1.Committee for Comprehensive Energy Investigation
On Oct. 26, 2006 New Energy Subcommittee of The Advisory Committee for Energy in Agency of Natural Resources and Energy approved a new interim report in its essence. The report describes direction of new energy development, and on the base of structural changes in energy supply and consumption it is proposed to enlarge introduction of renewable energy and to promote development and utilization of advanced new energy technology. Especially emphasis is given to utilization of new energy, acceleration of technology development and enhancement of activities concerning biomass in governmental organizations. As to technology development besides promotion of R&D of solar cells and FC, promotion of high performance energy storage technology is proposed, since it is directly related with cost reduction of products and promotion of new energy facilities. Concerning biomass, it is pointed out that room remains for enlargement of sewage utilization. Needs to enlarge effective utilization of methane from sewage treatment and sewage electric power generation are pointed out. [The Nikkan Kensetsu Kogyo Shimbun (construction) (Oct. 30, 2006)]
2.Development of SOFC and Related Business
(1) National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
Together with NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd. the above institute developed small size high power density SOFC modules, which are expected to work in high power even at 600oC. On honeycomb structure of perovskite material of manganese base (LSM), ceria based oxide (GDC) and nickel containing GDC are layered in this SOFC cells. LSM is produced by extrusion of the mixture to form the honeycomb structure of 15 mm square containing 256 (16 X 16) cells (0.7 mm square), and after GDC is coated on inside of sub-millimeter channels it is sintered at 1300oC. Then GDC-containing nickel is coated on this honeycomb structure and sintered above 1100oC. Thus the SOFC is produced. On the walls of the honeycomb structure dense electrolyte of 20 micron thickness and GED-containing nickel oxide electrodes of 10 micron thickness are formed. It was confirmed that it stands with rapid heating and rapid cooling. Demonstration showed that the power generating performance of 0.13 mW/cm2 at 650oC, 0.23 mW/cm2 at 700oC and 0.37 mW/cm2 at 750oC was achieved. The honeycomb structure largely reduces production time, because multiple channel structure can be formed simultaneously by extrusion. It can work at rapid start and rapid stop. Because of the small size, applications to auxiliary power sources for automobiles and portable cells are expected. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industries and technology), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and the Chemical Daily (Sept. 1, 2006).]
(2) The Japan Gas Association
The association almost completed examination works of safety for regulation relaxation of SOFC. The objects are those under 10 KW for general homes and small-scale enterprises. In 2005 fiscal year the association started gathering verification data using SOFC produced by 2 groups, i.e., Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. with Kyocera Corp. and Toho Gas Co., Ltd. with Sumitomo Precision Products Co., Ltd. The association almost gathered the data to be presented to public committees reviewing present regulations, and at present data requested additionally are being gathered. To increase objects, SOFC produced by an American Company, Accumentricks was added in October, and another SOFC by Toto Ltd. would be added in the end of November. The largest barrier in real use is duty of continuous watching and it would be relaxed in December. The other regulations in installation are also expected to be relaxed. Especially appointment of chief electric engineers and allowance of 3 m from the wall of the building would be revised in the before half of 2007 fiscal year in the law regulating electric business and in 2007 fiscal year in the fire law. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and Technology) (Nov. 10, 2006)]
3.Development of PEFC Elementary Technologies and Business Deployment
(1) Toray Industries, Inc.
The company has developed new technology for cost reduction and endurance improvement of PEFC electrolyte membrane for automobiles. The electrolyte membrane is made of hydrocarbon materials, and the life is increased by about 20 times, while the cost reduced to about 1/10. Especially in the case of automobiles, start and stop are repeated and expansion and shrinkage of the membrane are also repeated. This leads to failure. In the hydrocarbon polymer newly developed by the company regular structure is controlled at nanometer level, and the strength of the membrane was successfully improved to about 3 times higher than that of fluorocarbon membrane. Furthermore hydrogen crossover through the membrane is a problem and it is also one of causes of degradation of the membrane. The newly developed membrane decreases it to 1/10. Thus the new membrane improves the life to 20 times longer than those of fluorocarbon. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nov. 3, 2006)]
(2) Hitachi Ltd.
