Thursday, May 31, 2012

No. 524: Lithium-ion battery is growing higher in performance (May 31, 2012)

A research team made up of scientists from National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) and Toray successfully developed a new lithium-ion battery. The new product can store 1.5 times more electrical energy than the existing lithium-ion battery of the same size. In addition, it can be used in a temperature range between minus 30 to plus 140 degrees centigrade, and it has rather high degree of safety. Should it be employed by an electric vehicle, it can lengthen the travel distance per change from 200 km to 300 km.  

The research team changed the material of some components. They used silicon oxide resistant to 800 degrees centigrade instead of graphite for anode, stainless steel instead of copper foil for collector, and polyimide for separator. Production cost remains almost the same. In the test, discharge and charge was successfully repeated at 140 degrees centigrade, and more than 58% of the performance was exhibited at minus 30 degrees centigrade. The test confirmed that employing silicon oxide increases the safety of anode and makes the lithium-ion battery hard to break even if it is given an impact. The research team plans to put the new lithium-ion battery into practical use for various applications including electric vehicle at an early date.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No. 523: Thin and splinterless glass for solar batteries and lighting fixtures (May 29, 2012)

Companies from various industrial fields are busily preparing for the widespread of photovoltaic generation. Asahi Glass will put its “Leoflex” that is thin and splinterless special glass on the market nationwide coming June. The company has been shipping “Leoflex” to some solar battery manufacturers, and decided to sell it in such industrial markets as architecture and illumination.  

Leoflex is roughly 910 wide and1,820 mm deep, and weighs about 3 kg. It is about 0.8 mm thick that is nearly a quarter of thickness of the existing glass. Its surface is treated by chemical to make it hard to break. Fuji Pream, one of Japan’s leading manufacturers of optical filters, became the first company that introduced Leoflex. It is likely that Leoflex will facilitate the spread of photovoltaic generation because light weight is a great advantage for a system to be installed on the rooftop of a house. 

Leoflex's image is available in the following pdf. file. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

No. 522: Japanese railway technology is increasing its presence in Asia (May 26, 2012)

Business  trend:
Thanks to the strong reliability and excellent energy saving ability, Japanese railway technology gets orders from abroad in succession. Sojitz, one of Japan’s leading general trading companies, got an order for a power storage system from Hong Kong in alliance with Meidensha. They got an order for the power storage unit that stores regenerative energy a railway car generates when it applies the brake together with electric substation equipment. The Meidensha’s unit called CAPAPOST stores electricity in capacitors that allow for input and output of a large volume of electricity at a time. It has a discharge and charge capacity of 2,000 kW. As compared with the power storage unit that uses lithium-ion battery, Meidensha’s unit is suitable for transportation that needs a great deal of power current in arrival and departure. 

Sojitz plans to increase sales of the railway business to 150 billion yen in three years, and even plants to participate in railway management business for long-term stable revenue. Other general trading companies are also active. Marubeni acquired an order for the amount of 80 billion yen from the Philippines. The order includes railway cars and related electrical equipment. Sumitomo also received an order for the amount of 63 billion yen from Vietnam. The order is expected to include Japanese railway cars. Because the Japanese railway technology can exhibit excellent competitive edge, it will likely get more orders from Asian countries where railway construction grows widespread in an accelerating pace.

CAPAPOST, Meidensha’s regenerative energy storage unit

Friday, May 25, 2012

No. 521: A small mass spectrometer capable of detecting stimulants and narcotics (May 25, 2012)

HitachiHigh-Technologies developed a small mass spectrometer that can detect stimulants and narcotics. It is less than one tenth of the existing standard mass spectrometer in terms of price and weight, and it can examine drugs in urine at a concentration of one ten millionth. It is the world’s first portable analyzing device that supports the investigations of Drugs of Abuse. Using its self-developed algorithm, the company allowed the device to tell the existence of drugs in a sample in less than five minutes. If drugs are detected, it displays the names of the detected drugs automatically on the screen. That is, no expertise is required, and investigators can handle the device easily in the field. At present, no device capable of detecting drugs in the field is available.

