THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, NOVEMBER 2001

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1. Research and Development in SOFC - Anode Material
2. Technical Development in PEFC - Separator Technology
3. Development for Technology and Market in PEFC for Domestic Use
4. The Front of FCV
5. Fuel Cell Evaluation Test Unit
6. Fuel Related Technology
7. Company Activity

1. Research and Development in SOFC - Anode Material
    CRIEPI(Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry) found optimum composition rate in anode material of SOFC. Although mixed powder of Ni and YSZ have been used so far, CRIEPI found that stability of anode material in long term power generation can be obtained by mixing Ni powder with coarse and fine particle of YSZ. They said that following ratio is the best for long life of SOFC and initial performance can be kept even after 2000 hr operation.
   YSZ(coarse particle) : Ni : YSZ (fine particle) = 4 : 6 : 1 or 5 : 5: 1    They have next research plan to evaluate optimum particle size for each material.
( Denki Shimbun, October 11,2001)
 
2. Technical Development in PEFC - Separator Technology
    Hitachi Research Institute of Hitachi,Ltd. announced that they developed a manufacturing technology of PEFC separator which is light and low cost. Thickness is one tenth and the weight is a half in comparison with conventional by changing the material from graphite to metal with high strength. It is expected that processing becomes easy because of metal and the cost becomes a half. In case of metal, surface treating like gold plating has been needed in order to avoid corrosion and it results in high cost. However, feature of this technology is to use thin clad plate coated by special metal durable for corrosion of steel or copper and also over laid by paint having characteristics of anti-corrosion and electrical conductivity. Coating material is not published for the time being. Hitachi tried to fabricate prototype product of 1.2 kW for domestic application and the weight is a little less than 10 kg and it resulted in 30% reduction of weight.
(Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, October 24, 2001, Denki Shimbun, October 25, 2001)
 
3. Development for Technology and Market in PEFC for Domestic Use
(1) Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.
    Matsushita formally announced on October 1, 2001 that they will start sales of home use cogeneration system fueled town gas from 2004. The total thermal efficiency including hot water recovery is 72 % and the target price is \ 1-1.2 million.
    Maximum power output of the system under development is 1.3 kW and it has a 300 litter storage tank for hot water and the layout is a compact design of 86 cm W x 32 cm D x 85 cm H. This co-generation system can save \50000(yen) annually in electric charge they said.
(Mainichi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Nihon Kogyo Shimbun, Dempa Shimbun, The Chemical Daily, October 2, 2001)

(2) Sanyo Electric Co.
    Sanyo announced on October 3, 2001 that they established a team specialized for commercialization of fuel cell in their Research and Development Division. Although Eco-Ene System Research Institute in the R & D Division has been in charge of technical development and market research for fuel cell, 3 researcher becoming independent from the Research Institute established a team as internal venture business in order to design fuel cell and to develop market. Current target is to commercialize PEFC of 1kW class for domestic application in a short time. Mr. Husao Terada Director, General Manager of R & D Division expected to be able to attain large cost reduction by having 3 person specialized.
(Mainichi Shimbun, October 4, 2001)

(3) Toho Gas Co., Ltd.
    Toho Gas announced on October 3, 2001 that they started to operate prototype fuel cell unit for home use supplied from many fabricator and to evaluate the performance. The purpose is to promote commercialization and to support fabricators from their position of user through the evaluation in basic performance, safety and reliability. They will install 1 kW unit for home use in Toho Gas Research Institute, jointly developed by Toyota Motor Corporation and Aishin Seiki Co., Ltd. and start operation test in the near future.
(Chunichi Shimbun, October 4, 2001)

(4) Hokkaido Gas Co., Ltd.
    Hokkaido Gas and Ebara-Ballard agreed to cooperate in development of PEFC cogeneration system for domestic use, fueled natural gas. They will carry out demonstration for 3 years, installing a unit at experimental house owned by Hokkaido University.
    Final target is to establish combined system of PEFC and solar or wind power. PEFC is 1 kW made by Ebara-Ballard and the power generation efficiency is 42%.
(Nikkei-Sangyo Shimbun October 18, 2001, Nihon Kogyo Shimbun October 19, 2001, Denki Shimbun, October 22,2001)

(5) Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.
    Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., Ebara-Ballard, Ebara Corporation and BGS (Ballard Generation Systems) 4 companies agreed to do cooperation research on PEFC cogeneration system for domestic use on October 22, 2001.
    They intend to tackle with the design work within 2001(Japanese fiscal year ending at March), which the system is consisted of reformer for town gas developed by Osaka Gas and PEFC and capable of continuous operation for 24 hours. They plan to carry out test operation using commercial unit in 2002 and to start commercial production from 2004.
(Asahi Shimbun, Nikkei-Sangyo Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, Nihon Kogyo Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Denki Shimbun, The Chemical Daily, October 23, 2001)
 

