Monday, September 30, 2013

No. 784: Successful experiment to make a sodium-ion battery operational at room temperature (October 1, 2013)

Sumitomo Electric and Kyoto University jointly succeeded in improving the performance of a sodium ion battery. Although a sodium-ion battery needs a temperature higher than 57 degrees centigrade to operate, they successfully made it operational at 20 degrees centigrade in an experiment. They confirmed that the trial product allowed for 1,000 discharges and charges. They used molten salt in which sodium is dissolved to build this trial product. They also opened the door to the practical application for the storage system of housing that requires durability of10 years. 

Sodium-ion batteries built by
They expect that a sodium-ion battery can be sold for 100,000-200,000 yen/kWh, which is almost the same as a lithium-ion battery. A sodium-ion battery is inferior to a lithium-ion battery in capacity, but it makes a storage system smaller because it can simplify equipment to release heat. Because the newly developed sodium ion battery is now operational at room temperature, it does not need a heater to start generating electricity. Sumitomo Electric wishes to launch the newly developed sodium-ion battery for the storage system that stores electricity generated by photovoltaic generation toward 2015. The research results will be presented in the 54th Battery Symposium in Japan scheduled for October 7-9 in Osaka.   

    Towards high energy density 
sodium-ion batteries

Sunday, September 29, 2013

No. 783: Downloading three movies in one second (September 30, 2013)

What is terahertz?
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications will develop a technology to realize ultrahigh-speed communication of a smartphone. The technology allows a smartphone to transmit and receive videos and data 1,000 times faster than the existing technology. That is, it will be possible to download three two-hour movies in one second. The ministry will outsource research to semiconductor manufacturers in 2014 and put the new technology into practical use in time for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The new technology will employ the terahertz wave that has high frequencies and can transmit a large volume of electronic data. Because it is hard to generate terahertz waves and control the direction of travel, the technology to utilize terahertz waves is unpracticed at present. The new radio wave will be used for short distant communication including wireless LAN. The base station of wireless LAN will be set up near the sites of the Tokyo Olympics to provide a comfortable communication environment. Everyone will be able to see the ongoing competition with his smartphone in real time.  

Innovatrion by terahertz wave

Saturday, September 28, 2013

No. 782: Kawasaki Heavy backs up the spread of fuel-cell vehicles (September 28, 2013)

Business trend:

A hydrogen station in Tokyo
Kawasaki Heavy decided to build ships exclusively for the import of liquefied hydrogen and start to import liquefied hydrogen from Australia starting in 2017. The government will formulate safety standards to support the Kawasaki’s decision. With the launch of the ships, import hydrogen will be 50% cheaper than domestic hydrogen. The company will start the substantiative experiment to import liquefied hydrogen from the State of Victoria starting in 2017 with an investment of 60 billion yen. 

It will build two ships, each of which can transport 2,500 m cubic meters per voyage. They will be able to import 2,700 tons of liquefied hydrogen per year that is equivalent to the consumption by 35,000 fuel-cell vehicles. It also plans to construct equipment to liquefy hydrogen in Australia. After establishing the safety system and sales networks, Kawasaki will build two large ships capable of transporting 160,000 cubic meters of liquefied hydrogen by 2030. That is, it will have a capacity to supply hydrogen equal to the annual consumption of three million fuel-cell vehicles in 2030.

Australian hydrogen is relatively cheap because hydrogen is extracted from brown coal that is watery in Australia. The price of liquefied hydrogen to be imported from Australia is estimated at 29.8 yen per one cubic meter. The distribution cost in Japan is estimated at about 60.0 yen that is about half the price of liquefied hydrogen extracted from liquefied natural gas in Japan. Kawasaki already started negotiations on the import of liquefied hydrogen with Russia. Toyota and Honda are scheduled to launch a fuel-cell vehicle for about five million yen toward 2015. Domestic energy companies will build 100 hydrogen stations by 2015. 

 Enjoy driving Honda's fuel-cell vehicle on the public road.

Friday, September 27, 2013

No. 781: Increasing the processing speed of a computer dramatically (September 27, 2013)

Professor Yasuhiko Arakawa of the University of Tokyo developed a technology to increase the processing speed of a computer dramatically using a circuit board that transmits signals between multiple LSIs not by electrons but by light. The new technology makes it possible for a PC to realize the speed achieved in 2002 by the supercomputer Earth Simulator toward 2020. His research team will present this technology in the 39th European Conference and Exhibition on Optical Communication (EOC) scheduled for September 22-26. 

