(1) Movements in Budget of 2006 Fiscal Year
Ministry of Finance (MOF) unofficially announced to Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that the tentative budget of METI in 2006 fiscal year is 776.4 billion yen. It is decreased by 41.1 billion yen compared with the budget of the previous fiscal year. The tentative special account in 2006 fiscal year is 1,256.7 billion yen and the reduction is 130.4 billion yen. [The Chemical Daily Dec. 21, 2005.]
Some attempts for further developments of advanced technologies and technologies benign to the environment debuted in Aichi World Exposition are approved in Draft of 2006 fiscal year budget unofficially announced by MOF on Dec. 20, 2005. FC buses fully used for connection among exhibition sites will probably be used in Chubu International Airport for passengers and/or in local lines. For demonstration of FC systems by METI 1.36 billion yen is allocated, and for promotion of real use of FC buses by Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure 166 million yen is allocated. [The Chunichi Shimbun Dec. 21, 2005]
Agency of Resources and Energy of METI will expand its Hydrogen FC Project (JHFC) into 3 areas, namely Keihin, Chubu and Osaka in the second phase. It is 5 year project since 2006 fiscal year for propagation of FC transportation systems. In Keihin area FC vehicles will be used in fleet run, and more than 2 vehicles per one company will make this business with business number plates. After 3 years FC vehicles will be used as taxis. In Chubu area a hydrogen station used in Aichi World Exposition will be moved to Chubu International Airport and 2 FC buses will be used for transfer. In Osaka area a hybrid hydrogen station will be installed, and it will supply FC vehicles with hydrogen. Hydrogen will also be able to be supplied to stationary FC for electric generation. Furthermore, hydrogen storage systems with hydrogen absorbing alloy will be installed in social welfare facilities, and FC electric wheelchair and FC bicycles will be operated for demonstration. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Dec. 27, 2005]
On Dec. 27, 2005 METI announced that 4 companies making home-use FC systems opened common specification targets of pumps, sensors and auxiliary components. METI requested Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Ebara Ballard Corp., Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd., Toshiba FC Systems Corp., Fuji Electric Advanced Technology Co., Ltd. etc. to exhibit specifications of auxiliary components for tempting auxiliary components makers to FC market by promoting common specifications. On the other hand, 23 companies producing auxiliary components, such as Ulvac Kiki, Inc., Oval Co., Ltd.,, Aichi tokei denki Co., Ltd., Iwaki Pumps, Saginomiya Seisakusho, Inc., Mikuni Co., Ltd., Nidec Copaal Electronics Corp. etc., are already participating subsidiary programs by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) as re-subsidized firms. [The Chemical Daily Dec. 28, 2005]
(3) Information on NEDO
NEDO published that electric supply to the Japanese Government Pavilion ügNagakute Nihon kanüh in Aichi World Exposition held in 2005 fiscal year was made 100% by a new energy demonstration plant installed in the venue. Total electric generation in the period of the World Exposition using new energy sources is 2.7 million kWh, and it is about 5% of total electric supply to the all facilities in the venue. Nagakute Nihon kan consumed about 1.26 million kWh. As fuel for FC the new energy plant used wood waist by construction of the pavilions etc, and it also used garbage and PET bottles exhausted during the period. The garbage thus processed is 587 tons and the PET bottles are 3.36 tons. NEDO will remove this plan to the city of Chubu International Airport and it will make demonstration by 2007 fiscal year for general demand. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Jan. 6, 2006]
2.R&D of SOFC
(1) Onuma Giken Co., Ltd.
Onuma Giken Co., Ltd. (Nagano city) has developed SOFC cells. In usual process powder of electrolyte ceramics is painted on the electrode and then it is sintered, but by improving shape and size of the powder sintering became unnecessary in the process of this company. Because the number of processes is reduced, the cost is reduced. The cell is a cylinder of 1.2 cm in diameter and 30 cm in length. It is made by successively painting the ceramics and compounds of cobalt and manganese as electrodes. Because the electrodes and the electrolyte are made in unified way, further sintering is unnecessary. At present the cells are shipped as samples to research institutes at the price of tens of thousands yen per cylinder. The president Mr. Onuma said ügIf the processes could be reduced, time for completion could be reduced and thus the manufacturing cost could be reduced. It is intended to decrease the price down to 1/10.üh In June of 2004 the company was established by Mr. Onuma, who was making research in Shinko Electronic Industrial Co., Ltd. before. [The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun Dec. 22, 2005.]
(2) Kyocera Corp. and Sumitomo Precision Products Co., Ltd.
Kyocera Corp. installed SOFC in home and evaluated its operating efficiency. The company achieved rated electric efficiency of 45% for 1 kW output class SOFC. In this SOFC hydrogen is obtained by internal reforming of natural gas at reaction temperature of 750oC, and high temperature exhausted heat is partly used as heat source for water vapor reforming. The FC stack is flat tube type. Improvement in durability is to be confirmed in the present demonstration and it is a task for real use.