4. The Front of FCV
(1) BMW Group
    BMW completed a Bi-Fuel Car 745-h which burn both hydrogen and gasoline in an internal combustion engine. They intend to start the sales after several years. They will exhibit the car at Tokyo Motor Show publicly opened from October 26, 2001. The car is more finished in comparison with hydrogen car they made 15 in last year and also hydrogen tank is far compact in size. 5 kW SOFC will be installed as auxiliary power source and the SOFC is operated by hydrogen made by gasoline reforming. The operating temperature of gasoline reforming and SOFC are both high temperature of 900 ‹C. Therefore, there might be some subject to overcome in the material, however, they expect to be commercialized far earlier than PEFC.
(Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, October 5, 2001)

(2) Suzuki Motor Corporation and General Motors Corporation
    Suzuki and GM which is the US company in a position of capital alliance for Suzuki announced on October 17, 2001 that they agreed to mutually cooperate in development of fuel cell. The same press release was carried out from GM on the same day in US. Though Suzuki has tackled with fuel cell development independently in the past, Suzuki decided to make use of management resources GM has, in order to speed up the development, and to invest \ 5 billion(yen) toward this cooperative development for 2-3 years. Suzuki will dispatch several engineers to GM and jointly develop a new compact car using car made by Suzuki and installing fuel cell engine with gasoline reforming process developed by GM. Mr. Tuda, Managing Director said at press conference that they will effectively apply fuel cell developed by GM into compact car developed by Suzuki.
(Nihon Keizai Shimbun October 17, 2001, Asahi Shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Yomiuri Shimbun, Nikkei-Sangyo Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Nihon Kogyo Shimbun, Tokyo Shimbun, Nikkan Jidousha Shimbun, The Chemical Daily, October 18, 2001)

(3) Nissan Motor Co.,Ltd.
    Carlos Ghosn President and CEO of Nissan Motor Co.,Ltd. announced at press conference on October 23, 2001 in Tokyo that Nissan make 11 type car including a compact car March into Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (U-LEV), from 15 type newly come into market next year. And he indicated that FCV jointly developed by Renault and Nissan will be commercialized in 2005-2006. They will invest \ 85 billion(yen) for cooperative development with Renault for 5 years from now on.
(Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Sankei Shimbun, October 24, 2001)

(4) Mazda Motor Corporation
    Mr. Mark Fields President of Matzda published their policy to bring hybrid car into market by 2005 on October 24, 2001. And he denied early commercialization of FCV through his announcement that FCV would not come into market until 2010 even though it is technically possible to fabricate.
(Yomiuri Shimbun, October 25, 2001)

(5) PSA Peugeot-Citroen Group
    Mr. Jean Martin Folz CEO of Peugeot-Citroen Group suggested at press conference in Tokyo Motor Show on October 24, 2001 that compact car jointly developed with Toyota Motor Corporation will be come into Japanese market through his expression that there is no reason to deny the sales in Japan. He said that PSA does not have any concrete plan to cooperate with Toyota in FCV development and would like to study possibility of additional cooperation with not only Toyota but also many partners, which means the same possibility to cooperate with Toyota.
(Chunichi Shimbun, October 25, 2001)

(6) Daihatsu Motor Corporation
    Daihatsu exhibited MOVE FCV-K-‡Uof high pressure hydrogen type at Tokyo Motor Show ,installed fuel cell stack made by Toyota which the maximum output is 30 kW even though they have been specialized in small car represented by light vehicle. They intend to strengthen cooperation with Toyota in wide range especially for FCV.
(The Daily Automotive News, October 25, 2001)
 

5. Fuel Cell Evaluation Test Unit
(1) Nagano Denki Sangyo
    Nagano Denki Sangyo has developed a constant moisturized gas generator of compact size for fuel cell test unit, and put them into market. The price of the moisturized gas generator is ranged between \ 2.5 to 5.0 million( yen) depending on the dew point and capacity specified by the user, and selling 40 units in the first year are anticipated. Combined with moisturizing and de-moisturizing vessel, it can generate stable dew point gas without the influence of gas flow rate and ambient temperature change. For air and hydrogen, the generator having maximum capacity up to 10 l/minutes at 0.1MPa pressure, and maximum pressure of 0.5MPa will be available.
(Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, October 2, 2001)

(2) National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)
    AIST Synergy Material Research Center has succeeded to confirm the basic function of hydrogen gas sensor which detects only hydrogen at room temperature. The sensor consists of thermo-electrical converting membrane and platinum catalysis membrane which is formed partially on the thermo-electrical converting membrane. The principle of function is that, the temperature difference by heat generation of hydrogen reaction with catalysis membrane is converted thermo-electrically to electric voltage signal. Tested thermo-electric converting sensor made of nickel oxide added lithium generated 0.15mV voltage signal for 1% hydrogen mixed with air. As the converter generates electric voltage proportionally to hydrogen concentration the sensor can be utilized not only for hydrogen gas sensor but also hydrogen concentration meter.
    Functioning at room temperature and low electric power consumption, the sensor can be integrated with silicon chips and is expected to be utilized for the safety measures in FC operation. AIST, when it becomes practicable, is considering materialize this technology within a couple of years. Conventional hydrogen sensor converts electric resistance to the signal, which varied with reaction of hydrogen and oxygen adsorbed on surface of tin oxide. And conventional sensor has such shortcomings to have to heat up to about 400 ‹C and also to sense methane and carbon monoxide.
(Denki Shimbun, October 4, 01. Nippon Keizai Shimbun, October 5, 01)
 