The company developed this device in alliance with Hitachi, University of Yamanashi, Kobe Gakuin University, and National Police Agency. The research team successfully downsized the device by reviewing the sizes of ionization sources and the analysis module. The number of illegal drugs is on the increase lately, but the device can increase the number of illegal drugs that it can support only by adjusting the database. The company plans to commercialize it in 2012 and put it on the domestic and foreign markets in 2013. It weighs 10 kg. The unit price is scheduled to be about 10 million yen.

A new portable mass spectrometer capable of detecting stimulants and narcotics in five minutes from Hitachi High-Technologies

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No. 520: Japanese clean coal technology goes to Kazakhstan and Kirghiz (May 24, 2012)

Business trend
Japan decided to strengthen its relations with Republic of Kazakhstan and Kirghiz Republic with the help of the clean coal technology that increases the efficiency of a coal thermal power plant and reduces environmental load. The Japanese government concluded cooperative documents with the two countries. It wishes to stabilize the procurement of rare earths by strengthening the relations with them. The clean coal technology is to extract the moisture content in coals to reduce CO2 emissions for higher combustion efficiency.

Kazakhstan has many obsolete coal thermal power plants built by the former Soviet Union. It enacted the Energy-Saving Act by reference to Japanese laws and regulations and the profession of energy administrator was established in last December. The Energy-Saving Act stipulated that an energy administrator be stationed in each of the power plants and manufacturing plants that use electricity. The Japanese government will invite about 20 engineers for training from Kazakhstan besides giving seminars in Kazakhstan. Kirghiz has reserve of about 2 billion tons of brown coals. It strongly seeks the Japanese technology that dries brown coals to increase combustion efficiency. New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NIDO) will help Kirghiz.   

Republic of Kazakhstan 

Kirghiz Republic

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

No. 519: Seeking the coexistence of different charging standards for electric vehicles (May 23, 2012)

Business trend
Japanese automakers established the Japanese charging standard for electric vehicles and a total of 8 western automakers including GM and Volkswagen promote the Combined Charging System. CHAdeMO Association promotes the Japanese standard, and Toshiyuki Shiba, Chief Operating Office of Nissan Motor, is the president of the CHAdeMO that puns for “Let’s have a tea while charging” in English. He stated in a press conference that his association would seek the way for the coexistence of the Japanese standard and the western standard, instead of allowing them to compete. He will collaborate with International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to seek the coexistence of the two standards.

He told, “It is possible to let the two standards coexist and make them compatible because they are almost the same with only a 5% difference in structure that includes the connector figure and the charge control system.” IEC is scheduled to register the Japanese standard, western standard, and Chinese standard and bring them into effect next summer. Before IEC’s decision, his association will make strenuous efforts to work with foreign governments for the coexistence of the three standards. 

 CHAdeMO quick charger

 CHAdeMO quick charger at a gas station

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No. 518: Japanese high-tech companies increase their presence in Saudi Arabia rapidly (May 22, 2012)

Business trend
Saudi Arabia is hastily diversifying its industrial structure to avoid overdependence on oil, and Japanese companies began operation one after another for local production. J-Power Systems, jointly founded by Hitachi Cable and Sumitomo Electric, will start to manufacture composite undersea cables that combine copper wire and optical fiber coming August. They can be used not only for electric transmission but also for communications. The company plans to manufacture 160 km annually to achieve sales of about 240 billion yen in 2013. Toyobo and Itochu started to operate the local plant to produce reverse osmosis membrane used for seawater desalination in alliance with a local company. They plan to get sales of 4 billion yen in three years.

Isuzu Motors is scheduled to start constructing a plant to build up medium-size trucks in Damman toward mid-December. The investment is 9 billion yen. The initial production is 600 units annually, and it will increase to 25,000 units annually in incremental steps. Mitsubishi Rayon plans to produce carbon fiber and Azbil wishes to produce valves for petrochemical plants locally. Asahi Kasei considers producing raw materials of high-performance resins locally. LG Electronics of Korea constructed a production base of air-conditioners, and Dow Chemical of the U.S. decided to construct the world largest petrochemical plant in Saudi Arabia, and Japanese high-tech companies follow them. 

Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia

Monday, May 21, 2012

No. 517: Collaboration between a Japanese research laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy for biofuel (May 21, 2012)

Business trend
Honda Research and Development, a subsidiary of Honda Motor, started a joint research with the Department of Energy of the U.S. to develop biofuel from nonfood steams and leaves of corn and cane pomace. Green Earth Institute that is a venture company originating from Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth will also participate in the joint project. The two Japanese organizations will ferment sugar using their self-developed gene-modified fungus to produce sugar through fermentation. The U.S. side will take care of the pretreatment process that begins with processing trees and plants and ends in extracting sugar. The U.S. side reckons that the Japanese technology will halve the price of bioethanol to 2.5 dollars. A gallon is about 3.8 liters.

When both sides successfully pave the way for practical application, the U.S. Department Energy will advertise for participating companies and incorporate the new technology into the production mechanism of bioethanol plants. The test production is scheduled for 2014, and the target for the practical application is in 2016. Finished product will be marketed inside the U.S. World bioethanol production in 2011 was about 26 billion gallons, most of which was consumed by vehicles. The U.S. plans to increase the production of biofuel made from nonfood to 16 billion gallons in 10 years. 

Honda’s Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV) built for Brazil that runs either with ethanol or with the mixed fuel of gasoline and ethanol  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

No. 516: Japan’s first demonstration experiment to transmit electricity to households with a superconducting cable (May 19, 2012)

In a joint project with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), Sumitomo Electric will conduct Japan’s first demonstration experiment to transmit electricity to households with a superconducting cable coming November. The company will lay down a cable that becomes superconducting should it be cooled down to minus 196 degrees centigrade and transmit electricity of about 200,000 kW to see whether electricity to be lost as energy will decrease. In the future, the cable is expected to halve the loss in transmission.

The cable to be used is the high temperature superconducting cable covered by the tube in which liquid nitrogen circulates. The company will connect the cable with the power system connected with one of the electric power plants operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company this November for the one-year demonstration experiment. Tokyo Electric Power Company has underground cables with a total length of 400 km that transmit electricity at higher than 275 kilovolts, and about 40,000 kW of electricity is lost as energy in transmission. It is estimated that about 20,000 kW will be saved should the high temperature superconducting cables replace all the existing cables.
The high temperature superconducting cable from Sumitomo Electric

Friday, May 18, 2012

No. 515: Technologies to prevent a car accident from occurring (May 18, 2012)

According to the National Policy Agency, the number of the dead in a car accident halved for the past 10 years, but the ratio of pedestrians to the total dead is on the rise. Automakers are actively addressing the development of a technology to prevent a car accident from occurring.

Nagoya University Professor Goro Ohinata paved the way to the technology to judge the deterioration of attentiveness of the driver from his eye movement in alliance with Toyota Motor. He focused on the fact that eye movement becomes slower when the driver gets tired or enters a crossing in an unstable emotional status. He is trying to build a mechanism to check the eye movement of the driver with the help of a camera installed in a car and give him a warning when his eye movement becomes slower. Using a driving simulator, he tested the mechanism against people of various generations. The three charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras installed in the car successfully detected the abnormal change of the driver. He plans to test the mechanism using a real car this autumn.

Nissan built EPORO that is a car-like robot. It runs with other robots keeping a certain distance between them while avoiding obstacles using a sensor. The company got ideas from a school of fish that travels to the destination, though each of fish seems to move at is own discretion. Honda developed a system to tell the driver the timing to apply the brake. The company tested this technology in Italy, and plans to put it into practical use in 2015.

Nagoya University Professor Kazuya Takeda developed a technology to predict a risk from the driver’s unnatural driving in alliance with Denso. While a man drives, the mechanism records such data as speed, inter-vehicle distance, and acceleration. When the drives starts to show driving with different characteristics, the mechanism presumes the possibility of inattentive driving and drowsy driving. “This technology can predict a risk three second beforehand,” Professor Takeda said.  

Nissan's EPORO

Thursday, May 17, 2012

No. 514: Honda’s electric two-wheeler that allows you to travel while you remain seated (May 17, 2012)

Honda developed an electric two-wheeler. The new two-wheeler, UNI-CUB, allows you to travel only by shifting your weight while you remain seated at a maximum speed of 6 km/h. It is 74.5 cm high with two wheels. One is for moving back and forth, and the other is for rotating movement. If you incline forward a little, you can travel forward slowly. You can easily travel from side to side or gyrate only shifting your weight. You can also operate the UNI-CUB using a small touch panel.

