Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No. 836: Supersensitive thin-film transistor that detects the change of faint electric signals (February 20, 2014)

Toray built a supersensitive thin-film transistor (TFT) that detects the change of faint electric signals. Using a composite material of carbon nanotube, the company realized the sensitivity that is more than 10 times higher than that of the existing thin-film transistor made of silicone. It can allow a flat screen TV to display the video much faster, and can be applied to a biosensor to detect a tiny amount of protein in the blood. The company plans to put the new TFT into practical use in 

The new TFT adopted a composite material made of carbon nanotube of 95% purity and a polymer molecule. Because the purity is rather high, the composite material can be a thin film uniformly for higher sensitivity. In addition, it can be built by an ink-jet printer, and the production cost is one fifth of that of the existing amorphous silicon transistor. If the change of faint electric signals created when blood is dropped on the TFT can be detected, the new product can be used to examine blood component. And it can be a high sensitive biochip to tell whether a small amount of protein is contained. Toray wishes to practicalize the new TFT as a blood sugar level sensor for diabetic patients.

 Toray's technology on organic TFT liquid crystal display

No. 835: Preventing a driver from falling into a doze using a smartphone (February 19, 2014)

Toshiba and a car goods maker Carmate will jointly put a system to prevent a driver from falling into a doze on the market. The system is made up of a smartphone and a biosensor to measure heart rate. The driver of a vehicle puts a smartphone that incorporates the special application software inside the vehicle and wear a biosensor. The image recognition sensor and acceleration sensor built in the smartphone collect the running date of the vehicle in real time and estimate the distance to the preceding vehicle and usage of the brake. 

The image of the system to prevent snooze

Data will be transmitted together with heart rate obtained from the biosensor to the server managed by the Toshiba group. By analyzing the incoming data, the system will give the driver an audio warning not to fall into a doze. Toshiba Information System and Carmate are scheduled to start to offer this service for a monthly fee of several hundred yen in January 2015. The two companies plan to sell operators of long-distance buses and taxi companies for the health management of their drivers. 

 A revolutionary device to prevent a driver
from falling into a doze?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

No. 834: An in-car system that figures on driver’s operation (February 12, 2014)

Mitsubishi Electric developed an in-car system that figures on driver’s operation. With the help of the history of driver’s operation, it guides him to the destination and to the nearest gas station when gas is going to run out. The system combines data of operation history, such as tuning the radio to the favorite station and talking with a specific person at specific time, with current traffic information and figures on the next operation of the driver. 


The driver can show the place he is going to visit and the person he is going to call on the display. He can show candidates on the display only by uttering the name of the place and the person he wants call. The company wishes to put the technology into practical use after 2018. For further details, please click here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No. 833: Producing a plastics raw material from seawater and carbon dioxide (February 11, 2014)

Yasuaki Einaga of Keio University and Kazuya Nakata of Tokyo University of Science jointly developed a technology to synthesize formaldehyde, a raw material of plastics and adhesive, from seawater and carbon dioxide. The technology generates gas by electrifying in seawater with the help of an electrode made of artificial diamond and collects generated gas to produce formaldehyde. Hydrogen ions contained in seawater react to carbon dioxide and generates formaldehyde. Theoretically, it is possible to produce formaldehyde inexhaustibly with seawater and carbon dioxide. In addition, the technology will be of great help for effective utilization of carbon dioxide recovered from manufacturing plants and thermal electric power plants. The research team will advance the technology for practical application in alliance with chemical companies.

It is possible to use a carbon electrode to synthesize formaldehyde, but the generation efficiency is 20% at most. However, the new technology successfully increased the generation efficiency to about 74%, and it does not need high temperature and high pressure. Besides, it needs only small amount of electricity for synthesis. Low electricity expense makes the new technology highly competitive in terms of production cost. However, it is a critical issue how to develop large diamonds at low cost for practical application because the new technology needs an electrode made of artificial diamond. Currently, formaldehyde is synthesized by adding high temperature and high pressure to methanol made of natural gas and coal. World production of formaldehyde is 8 million tons per year at present.   

Plastics made of rice
Efforts are being made to create plastics
without relying on oil

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

No. 832: Developing smart cars stimulates related industries (2/2) (February 3, 2014)

Business trend:
Japanese electronics manufacturers will commercialize the technology that assists safety driving one after another. Clarion developed a system for automatic garaging in alliance with Hitachi Automotive Systems. The system automatically detects space available for parking and operates the steering wheel automatically with the help of the in-car camera. The company has already started selling the system to automakers with a view to commercializing it in 2018.  

Pioneer will launch an information communication terminal that incorporates a liquid crystal touch screen in the rearview mirror. The terminal displays maps and road information via the Internet and allows the driver to see the information without moving his visual line greatly as compared with the standard car navigation system. It has the function to collect and transmit the traveling data. Pioneer plans to provide leading automakers with data necessary for the development of automated driving. 

 A liquid crystal display incorporated in the rear view mirror

Jcvkenwood developed a system that displays the situation of the rear on the liquid crystal screen in the driver’s seat. The side mirrors are replaced by small cameras that transmit images to the liquid crystal screen. The system can improve fuel efficiency besides helping the driver detect a pedestrian even at night. The smart-car related market will supposedly grow three times as big as today to 5 trillion yen in 2018.    

Please enjoy night driving on an express highway
through the screen of a Jcvkenwood navitation system

Monday, February 3, 2014

No. 831: Developing smart cars stimulates related industries (1/2) (February 2, 2014)

Business trend:
Today, about 1,000 million cars are running on the earth, and people trade information using 1,500 million PCs and 1,800 million smartphones. Automakers naturally ally with IT-related companies to develop smart cars as epitomized by the alliance between Google and leading automakers including GM and Honda. The development of smart cars is now crucial for every automaker in the world. Fujitsu collects and analyzes information, such as location and speed, from 4,000 taxies traveling inside Tokyo. It receives 23 million data every day and combines them with information on weather, traffic, and dangerous points besides information coming from social networking services. Fujitsu’s service allows taxi drivers to know the places from which smartphone users complain how hard it is to get a taxi.

The move to develop smart cars stimulates related industries. Demand for electronic parts vital to smart cars is growing fast. Toshiba plans to mass-produce sophisticated semiconductors for image processing starting last half of this year. Toshiba’s semiconductor can process images of four in-car cameras at the same time, and Toshiba plans to develop even more powerful and sophisticated semiconductors. Panasonic unveiled its information system that allows a car driver to check the instruments and display devices quickly and easily. It is developing a system that allows a car driver to operate such actions as closing the door, turning on and off the air-conditioner, and performing automatic parking using his smartphone. Nidec acquired Honda Elesys with a view to participating in the market by developing a technology for fuel efficiency and better maneuverability with the help of electronic control unit.

Makers of car navigation systems also plan to participate in the market because the spread of smartphone decreases sales of car navigation systems. Pioneer allied with NTT DoCoMo to provide car goods dealers and nonlife insurance companies with driving information based on big data. Clarion developed an automatic parking system in alliance with Hitachi. It will grow more important for every automaker to make their cars more appealing in alliance with IT companies instead of pursuing only such traditional yardsticks as speed and fuel efficiency. 

Fujitsu utilizes big data for safer and more 
convenient traffic systems 

Panasonic participates in the smart car
development competiton