6. Fuel Related Technology
(1) Nippon Steel Corporation, NKK Corporation etc.
    The Japan Research and Development Center for Metal (JRCM) will start a cooperative R & D project within this year with NSC, NKK and others, to generate hydrogen with low cost from coke oven gas of hydrogen and methane rich. Iron and Steel Companies usually generate by-product gas such as coke oven gas, blast furnace gas, converter gas etc., and coke oven gas contains 50% hydrogen and 30% methane. Coke oven gas is, now, cooled down from 800 ‹C to 80 ~ 100 ‹C by ammonium water spray to separate impurities such as tar from hydrogen and methane gas and utilized as fuel for heating furnace or others. This cooling process loses a lot of heat. In this project, NSC will provide ceramic membrane technology used for oxygen separation from high pressure air heated by 800 ~ 950 ‹C exhaust heat from the steel production process. The generated oxygen reacts with methane contained in coke oven gas or LNG and hydrogen is produced. Establishing the technology for hydrogen mass production with lower cost than conventional, finally the commercialization is expected. Teikoku Oil also participates for this project. The feature of the production technology to be developed by this cooperative project is to combine two processes utilizing methane reforming by high temperature steam and catalyst and partial oxidation using produced oxygen. In steam reforming process, reaction becomes inactive by temperature decrease with endothermic reaction and it is covered by heat from exothermic reaction of partial oxidation. Organizing a National Project subsidized by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, a bench scale plant will be developed by 2005. NSC states that "will establish energy business selling hydrogen as a chemical resource" when the project is successfully concluded.
(Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, October 4, 2001, Tekko Shimbun, October 26, 2001)

(2) Japan Science and Technology Corporation (JST) and others     A cooperative research team organized with JST, Prof. Sumio Iijima of Meijou University, Prof. Katsumi Kaneko of Chiba University, NEC Corporation and Institute of Research and Innovation discovered that single layer nanohorn can storage 160 times methane in volume. By heat-treating single layer nanohorn at 400 ‹C under oxidizing atmosphere, nanohorn has nano-size fine pores and increases its surface area. In case of ordinary nanohorn, gas can flow through only conical opening, but in case of nanohorn having fine pores, gas can flow through also fine pores and methane gas is changed into super critical liquid by interference of methane molecule and nanohorn wall including fine pores even at room temperature. It is understood that these mechanism make nanohorn possible to storage methane in high density. To utilize this technology for fuel tank of FCV is expected.

(3) NKK Corporation
    NKK announced that NKK and 7 companies including Toyota Tsusho Corporation, Hitachi,Ltd., TotalFinaElf-French major oil company, Marubeni Corporation, Idemitsu Kosan Co.,Ltd., , INPEX Corporation and Nippon Sanso Corporation agreed to jointly establish a feasibility study company "DME International" for production and marketing of DME produced by direct synthesis technology on October 19, 2001. 3 groups have been developing DME production technology by direct synthesis, in the world. With high efficiency and the progress of development, NKK developing process is noticeable, and expected to be applied to utilization of vast low grade coal reserved in Asian region and marginal gas field. As the development of DME production technology by direct synthesis reached to the stage to carry out concept design of demonstration plant, this feasibility study company will arrange to start DME business just after development is concluded. The business scale with 800,000 - 1,500,000 ton annual production by 2006, is expected.
(Kensetsu Tsusin Shimbun, October 11,2001, Nihon Kogyo Shimbun, October 16, 2001)
 

7. Company Activity
    In order to put the new energy technology development and the business on a full scale, IHI made and published their policy that they newly starts the solar cell business and set forth the plan to accelerate market penetration of home use PEFC unit and to promote the MCFC commercialization. IHI invested into MOSAIC Energy USA and is proceeding with test for 5 ~ 10kW stationary unit combining stack supplied from MOSAIC with reformer developed by IHI. IHI's system had been adopted for PEFC demonstration project fueled naphtha which has been carried out at Yokohama Refinery of Nippon Mitsubishi Oil Corporation since January 2001. Improving the efficiency and reducing production cost down to order of 100,000 yen/kW in future from current 500,000 yen/kW , IHI intends to promote the penetration of home use market. Also IHI plans to receive an order of MCFC power generation system to be installed at Aichi International Exhibition to be held from March 2005.
(The Chemical Daily, October 5, 01)
 

-This edition is made up as of NOVEMBER, 2001.-