The company plans to address the demonstration experiment in alliance with the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan). They will conduct the demonstration experiment until March 2013. The staff members of the Miraikan will use the two-wheeler to guide visitors and patrol inside the premises to explore ways to improve the two-wheeler. Mamoru Mouri, an ex-astronaut and Miraikan’s director, gave an impression, saying that he felt as if he returned to the zero gravity space. It is not yet decided whether or not this new product will be commercialized.

  Honda's UNI-CUB

  Applications of Honda's UNI-CUB

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No. 513: A new plant with a capacity to recover six times more CO2 than the existing plant (May 16, 2012)

Japanese high-tech companies are the front runners in the technology to recover CO2 in the world. Mitsubishi Heavy developed a new plant that can recover 3,000 tons of CO2 per day, six times bigger capacity than the existing recovery plant. The company has been operating a plant with a daily recovery capacity of 500 tons in Mobile of the state of Alabama of the U.S. A recovery plant consists of CO2 recovery equipment and large-scale compressors, etc., and recovers only CO2 from gas emissions using a special absorbing solution. If a nuclear power plant with an output of 1 million kW is replaced by a coal-fired thermal power plant, 12,000 tons of CO2 will be emitted daily.

In addition to the recovery technology, Mitsubishi Heavy is developing a technology to pour CO2 into an aging oilfield to regenerate it. Aging oilfields mostly have crude oil of high viscosity, and increasing the fluidity of the residual oil with the help of poured CO2 can regenerate them. At the same time, should an oil layer exist below the bedrock, it is possible to increase the pressure by pouring CO2 for higher production efficiency. According to International Energy Agency, the world capacity of coal-fired thermal generation plants will increase two times over the level in 2008 to 1,400 million kW in 2030, and reduction of CO2 emissions by dint of recovery and storage will reach 8,000 million kW by 2050. Other Japanese leading high-tech companies like IHI, Hitachi, and Toshiba are actively developing the CO2 recovery business both at home and abroad. 

The CO2 recovery plant in Mobile in the state of Alabama by Mitsubishi Heavy

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No. 512: Changing the TV screen by body language signals (May 15, 2012)

Neither a remote controller nor a mouse is required to change the screen of a TV and a PC. This is the technology developed by NEC. A camera that measures the three-dimensional figures precisely is set in face of the viewer. A PC with preinstalled body language signals responds to his actions. If he sends a body language signal to catch something, he can copy the file on the screen, and if he moves his hand horizontally and opens his fingers, he can paste the selected file on another place.

A small projector installed besides the camera will have the function to project images before the viewer. If the projector is installed on the digital signage on the street or in commercial facilities, walking people can operate the screen by their body language signals and locate shops and restaurants with the help of projected images projected on the map and direction board. The company wishes to put this new technology on the market in one year. 

NEC’s newly developed technology that allows the viewer to change the PC screen by body language signals

Monday, May 14, 2012

No. 511: A new system to collect and recycle CO2 emitted from a phosphoric acid fuel cell (May 14, 2012)

A fuel cell generates electricity by virtue of the reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the air. The problem is that CO2 is emitted in the process to extract hydrogen from the reformer using city gas. Tokyo Gas successfully put a system to collect and recycle CO2 emitted from a phosphoric acid fuel cell into practical use. The system can collect 15.4 kg of CO2 out of 51.4 kg of CO2 emissions from a phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) at an output of 100 kW per hour. In addition, it reduced power consumption to collect CO2 from 28 kW to 12 kW.

The emission gas from a PAFC is cooled and dehumidified using the pretreatment unit to make it dry gas from which only CO2 is extracted using the pressure swing absorption (PSA) method. The separated CO2 is processed by the liquefied apparatus and filled in a portable cryogenic container. It can be used for CO2 welding and as a solvent to micronize an agent. Because the system allows collected CO2 to be used directly, the system will introduced to the plant factory operated by Chiba University

  An experimental plant factory for tomato growing of Chiba University

Saturday, May 12, 2012

No. 510: Successful development of a batteryless, wireless sensor system that utilizes oscillation generation (May 12, 2012)

Mitsubishi Electric Engineering developed a batteryless, wireless sensor system that utilizes oscillation generation. The system consists of an oscillation generator that uses spring and a control board that incorporates sensor and radio unit. The generator amplifies imperceptible vibrations by virtue of the resonance of the spring and collects electricity. The company exercised its ingenuity to allow the spring to generate electricity even with a small number of vibrations. The new sensor is maintenance-free and long-life because replacing batteries is not required.

