THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, JANUARY 2001

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1.National Policy
2.Spreading of Markets for PAFC
3.MCFC
4.Development of PEFC
5.Proof Operation of PEFC
6.Fuel Technology

1.National Policy
(1) Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
The unofficially noticed budget of FY 2001 from the Ministry of Finance for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry was 1893.3 billion yens including a general account and a special account as a total. The budget includes 1.7 billion yens for "Preparation of Basis for Practicality of FC", 0.3 billion yens for "Project of Investigating the Real Situation for Reduction of Fuel Consumption by Vehicles", and 3.05 billion yens for "Research and Development of PEFC."
(December 21, 2000, The Daily Automotive News)

(2)NEDO
Starting in FY2001, NEDO will drastically reinforce measures for putting PEFC for the practical use. NEDO will investigate 11 billion yens, 80% more compared to the last fiscal year, for the development of PEFC and proving facility of hydrogen station.
For the development of stationary FC in which this fiscal year will be the last year, and technological development of high efficient FC system and project of preparation basis of Spreading FC that has been started this fiscal year, NEDO has been promoting the projects on standardization and support of improvement of durability and production system aiming for the practical use. This year's budget for them was 4.45 billion yens. Also, 1.6 billion yens were appropriated for the Hydrogen Utilization International Clean Energy System Technology (WE-NET), thus a little more than 6 billion yens have been appropriated as the total of this fiscal year.
In FY 2001, the development of the stationary PEFC, which was originally planned to end this fiscal year, will be extended. While investigating 3 billion yens for the elemental research and the basic research, NEDO will investigate the total of 5 billion yens for the basic project of preparation for diffusion such as the standardization which evaluates the safeness and reliability of FC, and the supplementary project for the practicality (1/2 supplementary for the companies such as Toshiba, Matsushita Electronics, Japan Battery, Hitachi Corporation, Sanyo Electronics).
In the stated basic research, high level technological issues are given for the durability and output power density; this will re-start and be 4-year project by accepting proposals from companies. The development of a new film and materials for separators will be important points of the elemental research. In addition, by selecting the research and development themes considering the United Stated, which will reinforce the development, NEDO will reinforce on the remarks on the standardization from Japan.
Though the total amount of the FY2001 budget for the development of PEFC is planned to be 8.3 billion yens, 11 billion yens will be investigated to FC related projects including the expense for 2 types of hydrogen stations (will be completed at the end of 2001) for WE-NET.
(December 29, 2000, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)
 

2.Spreading of Markets for PAFC

(1)Tokyo Gas
By combining UPS (Unfailed Power Source System), Tokyo Gas has been working on the improvement of the reliability of PAFC and the expansion of the applicable field of PAFC. Tokyo Gas is expecting to apply it especially to "UPS Hybrid System", which is combined with the UPS as a high quality and reliable power source, and to "Twin Inverter System", which is combined with the system cooperated inverter and the independent inverter. Also, they are trying to expand the PAFC utilization in many fields such as "Life Spot System", which supply electricity and water when disaster using a reserve fuel, the method using biogas and digestive gas at a food factory and a sewage disposal plant, and the manufacture of disinfectants at a water purification plant using a direct electricity from the cell. The application of PAFC as a life spot power source, which supplies electricity and a drinking water at the disaster, has already been adopted by Technological Development Center, Kurita Water Industries.
Although, Tokyo Gas used to introduce mainly to various research organizations, colleges, and office buildings, from now on, they will especially work on the hybrid system, which obtains high quality and reliability by combining with the UPS. Most of the UPS was used for online computer center; however, recently it is used as a power source for control system as information network power source at the office buildings and factories. As a high quality power source, it is expected to apply as the twin inverter; by adding the independent inverter for the load use only to the system cooperated inverter, it can supply electricity at the power failure. These are optimum power sources for a computer room and a clear room and have been introduced to Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Technology since last April.
In the Gas Industry, the test operation using the actual 200 kW machine will be started in March to confirm its performance at Toho Gas, Nagoya. There, instead of the inverter usually mounted on the PAFC, the DC/DC converter is used and the test has been carried out for supplying DC output from FC to DC circuit of UPS.
(December 8, 2000, Kagaku Kougyo Nippou)
 

3.MCFC
(1) Nikkinko
Nippon Metal Industry (Nikkinko) is expecting a several thousands tons per year of demand development of the nickel-stainless clad belts in 4 to 5 years. The belts are used for MCFC. There is a prospect that the MCFC, which is suitable for the large-size power generation, will be spread all over the world in a few years, and if market formation is realized, a drastic expansion of the business is expected. Nikkinko has been supplying this clad belt to FCE Company, U.S. and IHI from 10 years ago; thus they have established the position as a main supplier from past achievements.
(December 12, 2000, Japan Metal Daily)

(2)IHI
IHI will move all of the function of Tokyo Technical Center, Toyosu, Tokyo, the base of the research and development, to Yokohama Works by March 2003. However, MCFC will be moved to Aioi Works, Hyogo (development of defensive devices will be moved to Mizuho Aero-Engine Works). MCFC is already in the proof phase for the practical use. IHI is the only company which stays in the final stage of the development of NEDO project and promotes the development. The future development for the practicality will be accelerated in Aioi.
(December 27, 2000, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)
 