In December of 2005 Japan Gas Appliances Inspection Association began operation of 1 kW SOFC by Kyocera Corp. and Sumitomo Precision Products Co., Ltd. to obtain data for regulation relaxation to introduce SOFC into homes. This SOFC was installed and operated similarly to PEFC by 6 companies including Toyota Motor Corp., Toshiba Fuel Cell Power Systems Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. It is intended that FC would be treated as general electric equipments to simplify the report.
Kyocera Corp. is making collaborative development of hardware of 10 kW class SOFC together with Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., and test operation of the hardware is planed to start in the middle of 2006. They aim at limited introduction of the 1 kW systems by lease and rental since 2008 fiscal year, but the cost is anticipated to be higher than PEFC. In order to compete with PEFC and also with CO2 heat pumps using surplus electricity in the night, demonstration and cost down will be made simultaneously. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Dec. 26, 2005.]
(3) Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd.
Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. initiates materials research of air electrode and fuel electrode of surface conduction type SOFC, which is now studied by Prof. Hibino in Nagoya University. Being different from the conventional types, the air electrode and the fuel electrode are both formed on the same side of the electrolyte to form a cell by utilizing surface conduction in the electrolyte, so that the separator is not needed, and furthermore, mixture of fuel gas and oxidative gas can be used. Thus it has feature that cracks are hardly formed in its structure. The company aims at development of a new technology in which pastes containing cerium oxide base ceramics materials are printed by screen-printing to form the electrodes on the electrolyte. The company is anticipating expansion of applicability by decreasing the operation temperature and improving durability. [The Chemical Daily Jan. 5, 2006]
3.Development of PEFC Elementary Technology
Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. strengthens market exploitation of metallic separators for PEFC. By applying etching technology developed in business of photo-masks and lead frames, they established technology for gas channel formation and technology for reducing electrical resistance by unique surface treatment. Thus they prepared systems to cope with various usersüf needs. Successively to gold-plating type, the company had developed resin-coating type of potential cost down in cooperation with Kansai Paint Co., Ltd. The resin is electro- conductive and at the same time it prevents metallic plate from corrosion. The resin was developed by Kansai Paint Co., Ltd., and the technology for uniformly coating the resin on metallic surface of complicated shapes was developed by Dai Nippon Printing Co., Ltd. in November of 2005. Since now improvement in the performance will be tried using various metallic plate, such as stainless steel, aluminum, titanium and iron, and their evaluation tests will be promoted actively. [The Chemical Daily Dec. 26, 2005 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industry and technology) Jan. 1, 2006]
4.Demonstration of Home-use PEFC Systems
(1) Iwatani International Corp.
Iwatani International Corp. installed 3 sets of LPG fueled home-use PEFC system in general homes in the metropolitan area. It is a part of demonstration by New Energy Foundation (NEF), and subsidiary for 10 sets was received in latter half of 2005 fiscal year, so that 7 sets, furthermore, will be installed in January of 2006. The company will participate the large-scale demonstration in the next fiscal year and downward. Over 30 sets will be installed in 2006 fiscal year and over 60 sets will be in 2007 fiscal year. [The Fuji Sankei Business Eye Dec. 17, 2005]
(2) Hokkaido Gas Co., Ltd.
On January 5, 2006 Hokkaido Gas Co., Ltd. announced that it would develop a home-use PEFC system of specification for cold area in cooperation with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. and with Ebara Corp., separately. It aims at sales start in 2008. Hokkaido Gas Co., Ltd. has been developing natural gas fueled home-use FC systems since 2001 and a technological research institute of the company, as the core, has been making experiments in the campus of Hokkaido University and in employeeüfs home. For types installed outdoors a problem of freezing occurs. Then the company recognized necessity of developing indoors installed PEFC of the specification for cold area. One trial set manufactured by Ebara Ballard Corp. by the specification of indoor installation will be installed in the research institute for demonstration in February of 2006, if possible. The company will participate the large-scale demonstration. The company makes development for cold area specification also with Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. Its intention is to realize the cost of about 1.2 million yen per set. [The Hokkaido Shimbun Jan. 6, 2006]
(1) Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced that it began limited lease of FCV by high-pressure hydrogen, ügX-Trail FCVüh since it got approval by the Minister of Land, Transport and Infrastructure. A 2003 year model was already approved and it is now sold by lease. The new model of 2005 was modified by making full use of data obtained in trial run on public roads of 2003 year model, while FC stacks developed by the company was introduced and the performance was vastly improved. The company is developing FCV by installing 70 MPa high-pressure cylinders to increase the range to 500 km, which is 1.4 times longer than conventional one. A test run on public roads in Canada is being planed. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industry and technology) and The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) Dec. 27, 2005, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Dec. 29, 2005, and The Chemical Daily Jan. 5, 2006]
(2) Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
On Jan. 8, 2006 Honda R&D Co., Ltd. published that a new model FCV would be flung into the market in 2009. The new model is based on a light-weight car ügFCX Conceptüh which was exhibited in the motor show in fall of 2005 as a reference. In the new model small PEFC stacks and low-floor platform were adopted, while water formed in FC is exhausted quickly by gravity, and run at low temperature, for instance at -30oC, is possible. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Jan. 10, 2006]
6.Technological Development of Reforming, Hydrogen Formation and Purification
(1) Hagio High Pressure Container Co., Ltd.