The circuit board that transmits signals 
 by light between LSIs 

The newly developed circuit board is about 5 mm square. It processes information by electrons in a conventional manner inside an LSI. The processed signals are conveyed by laser, and they returns to the next LSI after they are converted into electrons. As the processing speed by light is approaching the limit, the research team used light in place of electron to increase the processing speed of a computer. This research was funded by the Funding Program for World-Leading Innovative R and D on Science and Technology (FIRST) by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

Professor Yasuhiko Arakawa

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

No. 780: An electric vehicle for less than 500,000 yen (September 26, 2013)

Electric Vehicle Development Technology Exhibition (EVEX) 2013 started yesterday in Tokyo for a three day period up to September 27. This is the fourth exhibition, and ultrasmall EVs and state-of-the-art quick chargers attract attention. Ultrasmall EVs are growing the presence as a means for short distance travel. Besides Nissan and Honda, venture companies exhibit their innovative products. Kyoden, a maker of printed circuit boards, exhibits its three-wheeler Rena X3. 

Kyoden's Rena X3

Kyoden plans to sell this three-wheeler for 498,000 yen to compete successfully with Toyota’s COMS that is being sold for 668,000 yen within the year. The exhibition drew about 19,000 visitors yesterday.   

Enjoy driving Toyota's COMS

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

No. 779: Anticounterfeit technology using the individual difference of IC chips (September 25, 2013)

Toppan Printing developed an anticounterfeit technology that uses the individual difference of IC chips. The individual recognition technology that Toppan developed uses the crystal patterns of silicone that constitutes an IC chip. The crystal pattern is created in a random manner in the production process of IC chips, and it never changes once it is created. The circuit pattern is replicable, but the crystal pattern is not replicable because a different pattern is created if a new IC chips is built. Toppan is scheduled to start produce IC tags based on the new technology and launch the product identification service by the end of September for the first time in the world. 

 The image of Toppan's new product identification service

Toppan stores information on the crystal patterns of IC tags it produced in its datacenter. The user reads information in the IC tag put on the product with a smartphone in which the near field communication (NFC) technology is incorporated or a special reader and checks the information with information stored in the Toppan’s datacenter via the Internet. Toppan will market IC tags based on the new technology to manufacturers of home electronics, industrial products, and character goods. Toppan will display the new service in the 15th Audio and Communication Expo 2013. Please click here for further information on Toppan’s new technology (in Japanese).

No. 778: Applying the car navigation technology to the medical field (September 24, 2013)

Japanese leading makers of the car navigation system are branching out into the medical field because growingly sophisticated smartphones are invading the car navigation market. Clarion is developing a desktop device to deliver a specific amount of medicine at a scheduled time automatically. The device is to prevent the aged from forgetting to take medicine, and the voice technology to give instructions will be incorporated in it. The company will build a trial mode and conduct the demonstration experiment in alliance with the leading nursing care company within the year. Clarion plans to put the device on the market in two years. 

 The smartphone replaces the car navigation system.

Pioneer started to develop a sensor to examine the blood flow. Imperceptible laser that the sensor emits to the body explores blood erythrocytes in the blood vessel. It is possible to analyze the amount and velocity of blood erythrocytes by examining the reflected light. The sensor will be as small as a box of cigarette. The world market of the simple car navigation system will supposedly shrink 15% from the level in 2011 to about 32 million units in 2017, whereas the world market of the advanced car navigation system is expected to rise 70% over the level in 2011 to about 17 million units in 2017. Please click here for further information on PIoneer's sensor (in Japanese).

Monday, September 23, 2013

No. 777: The satellite launch business goes into full swing toward 2017 (September 23, 2013)

Epsion rocket
Japan will participate in the satellite launch business in 2017 and market its technology to launch a satellite using the Epsilon that it successfully launched on September 14. It already started negotiation with Vietnam to launch an observation satellite for Vietnam. The Vietnamese satellite will be built by NEC. Vietnam is scheduled to launch an observation satellite toward 2017 with the help of Japan’s official development aid (ODA). Demand for small satellites to monitor disasters like earthquake is expected to grow in newly industrialized countries.

Though the launch cost was 5.3 billion yen this time, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency opened up the road to reduce it to 3 billion yen toward 2017. NEC established a technology to reduce the production cost of a small satellite one third to 4-5 billion yen by standardizing key parts. That is, it will cost 7-8 billion yen to launch a small satellite including the production cost of the satellite. In addition, the period from the development to the operation of a satellite will be shortened one third to about two years. The low launch cost and short period up to the operation will allow the Japanese satellite launch business to be highly competitive in the global market. The world market of the rocket launch business was 2,100 billion yen in 2012.  

