THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, APRIL 2002

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1. Governmental Policy and Activity
2. Research and Development for MCFC
3. Development and Demonstration for PEFC and Related Technology
4. The Front of FCV
5. Development of Micro Fuel Cell
6. Technical Information related to Fuel Cell
7. Technologies related to Hydrogen and Fuels

1. Governmental Policy and Activity
    Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Toyota Group plan to operate FC bus in Tokyo within 2003. Tokyo will arrange hydrogen station through private company raised by Tokyo government at the land owned by Tokyo and Toyota Motor Corporation will operate FC hybrid bus "FCHV-BUS1" for regular route. MLIT will support the project by assigning budget in a link of "Promotion project for next generation low emission vehicle" which will be started from next year. The three parties will contribute for realization of regular route FC bus after they will confirm driving performance and check subjects through driving test under real environment of the route.
    (The Daily Automotive News March 4, 2002)
    MLIT decided to start demonstration test to introduce PEFC into home in 2002. They will clarify the operation methods to be made effectively use of electric and heat generated by FC and performance demanded for each equipment, considering various mode and life of residence. The basic concept is to use PEFC fueled town gas under grid connected operation for general home application.
    (Denki Shimbun March 6, 2002)
    MLIT will ready regulation for operation and maintenance on FCV by the end of 2003. They intend to establish the rule how to get safety at fuel charge and collision on hydrogen tank, piping and electrical equipment by collecting data from makers who conduct driving test on public road under license authorized from the minister. Major objectives seem to be vessel stored hydrogen or methanol and electrical equipment and the technical guide line is also the subject to study, which has similar effect as law in CNG.
    (The Daily Automotive News March 18, 2002)
 
2. Research and Development for MCFC
    MCFC Research Association announced that they started operation of 10 kW class MCFC unit fueled natural gas under operating pressure of 1.2 MPa from March 15, 2002. They will conduct research and development how to avoid carbon formation and how to control pressure difference between two electrodes even at the high pressure through 3000 hr operation test by the end of 2002. IHI(Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd.) is in charge of the design and manufacture of MCFC stack and the test facility and Kawagoe MCFC Power Station for the test is in charge of operation test.
    (Denki Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun March 20, 2002)
 
3. Development and Demonstration for PEFC and Related Technology
(1) Kurita Water Industries, Ltd.
    Kurita succeeded to develop technologies to be able to reduce size and to make uniform flow of water for electrical de-ionizer which makes pure water to supply for reformer and to humidify polymer membrane for PEFC. These technologies will be adopted for 12300 units of 5 kW class to be sold by H- Power through American Public Corporation for Electrification of Local Area as Kurita has strategic alliance with H-Power including capital investment. Ion exchange membrane is generally used to make pure water, however, regular replacement of ion exchange membrane is necessary in the case and which results in the cost up. Electrical de-ionizer (KCDI method) is a technology applying dialysis technology and which is the structure to arrange polumer membrane with ion exchange resin and electrode. They will tackle subjects to reduce size and the cost by mass production in 2002 and then they intend to standardize and put it into market.
    (Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun March 6, 2002)

(2) Ebara Corporation
    Ebara will finish their two demonstration tests of 250 kW PEFC power generation system within 2002 and plan to start to study commercialization of PEFC targeted at 2005 under cooperation with Ballard, which are 250 kW cogeneration system installed at NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) Musashino Research and Development Center and 250 kW PEFC power generation system fueled digester gas generated at Nishimachi Sewage Treatment Center in Tomakomai City. PEFC installed at NTT started the operation at March 2001 and the efficiency of 34 % was confirmed through the more than 2000 hr test and absorption chiller developed by the company worked well by 74 Ž hot water generated by fuel cell which result in 74 % total thermal efficiency. In case of Tomakomai, they concentrate methane in digester gas(CH4:60%, CO2:40%) up to 90 % and remove impurities such as sulfur up to level of town gas and supply it to fuel cell. Methanol amine was used to absorb CO2 under re-circulation which made use of exhaust heat from FC without using a large quantity of treated water. They can confirm PEFC can be operated smoothly if treated fuel as the above is supplied. Ballard will finish their field tests in USA and Europe by 2004 and target to commercialize.
    (Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun March 7, 2002)
   