The company in Niihama city has developed an equipment for removing sulfur from LPG for home-use PEFC and demonstration started in a program by the end of March in 2006. The equipment is cylindrical form of 7 inch in diameter and 14 inch in height. Activated carbon made from palm is surface treated and filled in the cylinder, and the carbon absorbs sulfur. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Dec. 19, 2005]
(2) Saitama Institute of Technology
Prof. Tanaka of Saitama Institute of Technology has developed new gold catalyst for converting CO. This catalyst is a substitute for ruthenium base and platinum base catalysts. The features of the catalyst are high selectivity of CO and high conversion efficiency to
CO2, though the operating temperature is also high. Because the price is lower than platinum and the amount can be reduced, it is expected that it would become low-cost catalyst. The patent of this catalyst was entrusted to Ecodevice Corp. (Kawaguchi city, Saitama prefecture), which is dealing with photo-catalyst of titanium oxide.
This catalyst is made by covering gold containing titanium oxide with iron. Conversion of CO to
CO2 proceeds at 80oC up to over 90%, and this performance is superior to the platinum catalyst. The ratio of gold to titanium oxide in weight is about 1%. The amount of iron is the same as titanium oxide. High catalyst activity is observed, even if powder size and manufacturing process are not so precisely controlled. It was reported that gold activity is observed only for nano-size particles, but gold particles in the present catalyst is not nano-size particles, so that the catalytic mechanism is different from conventional mechanism. The mechanism is now being investigated in detail. Since gold is covered with iron, it is a catalyst of quite unique type. It is thought that CO gas goes into inside through gaps in iron and reacts by gold catalytic activity. Ecodevice Corp. thinks that the possibility of practical application is high, because catalyst of high efficiency and low cost can be made in a simple way. Its policy is to provide firms with license of the patent and proposals will be accepted. [The Chemical Daily Jan. 13, 2006]
(3) Kyushu University
On Jan. 12, 2006 an assistant Professor Kitaoka of graduate school of agriculture in Kyushu University and FCC published that they have developed paper-like catalyst for producing hydrogen in high efficiency. Applying papermaking technique powdered catalyst is formed on the paper to improve processing and catalytic performance. Compared with pellet shape catalyst, production efficiency became twice. The paper-like catalyst is about 1 mm thick and it is porous material with many pores (3 – 20 micron m). By using plant fibers papermaking technique can be applied. This catalyst can easily be mechanically processed, for instance it can easily folded, so that a light-weight reformer can be expected. Since now proposals of collaborative development will be accepted and they expected real use within 3 years. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Jan. 13, 2006]
7.Development of Micro FC for Portable Equipments
Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. developed micro DMFC for note type personal computers. The output is 13 W in average and 20 W at its maximum, and the volume is about 400 cc, i.e., about half of conventional ones. By cooperative research with Pennsylvania University in US, high concentration methanol became usable. To avoid drastic change in output lithium ion batteries are used. By increasing fuel utilization efficiency from 70% for conventional ones to over 80% and by other improvement, about 20 hour operation became possible by charge of 200 cc methanol. Early practical use is expected in 2010. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Jan. 4, 2006]
8.Development of Metrological Tools Related with FC and Hydrogen
On Jan. 12, 2006 Prof. Yamanaka (Ultrasonic technology) of cooperative research center for future science and technology in Tohoku University and his group published that they succeeded in development of hydrogen sensor of very high performance. They aim at real use as hydrogen leakage sensors for FCV in 2007. It is expected that prevention of explosion can be made at low cost. The mechanism of this sensor, Ball SAW Sensor,üh Prof. Yamanaka invented is as follows. Hydrogen reacts with membrane attached on surface of a quartz sphere of 1 mm diameter emitting ultrasonic wave, and the wave is converted to electrical signals. It was said that the sensitivity is 100 times higher than conventional sensors and the response time to detect is 2 seconds at the shortest. As the first example of real uses a hydrogen leakage detector will be set in a hydrogen station supplying liquid hydrogen to FCV by March of 2007. Prof. Yamanaka stated that this metrological method could be applied to various materials sensors, such as environmental hormones etc. [The Yomiuri Shimbun Jan. 13, 2006]
9.Business Activities in Relation with FC and Hydrogen
For the purpose of developing electrolyte membrane using fullerene, Mitsubishi Corp. established a joint venture ügProton C60 Powerüh (Tokyo prefecture) together with Honjo Chemical Corp. in May of 2003. The capital of the joint venture was 100 million yen, and Mitsubishi Corp. and Honjo Chemical Corp. invested 49% and 51%, respectively. However, recently it was disbanded. They concluded that it is difficult to develop the product of electrolyte membrane for FC using only fullerene. They said ügThe joint venture succeeded in development of fullerene compound, but it did not succeeded in making strong membrane.üh Since now it is reformed to collaborative research by the both companies, and it will make development of electrolyte membrane by combining fullerene with other technology. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Dec. 19, 2005]
------------ This edition is made up as of January 13, 2006. ---------------