In collaboration with Ikegami Mold Co., Ltd. (Kuki city, Saitama prefecture) and Hitachi Plant Technologies, Ltd., the company developed technology to form rapidly nanometer size fine structure on resin membrane surface. They made a special sheet-like mold, which can move like a belt conveyor. By pressing this special mold on resin membrane, nanometer-size surface fine structure can be formed. Because continuous treatment is possible, the rate of production becomes by over 10 times higher than the conventional rate. Because of this fine surface structure, the electrochemical reaction is activated and improvement in power generating performance is expected. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nov. 10, 2006)]
(3) JSR Corp.
The company succeeded in development of a new product of electrolyte membrane of wide working temperature range, and large improvement in performance is confirmed in comparison with the conventional fluorocarbon products. The electrolyte membrane by this company is made of aromatic hydrocarbon resin. In low temperature range it can work down to -20oC (0oC for fluorocarbon electrolyte) and the heat distortion temperature is over 95oC (70oC for fluorocarbon electrolyte). Furthermore the new product is superior in endurance to fluorocarbon membrane. This product is used in FC installed in FCV by Honda R&D Co., Ltd., while testing under conditions of real use is now carried out. The company is also developing membrane for DMFC, which has balanced power characteristics and methanol permeability. By introducing barrier layer for reducing permeation of methanol and water, the company succeeded in reduction of methanol permeability. [The Chemical Daily (Nov. 24, 2006)].
(4) Nisshin Spinning Co., Ltd.
In 2007 fiscal year the company will make real business deployment of carbon separators for PEFC and electric double layer capacitors. As results of evaluation of samples hitherto carried out, both products are evaluated to be competitive in the market and the company will realize construction plane of a mass-production factory. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Nov. 27, 2006) and The Chemical Daily (Dec. 1, 2006)]
4.Demonstration Plan of Home-Use PEFC Systems and Business Deployment
(1) Nippon Oil Corp.
In the home page the company begins to recruit installation sites for cogeneration systems of home-use PEFC in 2007 fiscal year. The LPG specified FC systems and the kerosene specified FC systems are the objects. The contract period is 3 years and 60,000 yen is collected every month for maintenance expense. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (Business and technology) (Nov. 2, 2006) and The Chemical Daily (Nov. 9, 2006)]
The company would start technical training of home-use PEFC systems since 2007, special agents being objects. At present the company or the stack makers made regular checks and exchange of components. The purpose of the training is that special agents could do these maintenances by themselves. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Nov. 8, 2006]
The company announced that 1 kW PEFC of LP gas specification began operation in the central aid station of Tokyo Disney Land. [The Chemical Daily (Nov. 15, 2006)]
(2) Ebara-Ballard Corp.
The company completed mass production lines of stacks "V3" for home-use PEFC of l0,000 h endurance life (developed by Ballard Corp.) in Fujisawa factory of Ebara Corp.. MEA would be produced in the factory in the future, but it is now supplied by Ballard Corp. The separators are purchased from a domestic producer, and they are assembled into stacks. In 2008 fiscal year or later the company will make production line for assembling 1 kW class FC of new stacks. FC assembled by the company was supplied to Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd and the demonstration are carried out by Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. In the demonstration electric power efficiency of 33 - 35% at the rated output and 29% at 30% load factor was achieved. The endurance of 10,000 h will be achieved in May of 2007 for really used FC installed in real home. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Nov. 29, 2006)]
5.Development of Business-Use PEFC and Business Deployment
Nippon Oil Corp. would put PEFC for business in real use in December of 2006. It will be used at a pool in Amagasaki city of Hyogo prefecture for supplying electric power and heat. The capacity of electric power is 8.5 kW, while 36% energy in kerosene is converted to electric power and 45% is used as heat. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. managing and maintaining the pool got subsidiary from Hyogo Prefecture and decided to introduce it into the pool. The purpose of this trial is not testing. The user pay 20 - 30 million yen as the initial investment, and this is the first case. Expecting increase of the subsidiaries, Nippon Oil Corp. is promoting development for FC scale up. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industries and technology) (Nov. 20, 2006)
6.Forefront of Development of FCV and Other FC Mobiles
It was announced that trial drive meeting of FCV would be held regularly since November in JHFC project by Japan Automobile Research Institute and ENAA. The meeting would be held once a month at publicity facility "JUFC park" in Tsurumi ward of Yokohama city. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) ( Nov. 11, 2006)]
(2) FC bike
With leadership by a teacher, Mr. Sato, pupils in automobile section of Tokyo Municipal Sumida Industrial Senior High School developed a FC bike, which was licensed with a number plate. The bike would be exhibited in 50 year anniversary fair of Nitto Kohki Co. to be held in Kariya city of Aichi prefecture on November 16 and 17. It is a bicycle with a pedal and a motor. The FC stack is Chinese inexpensive one (200 W) and it is installed on the luggage carrier. A hydrogen alloy cylinder (capacity 500 m3) developed by Kurita Corp. is used and it is connected with a hydrogen supply joint by Nitto Koki K. K. With a cylinder 10 h continuous driving is possible at a speed of 30 km/h. The expense for assembling this bike was 1 million yen. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Nov. 16, 2006)]
(3) Kurimoto, Ltd.
