are data services that analyze soil component and amount of solar radiation to increase crop yields. Combined with the currently available these services, the new service that predicts the picking season and yield amount will help increase the profitability of each farmer greatly. The new service will be marketed by JSOL Corp. jointly established by these two companies on a 50:50 basis.

User input various data, such as kinds of crops, development status of pests, and work records, every day to calculate how much crop can be expected in what farmland. In the experiment that used 10 years’ data of a farming corporation, the new service successfully predicted the picking season and yield with 90% precision one month before the cross season. JSOL plans to offer the crop prediction for free to 13,500 farming corporations across the country and increase the number of users to collect a large amount of data for the improvement of prediction. It also plans to market data for prediction to financial institutions for credit control of loans for farmers besides developing derivatives and insurance products.   

      A robot to harvest spinach developed by

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No. 815: New material for lithium-ion battery capable of storing three times more electricity (December 3, 2013)

Sekisui Chemical developed a new material for lithium-ion battery that can store three times more electricity than the existing material. The new material will allow an electric vehicle to travel 600 km per charge. The company also developed a material that can simplify the production process of a lithium-ion battery, and the new material is expected to reduce the production cost of lithium-ion battery by 60%. Sekisui Chemical will start to ship samples to battery makers both at home and abroad in 2014. Mass production is scheduled for 2015.

The company used silicon in place of carbon-based material for the material to store electricity because silicon can store more electricity. It created an alloy by combining the new material with metal and successfully increased the durability that is the critical problem in practical application of silicon. It also developed a new material for electrolyte. Because what is required is to apply it to silicon, equipment to inject liquid into battery is not necessary. Furthermore, battery production per hour will increase 10 times. 

An EV is loaded with a battery that costs two million yen to build. The new material from Sekisui Chemical will reduce the cost by more than 60%. That is, the production cost of a lithium-ion battery will go down from 100,000 yen per kW to 30,000 yen per kW. The auto industry reckons that the price of an EV will become as low as a gasoline vehicle should the battery price per kW go down to 30,000 yen.   
 The performance of a lithium-ion battery improves fast

Saturday, November 30, 2013

No. 814: Fiber made of carbon nanotube is developed by Kuraray's subsidiary (November 29, 2013)

Kurarayliving, one of the subsidiaries of Kuraray, developed fiber made of carbon nanotube. Because carbon nanotube has 10 times higher heat conductivity than copper, it can increase the temperature of a 70 cm-square cloth instantly using 100 volt electricity. In addition, the new fiber decreases power consumption by more than 20%. In the initial stage, the company plan to apply it to heating appliances like electric carpet as well as to snow melting equipment.

Polyester fiber is emerged in a liquid in which molecules of carbon nanotube are dispersed evenly for coating. In the past, it was rather hard to put in molecules in the same density when powder carbon nanotube is dissolved in a liquid, but Kurarayliving developed a special solvent that allows molecules to line in the same density for the first time in the world. The company plans to market the new fiber to electric appliance manufacturers starting December. It will be sold for 10,000 yen per square meter, and mass production is expected to halve the price in the future. 

 Kuraray corporate profile

Friday, November 29, 2013

No. 813: An unmanned flight robot for the inspection of infrastructures (November 28, 2013)

An unmanned flight robot

Prof. Kenzo Nonami of Chiba University developed an unmanned flight robot with six propellers. Equipped with a camera and the GPS, it can fly 3 km around freely to take pictures. It can fly through between bridge beams and windmill vanes and stand still in air, and go up to 500 m above the ground fast like a rocket if necessary.   

The robot returns to the base automatically when the battery runs out. The operator can fly it again after he replaces the battery with a new one. Prof. Nonami is now developing a technology to allow the robot to go down to the ground with the help of a parachute when it goes out of control while flying. It is designed to inspect the deterioration of such infrastructures as solar panels of photovoltaic generation, windmills of wind generation, bridge beams, and piping of iron works. It will be put on the market next spring.  

 Demonstration video of the unnmanned flight robot

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

No. 812: Successful development of the world’s thinnest and lightest car windshield (November 27, 2013)

Nippon Sheet Glass developed the world’s thinnest and lightest car windshield. The new windshield is 3.75 kg, 1 kg lighter than the existing car windshield of the same size. It has been adopted by Toyota’s three-wheel two-seater electric vehicle “i-ROAD” that has a 90 cm high and 50 cm wide windshield.  