The test model generates feeble electricity even with vibrations of less than 10 Hz. The sensor measures such data as lighting intensity, temperature, and humidity with generated electricity and sends them through the control board. The company simplified the circuit design to curb power consumption. The test model employs the intermittent control that sends a signal for every 10 seconds. The company developed this sensor for the remote control in places where human cannot work with safety, such as on the ocean and on the steel tower. It has not decided whether or not the new sensor is produced on a commercial basis, but the test model can be build at less than 100,000 yen. The company is now checking the responses from the market to explore its marketability. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

No. 509: Successful development of a technology for complete recycling of wasted fiber reinforced mortar tubes (May 11, 2012)

The glass reinforced mortar tube (FRPM) is made up of a fiber glass reinforced plastic (FRP) layer and a resin mortar layer. Currently, only fine powder containing resin mortar is recycled. Osaka University and Kurimoto jointly developed a technology to recycle FRPM completely. The newly developed technology reprocesses wasted RRP to heat insulator and reutilizes wasted resin mortar as FRPM. The research team developed this technology under the leadership of Professor of Makio Naito of Joining and Welding Research Institute of Osaka University.

Fractions of wasted RFP are put in a mill, and they are separated into FRP waste material that includes glass fiber and resin mortar. Nanoparticles of silica are added to the surface of the collected the FRP waste material to produce a light-weight and porous material with high degree of thermal insulation by press work. The reprocessed insulator has lots of hollows of less than 100 nanometers, and it can be utilized as insulator because it is light-weight and its thermal conductivity is low. FRP is widely used in such industrial fields as automobile, aircraft, and home electronics, and 45-50 tons of wasted glass fiber is produced annually. Because no recycling technology is established, nearly all wasted FRP is currently reclaimed or destroyed by fire. Protector tubes used for sewage water pipes and telecommunication cables can hardly be recycled because the composite structure containing the resin mortar layer accounts for more than half of the cross section.  

No. 508: Clarifying the deterioration mechanism of potassium carbonate (May 10, 2012)

The research team of Tokyo University’s Institute of Industrial Science clarified the mechanism that deteriorates the catalytic property of potassium carbonate used to purify soot emitted from a diesel engine under the leadership of Associate Professor Masaru Ogura. Potassium carbonate can be used as a catalyst to purify soot emitted from a diesel engine should it be combined with sodalite that is a kind of zeolite, but it separates from sodalite and deteriorates its catalysis as the period of service of a diesel engine grows longer. Measures to prevent the deterioration have been strongly desired.

The research team studied the deterioration mechanism and found that the depuration likely deteriorates because the calcium ion of potassium carbonate combined with sodalite changes to metallic potassium or evaporates as potassium oxide. Based on the research findings, the research team plans to develop a material with stronger ability to retain potassium ion. Emissions from a diesel engine contain hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide in addition to soot. While a platinum catalyst is effective for all of these substances, potassium carbonate can purify only soot. However, should potassium carbonate can replace platinum for the purification of soot, it will be possible to halve the required amount of platinum to purify emissions from a diesel engine. 

The newly developed diesel engine from Mazda, Skyactiv-D22

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

No. 507: A new advanced cleaning robot understands three languages (May 9, 2012)

Roomba from iRobot of the U.S. is enjoying a high popularity in Japan. Sharp will launch an advanced cleaning robot to chase Roomba. Sharp’s new product is named Cocorobo, and it will be put on the market early June. It understands three languages of Japanese, English, and Chinese. In addition, it understands two kinds of Japanese: standard Japanese and Japanese with a Kansai accent. It says, “Everything is fine” in a bright voice, responding to your voiced question of “How is everything?”

As a Roomba does, a Cocorobo makes a tour inside the room and vacuums up dust and dirt on the floor. You can see videos of your room filmed by Cocorobo’s built-in camera with your smartphone outdoors using the special, free application software downloadable to your smartphone. The high-end model that understands three languages will be priced around 130,000 yen, and the low-end model will also be available. 