(3) Dainippon Ink and Chemical, Incorporated
    Dainippon Ink and Chemical, Incorporation (DIC), developing PEFC separator jointly with PRIMIX Corporation, USA, will have a share in FC business by 2004. In conventional manufacturing procedure for separator, manufacturing graphite by sintering carbon at high temperature of some 1000 degree C for the first and then they machine the flow paths for fuel gas and air on the surface. With this procedure, manufacturing cost is high as the process is complicate and the price of one piece (10 cm square) is 20,000 ~ 30,000 yen. DIC developed new material, mixing carbon with thermosetting resin such as unsaturated polyester resin, which has high electric conductivity and good molding characteristic, and PRIMIX established the technology of metal molding for the flow pass at low cost. Combining these technologies, they succeeded to reduce the cost to some 100 yen per piece. DIC will start delivery of samples to FC manufacturer from April, 2002 and will establish mass production system for annual production of some 100,000 pieces with 1 billion yen investment by 2004. Sakai factory and their subsidiary in Siga prefecture are deemed to be invested.
    (Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun March 14, 2002)
   
(4) SHOWA DENKO K. K.
    SHOWA DENKO, as a link of fine carbon business chain, plans to have a share in PEFC separator market. Optimizing production process for pressing and heat treatment multi-layered special paper and developing injection molding process which is suitable for mass production, and arranging both technologies , they will cope with the needs of PEFC production for home use and FCV.
    SHOWA DENKO has a excellent experience in PAFC separator. In this case, the process is to graphitize multi-layer special paper after impregnating phenol and press them and this glassy carbon has features that are good in tightness and easy to scale up the size. Applying this process to PEFC separator production, they intend to reduce the cost by optimizing heat treatment temperature for PEFC as the graphitizing is not required for low operating temperature of PEFC. As for injection molding process, there is possibility to improve production efficiency greatly by producing raw material sheet, composite of special graphite fine powder and binder resin, by injection molding process.
    (The Chemical Daily March 19, 20002)
   
(5) Chiba University
    Prof. Katsumi Kaneko, faculty of science, Chiba University, developed nanometer size capsule type platinum fine particle. It is a simple method that, after depositing platinum on surface of nanometer silicon dioxide (silica) particle and then silica is removed by dissolving. The structure is that about 20 nanometer platinum capsules form cluster like a grain of rice with about 1 nanometer clearance. The capsule has holes formed when silica is removed and both inside and outside surface are effective as the result. And total surface area was confirmed that is 4 to 8 times in comparison with normal nanometer size platinum black surface area. Having nanometer size hollows and the surface area is so large as activated carbon, the capsule is expected to be able to utilize as a catalyst which has active and selective reaction characteristic and as the platinum electrode of FC.
    (Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun March 19, 2002)
 
4. The Front of FCV
(1) Honda Motor Co., Ltd
    Honda announced that FCV "FCX-V4" will serve as guide car for 17th Los Angeles marathon race to be held on March 3, 2002. This is the second time service succeeding FCX-V3 in last year marathon. High pressure hydrogen tank of FCX-V4 is further pressurized to 350 atm and its cruising range is extended to 315 km.
    Honda announced that getting approval of Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, they will start FCV "FCX-V4" public road test from early March. FC is 78 kW type supplied by Ballard and equivalent trunk space is kept by moving high pressure tank from behind of rear seat to under deck.
    (The Daily Automotive News March 2, 2002, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun March 4, 2002)
 
5. Development of Micro FC
(1) CASIO Computer Co., Ltd
    CASIO announced that they developed small and long life FC for note type personal computer and portable information terminal and will put it in market in 2004. Also they stated that the FC can supply power for 20 hours by one fuel charge to note type personal computer which can work for 5 hours by lithium ion battery. Reducing methanol reformer to post stamp size is the feature of this FC technology, they developed the unique technology to make one chip by fine machining reformer parts of which number are 300 or 1,000 in case of conventional reformer on the silicon wafer and pasting catalyst which yield hydrogen. About 120 patent applications will be made. As the cost can be reduced by mass production to equivalent to that of lithium battery and cost of methanol fuel is about 20 yen per litter, this FC is expected to prevail in market after realized as a handy battery.
    (Nihon Keizai Shimbun March 5, 2002)
   