The successful launch of Epsilon on Sept. 14

Friday, September 20, 2013

No. 776: Practical application of an organic thin-film solar cell is scheduled for 2015 (September 21, 2013)

Toray's organic thin-film solar cell
Toray plans to put an organic thin-film solar cell into practical use toward 2015. The organic thin-film solar cell is regarded as the next-generation solar cell because it is thin and bendable. By improving materials of the generating layer, the company developed a technology to lengthen the durability from one year to 10 years. At the same time, it successfully increased the efficiency to convert light into electricity to 10.6 that is the highest level conversion rate for the soft solar cell of this kind.

As organic thin-film solar cells are light and sheet-like, they can be easily incorporated in home electronics and mobile phones not to mention that they can be installed on house walls. Although they can be charged by indoor lighting, they cannot spread easily because their durability is about one year. Toray applied a material of the sulfur system to the generating layer and increased the thickness by three times to 300 nanometers. The new technology avoids leakage and prevents the layers from being destroyed. The production cost of an organic thin-film solar cell is estimated at one third of that of silicone solar cell. The existing off-the-shelf silicone solar cell has about 15% conversion rate from light to electricity, while Toray plans to increase the conversion rate of an organic thin-film solar cell to more than 12% in the near future.    

    Light and bendable solar cell

No. 775: Weather forecasting technology grows more sophisticated (September 20, 2013)

Weather radar stationed in 
Okinawa Prefecture
Three organizations involved in weather forecasting are developing approaches to faster and more precise weather forecasting. Meteorological Research Institute will introduce new radio detection and ranging (radar) that observes clouds from the top to the bottom and examines the moves of raindrops and winds in every 10 seconds. Called Phased Array Radar, the new radar emits radio waves to nearly all altitudes using X band that has an about 3-cm wavelength in place of the existing radar that changes the altitude mechanically. Japan Meteorological Agency has 20 radars across the country, but the existing radars collect information on clouds once in every five minutes. The new radar can perform the same job once in every 10 seconds. That is, it can tell the picture that raindrops fall onto the ground almost in real time and give a possibility to observe the tornado formation close to the ground. It plans to construct a forecasting system by developing software for analysis and computation in five years.  

National Research Institutue for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention plans to develop a supersensitive small radar for precise observation of the inside of clouds before it starts to rain using millimeter waves that have a wavelength of about 8.5 mm. Based on the water volume inside clouds, the radar can distinguish between water and ice. It precisely computes the development of clouds, rainfall time, and rainfall location for the precise forecasting of heavy rain. Weathernews stationed a small weather radar that is an improved version of X-band radar for aircraft in about 80 locations across the country. The small radar gets data in every six seconds near the ground surface by limiting the observation angle to 120 degrees.   

Phased Array Radar   

Thursday, September 19, 2013

No. 774: Growing vegetables using carbon dioxide in exhaust gases from industrial plants (September 19, 2013)

Greenhouse cultivation
JFE Engineering developed a system for efficient vegetable growth with the help of carbon dioxide contained in exhaust gases from industrial plants and electric power plants besides exhaust heat from them. The system can produce two times more vegetables than outdoor culture and 20% more vegetables than greenhouse culture. The new system recovers carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases and sends it into the greenhouse at the optimal concentration for vegetable growth. Because it employs the special purification unit, safe carbon dioxide without impurities can be recovered.

The system is priced at 2,000 million yen for a 50,000-square-meter greenhouse. For farmers without a plant, the company will market a model complete with a gas engine with an output of 1,000 kW for the purpose of utilizing power and heat created by the gas engine. The gas engine emits 0.5 ton of carbon dioxide per hour. However, in the case of a 50,000-square-meter greenhouse, vegetables being grown absorb all carbon dioxide emitted from the gas engine. Production cost of vegetables can be reduced by 30% because of increased shipments and decreased labor cost. The initial investment can be recouped in seven to eight years. The company is also working on a regional model that recovers carbon dioxide from an industrial park and sends it to farmlands in a region using pipes.  

 The image of a new system 
developed by JFE Engineering

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No. 773: Chuo Shinkansen starts operation in 2027 (September 18, 2013)

The final route of the Chuo Shinkansen and the locations of new stations were made public. With an investment of 9,000 billion yen, Chuo Shinkansen will start operation between Tokyo and Nagoya (286 km) in 2027 and between Nagoya and Shin Osaka (152 km) in 2045. The linear car will travel between Tokyo and Nagoya in about 40 minutes and between Tokyo and Osaka (438 km) in about one hour. 

It is hardly possible to inaugurate the Chuo Shinkansen in time for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for 2020 because underground and tunnels accounts for 86% of the line. However, Central Japan Railway, operator of the Chuo Shinkansen, will offer the paid opportunity to ride the linear car traveling on the experiment line next year. The Chuo Shinkansen will integrate Japan’s three economic regions of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka. The economic effect is estimated at 16,800 billion yen when the three regions are integrated in 2045. 

Chuo Shinkansen starts operation in 2027.