Sharp's new cleaning robot that understands three languages 

Cocorobo in action

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

No. 506: An inexpensive new material for the electrolyte of a fuel cell (May 8, 2012)

Kyoto University’s assistant professor Satoshi Horike and his research team members developed a new material for the electrolyte of a fuel cell. Because it can be made of inexpensive raw materials used for pigment, a fuel cell can be built without such an expensive material as platinum. The research team plans to improve the raw materials to increase the performance of the electrolyte.

The new material can be made by mixing zinc oxide and used to produce cosmetics, phosphoric acid, and imidazole used to produce pharmaceuticals in a mortar for only 5-10 minutes. Should it be used for the electrolyte of a fuel cell, it will be possible for a fuel cell to exhibit the same performance without such an expensive material as platinum catalyst.   

The mechanism of a fuel cell 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No. 505: In search of rare metals in deep sea (May 7, 2012)

Tokyo University and National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) developed a technology to search veins of rare metals and precious metals in deep sea with the help of subtle changes of gravity. The research team will conduct the exploratory test using an unmanned submersible with built-in gravity measurement equipment this September to pave the way for the exploration of abundant submarine resources in the sea near Japan.

The research team developed the method to know whether or not a vein exists by paying attention to the fact that density increases and gravity increases slightly if a mass of heavy metals exists under the ground. The unmanned submersible “Urashima” that belongs to Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology will be loaded with gravity measurement equipment, and will go round the ocean floor about 1,000 m below the sea surface for research for three days off Shizuoka Prefecture. Following the official approval of Japan’s continental shelf by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (OLCS) of the United Nations, the Japanese government decided to expand the activities to explore undersea resources. The research results achieved by the research team will be presented on May 22 in the Japan Geoscience Union Meeting scheduled for a four day period between May 22 and May 25 in Makuhari Messe of Chiba Prefecture. 

 The unmanned submersible "Urashima"

"Urashima" in action 

Friday, May 4, 2012

No. 504: Building a bridgehead in Myanmar (May 5, 2012)

Business trend
Myanmar is called the last frontier in Asia. With a population of more than 600 million, it is rich in natural resources and expected to achieve substantial economic growth for years to come. The Japanese government decided to resume extending yen loan to Myanmar in April for the first time in the past 25 years, and leading general trading companies are busily occupied in drawing plans to build a bridgehead in Myanmar. China is dominant in direct investment in Myanmar. It invested $8,300 million in 2010 alone, but Japan invested only $200 million between 1990 and 2010.

Itochu started the feasibility study on developing mines of rare metals. It will start geological research in search for molybdenum for special steel and tungsten for superhard tool this month. At the same time, it will conduct feasibility study on developing offshore gas fields in alliance with several Japanese companies. Marubeni will start renovating the thermal electric power station and hydraulic power station. Mitsui and Co. started feasibility study on renovating the aging chemical fertilizer plant and exploring a business possibility of renovating the transforming station and water supply and sewerage systems in Yangon with the support of the Japanese government. It will resume the system to dispatch its employees to Myanmar for one year to study at a local university and increase the resident officer from two to four. Mitsubishi Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. will open a representative office in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.

Kubota will establish an office in Yangon to market agricultural machinery this summer, Foster Electric will start local production of its speakers, NTT Data will build a development base of software, and the convenience chain Lawson plans to open the first outlet in alliance with the local retailer coming December. Other companies are expected to follow the above companies. The sooner, the better. Victory goes to one who makes the first move.  

Business district of Yangon. Myanmar is called the last frontier in Asia and expected to achieve substantial economic growth for years to come

Thursday, May 3, 2012

No. 503: Successful development of aluminum wire with the same strength as copper wire for vehicle wire harness (May 4, 2012)

With the intensifying demand for lighter autobody, wire harness invites considerable attention because a vehicle carries wire harness that extends 2-3 km and weighs 30 kg on average. In the domestic wire harness market, Yazaki is the leader with 40% share, followed by Sumitomo Electric with 35% share. The third largest maker is Furukawa Electric with 12% share. To increase the presence in the market, Furukawa Electric successfully developed new aluminum wire that is two times stronger than the existing aluminum wire, that is, the same strength as copper wire, in collaboration with Tohoku University and Nisshin Kogyo that is one of the leading producers of brake parts.