(2) Toshiba Corporation
    Toshiba has already decided to put the PEFC for PDA on sale around October 2002 and has also determined to make the new FC come to market for book type personal computer. The output of new FC has been brought up over 15W and this is almost twice as much as that of the existing ones.
    The development on PEFC in Toshiba has begun with participating in the NEDO project in 1992 and took notice of DMFC in 1997, which was not required reformer, and manufactured the electrode which put a few nm platinum catalyst on the surface of the carbon particle of 1ƒÊm diameter and was totally coated by platinum-proton catalyst. The DMFC can be operated for several scores of hours with 10 cc of methanol.
    The consumption of 1g of methanol produces 1cc of water. Toshiba said that these small amounts of water can be thoroughly evaporated by a blower. To make PEFC for PDA available on market, Toshiba has tried to change the carbon materials to light plastics and aims to make FC smaller, lighter, and lower in the price. For instance, Toshiba has investigated the possibilities to replace from carbon made separator with plastics having electric conductivity, light and anticorrosive, and also replace from metals with plastics. The high quality electrode, one of the key devices on PEFC, has been applied for the patents
    ( The Chemical Daily March 18, 2002)
 
6. Technical Information related to FC
(1) Impedance Tester for FC
    Kikusui Electronics Corp. has developed Impedance Tester "S-40026" for the production line of FC and will put on market from March. The Tester has 60W load in it and can be used without any attachment in case of low load. The price is 1.2 million yen and expected to be sold 150 sets a year. The tester collects data by AC impedance measuring method and calculates parameters of FC by cole-cole plot.
    ( Denpa Shimbun March 11, 2002)
   
(2) Fullerene
    Frontier Carbon, subsidiary of Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation and Mitsubishi Corporation, was decided to sell Fullerene from the April, 2002 at the low price of 500 yen/gram, almost one tenth of its existing price. Fullerene is new carbon material and can be utilized for FC.
    It brought forth by the completion of the new mass production plant in Kita-Kyushu city and the production will be expanded to 40 ton/year by April, 2003. The capability of production will be increased to 1500 ton/year by year 2007
    ( Nihon Keizai Shimbun March 11, 2002)
7. Technologies related to Hydrogen and Fuels
(1) Nippon Steel Corporation
    Nippon Steel Corporation will carry on business of production of high purity hydrogen gas in order to correspond to the increase of the demand on pure hydrogen accompanying with the practical use of FCV. Hydrogen gas is to be separated from the coke oven gas which contain hydrogen and is refined and supplied to the market. The large scale of hydrogen production plant will be installed within two years. 50% of coke oven gas is hydrogen and remained 30% is methane. The temperature of the coke oven gas generated at coke oven furnace is 800 Ž and coke oven gas is cooled by water, then chemical compounds in the gas such as tar, etc are separated to get pure hydrogen.
    ( The Daily Automotive News March 8, 2002)
   
(2) AIST and Mazda Motor Corporation
    Mr. Akiba, chief researcher of AIST(National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) and a researcher of Mazda Motor Corporation announced that they succeeded in producing the magnesium-titanium alloy which has excellent hydrogen absorption capability. The characteristic of production method is in the adoption of the mechanical alloying method, with which method metal materials are mechanically mixed, instead of melting method. Hydrogen absorption capacity of magnesium is 7.6% by weight, titanium 4.1%. However, the temperature for the reaction is required higher than 300 Ž and the research has been carried out to decrease this temperature. The new alloy has body-centered cubic structure and crystal structure shows that two hydrogen atoms can be stored in each atom of metal. The alloy can be expected to store hydrogen 5% by weight (It is three times more than that of rare earth alloys) and also to make reaction temperature below 100C. The alloy is considered to be applied not only for hydrogen absorption material but also broad application for light weight structure materials of cars.
    (Nihon Keizai shimbun, Mainichi Shimbun, Nikkan Kogyou Shimbun March 21,2002, Denki Shimbun, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun March 21,2002, The Chemical Daily March 25, 2002 )
 

-This edition is made up as of April, 2002.-