The company reviewed the heating process of glass production, and developed 1 mm thick glass and glued it with another 2 mm thick glass to build a 3.75 mm thick windshield. Traditionally, two 2 mm thick glass sheets are glued together to build a windshield. If the new windshield glass is adopted by a four-wheel vehicle, the size of the windshield will be doubled. However, a vehicle that adopts the new windshield will be several kilograms lighter than the vehicle equipped with existing windshield of the same size. Nippon Sheet Glass plans to market the new windshield as a product that helps reduce fuel consumption. Nippon Steel Glass has about 25% share in the world’s car windshield market. 

Toyota's i-ROAD travels in Europe

Toyota's i-ROAD in the Tokyo Motor Show

No. 811: A cooling unit for a liner motor car that reduces helium gas consumption to 1/1000 (November 26, 2013)

Air Water developed a cooling unit for the next-generation linear motor car in collaboration with Railway Technical Research Institute. Because the new unit utilizes compression and inflation of helium gas, it can reduce helium consumption to less than 1/1000 of the helium consumption of the existing cooling unit. 

The new cooling unit sends compressed helium gas into the closed stainless tube in a uniform rhythm, and cools down semiconducting coils by repeating compression and inflation of helium gas. It can cool a semiconducting coil down to minus 223 degrees centigrade. It will be installed in the body of liner motor car, and four units will be enough to cover one car. The Liner Chuo Shinkansen is scheduled to be inaugurated in 2027, and it is decided to use liquid helium of minus 269 degrees centigrade for the cooling unit of semiconducting coils.   

  A five-car Linear Chuo Shinkansen 
travels at 500km/h in a test

Friday, November 22, 2013

No. 810: Plant-derived tire is developed by a Japanese tire manufacturer (November 22, 2013)

Sumitomo Rubber will put an oil-free tire on the market on Nov. 22 for the first time in the world. The oil-free tire is made of plant-derived materials including corn and field mustard. Oil-derived materials usually account for 60% of the existing tire. 

 The newly-developed oil-free tire (righjt) and 
a replica of the first tire produced in Japan (left)
The new time will be sold under the brand name Enasave (saving energy in Japanese) 100. It is 1.2 times stronger against wear than the existing tire. The suggested retail price of this new tire (195 mm wide) is 21,105 yen. The company plans to sell a tire whose rolling resistance coefficient is 50% lower than the existing tire in 2014, showing their determination to place the highest importance on developing products characterized by energy-saving and low-fuel consumption. The following two web pages explain Sumitomo's Enasave more in detail (in Japanese). 

Sumitomo's Enasave vs. Bridgestone's Regno

Thursday, November 21, 2013

No. 809: Successful development of a new LED chip capable of reducing blue light by 95% (November 21, 2013)

Showa Denko developed an LED chip that reduces blue light coming out from PC and smartphone screens by 95%. LED illuminations and liquid crystal displays use a blue LED as the main light source. A blue LED is said to be liable to make eyes dry and keep a man from falling asleep. The company successfully reproduced light almost the same as the light source of a blue LED by combining three colors of LED chips: purplish red, yellow, and blue green. The existing purplish red LED does not have enough brightness to be used as the light source of illumination, but the company successfully increased its brightness.

Because the newly developed LED chip does not use a blue LED, it can reduce blue light by 95%. Showa Denko wishes to commercialize the new LED chip and put it on the LC display and LED lighting market toward 2014. The new LED chip will be 2-3 times higher in price than a blue LED, but the price increase of lighting and LC display that incorporate the new LEC chip will be between 20% and 30%. It is estimated that 10 billion blue LED chips are produced monthly worldwide, and the company estimates the potential demand for replacement will be about 5% of the world production. 

Blue LED chips are flushing to reduce
traffic accidents at a tunnel exit in Tokyo

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No. 808: A new approach to the prediction of torrential rainfall (November 20, 2013)

A Doppler radar
A research team led by Director Hiromu Seko of Meteorological Research Institute developed a new approach to increase the prediction accuracy of regional torrential rainfall. The new approach determines the increase and decrease trend of water vapor content with the help of radio waves that reflect off obstacles like transmission line tower and return to the observation radar of Japan Meteorological Agency, and take them into consideration for the calculation of precipitation and the region subject to rainfall. 

Because the Doppler radar cannot get data without raindrops, it cannot measure water vapor content before it rains. The research team calculated the refractive index of air using the conditions of radio waves returning from transmission line towers and confirmed that the increase and decrease trend can be determined from the time change the refractive index. They put the trend together with such data as temperature and wind in the calculation model and reproduced the lightening storm that hit the Tokyo Metropolitan area on August 4, 2008 and found that the experimental data agreed with the actual rainfall. The research results are scheduled to be presented in the autumn meeting of Meteorological Society of Japan on November 21. 

The torrential rainfall that hit Tochigi Prefecture
in the Kanto district on July 27, 2013