Because the newly developed aluminum wire has strength of 200 Mpa that is two times stronger the existing aluminum wire, it can be used as a harness around an engine subject to big vibrations and doors subject to impacts created by opening and closing in place of cooper wire. If aluminum wire harness replaces copper wire harness completely in a vehicle, the weight of the total wire harness of a vehicle will be halved. Lighter wire harness contributes to fuel consumption greatly because it is said that reducing the weight of a car by 100 kg improves fuel consumption by 1 km per liter. Furukawa Electric plans to start to ship samples in 2014 in time for the design of the models to be launched in 2017. The world wire harness market is expected to increase 30% to 4,500 billion yen in 2030 over the level in 2010. Though aluminum wire harness is currently estimated to account for less than 50%, the newly developed aluminum wire will accelerate the replacement from copper wire harness to aluminum wire harness. 

Introduction of high-pressure wire harness
for a hybrid vehicle by Sumitomo Electric  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No. 502: Two rare earth-less vehicle motors are put into practical use before too long (May 3, 2012)

Two universities successfully conducted experiments of a rare earth-less vehicle motor. Tohoku University drove an electric vehicle loaded with a rare earth-less motor that it had developed in alliance with JEF Holdings and ENAX that is a lithium-ion battery manufacturer. The research team will also drive a small-size electric bus loaded with a rare earth-less motor coming July. Tokyo Institute of Technology verified a rare earth-less motor using a commercially-available e-vehicle and confirmed that there was virtually no difference in noise and ride quality between an rare earth-containing motor and the new rare earth-less motor. 

The two rare earth-less motors are switched reluctance motors. The concept of a switched reluctance motor was invested in the 1830, and part of it was put into practical use in the 1950s. However, it was too big and too noisy to be built in an e-vehicle. It was widely believed that the switched reluctance motor would be applied only to construction and agricultural machinery. The research team of Tohoku University devised a system to strictly control the current transmitted to a motor using semiconductors and reduced the rotational fluctuations. The team members drove a single-seater e-vehicle with the developed motor that weighs 220 kg at 40 km/h and confirmed that both acceleration and deceleration were very smooth. They are confident that it will not be difficult to increase the speed to 60 km/h if the system with improved system. They are developing a motor for an electric bus that will be driven for experiment coming July.

A professor from Tokyo Institute of Technology and a professor from Tokyo University of Science drove an e-vehicle loaded with the newly developed motor and confirmed that it has almost the same energy efficiency as the motor built in a Toyota’s hybrid vehicle. However, the former is 15% heavier than the latter. The two professors are trying to reduce the weight in alliance with automakers.  

  Switched reluctance motor test

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No. 501: Applying biometics to product development (2/2) (May 2, 2012)

We can learn a lot from the body mechanism of creatures. With the progress of nanotechnology and computer simulation, biometics is attracting wide attention for product development. A rose petal gave a clue to the research team of Tokyo Universityof Science that developed a rubber material with a wrinkle structure of about 10 nanometers. A rose is said to stay shed waterdrops on its petals and sucks nutrition in them. The new material developed by the university repels waterdrops and stay them on the surface as sphere waterdrops. The waterdrops fall when the material is bent. That is, the new material has absorbability and dissolubility in addition to water repellency. The new rubber can store rainfall without energy in the desert. Namely, it can be applied to the agriculture in the desert and arid region.

LIXIL, one of Japan’s leading company in the field of dwelling and living, focused on the clean shell of snail and found that very small furrows run on the surface of a snail’s shell. The furrows keep the snail shell covered with water, and the water film floats oil and stain that are subsequently washed away when it rains. The company applied the structure of a snail shell to its external wall materials. The treated external wall materials have a durable period of more than 30 years, two times longer durable period of the existing materials, and they are maintenance free. One resident of the house with treated external wall told with excitement that he had purchased his house 11 years ago but it is as clear as it was 11 years ago because rainfall washes out stains.

Nippon Paint Marine studied tuna skin and developed marine paint that improves fuel economy by decreasing the abrasion resistance of seawater. Mitsubishi Rayon studied the eyes of toad and developed an anti-reflection film. The functions of creatures are the reasonable and ultimate products that they achieved through evolution. There will be lots of more suggestions for product development. 

A house with the maintenance-free external wall from LIXIL