4.Development of PEFC
(1)University of Yamanashi
Professor Masahiro Watanabe, Engineering Department, University of Yamanashi succeeded in the development of an alloy catalyst which has high durability against poisoning by CO and is low cost. It is an alloy made with platinum, iron, and nickel and become 20 times more active in methanol direct oxidation than platinum itself. It is expected as a research result that supports the realization of DCFC in the next generation.
In the present, platinum is the only catalyst for PEFC, but CO covers the catalyst thus the activation becomes lower. In addition, since the reactions for the methanol direct oxidation is complex and produces CO, the catalyst, which has higher durability against CO poisoning, is required.
This time, in cooperation with Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K., University of Yamanashi produced alloy by changing the composition of 21 metals using spatter method and measured oxidation activeness for hydrogen gas with 100ppm of CO concentration. The activeness of the platinum itself dropped suddenly in 30 minutes, but the performance of platinum catalysts combining with iron, nickel, cobalt, and molybdenum did not drop for 90 minutes. As a result of measuring methanol oxidation rate with a rotating electrode, several tens times better performance was obtained with platinum-iron alloy in the head of the list than the platinum itself. As a result of the measurement of X-ray electron spectrum, the surface of the platinum only catalyst which contacts with CO contained hydrogen was 100% covered by CO, but that of the alloys were covered only 10% to 60%. This proved that the state of electrons was changed and CO became hard to absorb. Based on these results, Professor Watanabe said that he would continue to work on the development of the catalyst, which obtains higher efficiency.
(December 6, 2000, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)

(2)Sanyo Electric
Sanyo Electric halved a volume of the PEFC for household using a town gas as its fuel by devising the catalyst and the arrangement of the parts. The output of this system is 1kW, and its height, width, and depth are 97cm, 90cm, and 42cm respectively. To continue to work on the miniaturization and lessen the use of materials, the production cost will be reduced to less than 1 million yens per system by 2003, and the product will be put in the market. The FC for household is expected to be spread in 2004 to 2005, but Sanyo Electronic is aiming for the commercialization in 2003.
(December 14, 2000 Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)

(3)Electrotechnical Laboratory and Sekisui Chemical Co. Ltd
Electrotechnical Laboratory and Sekisui Chemical jointly developed the heat-resistant electrolyte film for PEFC. This is organic/inorganic hybrid film which possesses a high ion conductivity in the range from 0 to 160. Sekisui Chemical is in charge of composition of the material and the business. Aiming for the reach to the same cost as the popular polymer nafion film, they will improve the conductivity and start the process development.
The structure of the film is that the organic elements and inorganic elements are uniformly dispersed at the molecular level. Using the compound material of silica and polyester as a base, PEO and other materials were sol-gel polymerized to obtain clear independent film. The conductivity of the proton of this film is 10-2S. This confirms that this film has higher conductivity in a broader region of temperature compared with the nafion film whose operation limit is about 80.
Using this film, FC can become higher efficient and small in size, and they want bring that to the practical use for vehicles and the co-generation for households. Also, this film will open a path for an advancement of DMFC.
(December 25, 2000 Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)
 

5.Proof Operation of PEFC
NTT, Ebara, and Ebara Ballard announced that they would start the field test of the co-generation system using 250kW class PEFC unit at NTT Musashino Research and Development Center, Musashino, Tokyo. This will be the first field test of the 250kW class PEFC unit in Asia. For two years from now on, the basic performances are evaluated, and the total system including the cool water absorbing freezer and operation control system is verified. The PEFC unit of this system is made by Ballard Generation Systems (BGS) in Canada, and the cool water-absorbing freezer is made by Ebara. The thermal efficiency is 40%, and the total thermal efficiency is 80%. The size of the system is 7.3m in width, 2.6m in height, and 2.4m in depth. The 250kW unit of BGS used as the filed test machine is the 4th machine; 1st is made by Energy Co in the U.S., and 2nd and 3rd machines were made by Alstorm in Europe.
(December 14, 2000, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, The Denki Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, and The Japan Industrial Journal; December 15, 2000, Kagaku Kogyo Nippou)
 
6.Fuel Technology
An investigation commission of GM research and development team asked for the joint research to University of Hiroshima which achieved some successful results on the hydrogen absorbing materials for FC. This R&D team had a talk with Professor Hironobu Fujii (Integrated Arts and Sciences) who studies this theme and got an explanation on the research results. After the conference, Christopher Green, the senior chief manager, said, "The research is at the world highest level and is possible to bring into the practical use. If the university demands, I would like to send the investigation commission again." He showed a strong desire for the joint research. Professor Fujii said, "I have experiences of joint research with Mazda, so I did not give an immediate answer, " but also he said, "I have a thought to have joint research with many companies and research organizations to develop the research."
(December 8, 2000, Chugoku Shimbun)
 

\ This edition is made up as of December 30, 2000 \