The company publicized FC-installed wheelchairs etc. in "EXPO seminar in Osaka" held in Osaka International Conveention Hall. It was announced that the wheelchair developed by Kurimoto (Osaka) can run continuously for 10 h at a speed of 6 km/h. [The Yomiuri Shimbun Nov. 29, 2006]
(4) Ballard Power Systems Corp.
In early November this Canadian company made contract accepting an order of PEFC for 2,900 forklifts with General Hydrogen. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) (Dec. 1, 2006)]
7.Technology Development of Hydrogen Formation and Purification
(1) Fukushima University
An assistant professor, Prof. Sato, in department of science and technology for coexistence systems in Fukushima University discovered a principle for inexpensive purification to get high-purity hydrogen using compound semiconductor. He prepared a compound semiconductor of indium gallium arsenide with carbon and tried to permeate hydrogen by pressure difference through this compound. Hydrogen permeated in form of proton and electron, but impurities could not permeate. Thus high-purity hydrogen of almost 100% was obtained. Hydrogen purification by this method is cheaper than that with noble metal of palladium. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Nov. 2, 2006)]
(2) Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
The above two companies established technology for efficiently obtaining high-purity hydrogen from town gas. Water vapor reforming is combined with hydrogen separating membrane. It is a "membrane reactor" in which formation and separation of hydrogen is simultaneously done. Over 70% hydrogen energy efficiency was achieved, and large reduction in the volume was also done. Tubes of hydrogen separating membrane module are attached on the inner wall of an internal combustion type water vapor reformer. Hydrogen formed in the water vapor reforming process is selectively gathered. The module is a porous metal support on which thin film of high-purity palladium (50 micron) is attached and high-purity hydrogen over 99.99% is obtained by aspiration. The rate of permeation is by 7 times higher than palladium-silver alloy. Combustible gases such as CO are burned as off-gas and the combustion heat is recovered as exhausted heat. The characteristic points of this system are low reforming temperature (about 550oC), un-necessity of shift reaction and increased reforming efficiency. Further more, space for installation is decreased to less than 1/3 compared with conventional systems. The demonstration test would be done at Senju hydrogen station in JHFC project. Commercialization is planned also as on-site supplying equipments beside hydrogen stations. [The Chemical Daily (Nov. 30, 2006)]
8.Construction of Hydrogen Utility Systems
(1) Takasago Thermal Engineering Co., Ltd.
In collaboration with National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology the above company established concrete framework for utilizing hydrogen for architecture facility. The system is consisted with a hydrogen storage equipment (hydrogen absorbing tank with metallic alloy of nickel as main component), a water electrolysis equipment, and an exhausted heat treatment and heat recovery equipment. Electricity is used in equipments in buildings, and the exhausted heat is efficiently used for air conditioning of buildings. Renewable energy from solar photovoltaic cells etc. is supplied to water electrolysis. For a hydrogen storage equipment numerical analysis tool (design tool) of relation among hydrogen amount stored in the tank, its temperature and pressure was made. With this tool simulation was made and compared with operating test results of a real system to establish the effectiveness of the tool. Namely characteristic curve model of hydrogen storage alloy was made among hydrogen storage density, pressure and temperature, and on this base hydrogen absorption and release can be controlled by control of the temperature in the tank. The overall efficiency of the system was reported to be 62.4%. Thus Energy storage, generation and utilization are treated as a system, and possibility of stand-alone operation is in sight. This is also useful to keep supply lines in disaster. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun (construction), The Chemical Daily (Nov. 1, 2006), The Fuji Sankei Business Eye (Nov. 3, 2006) and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industries and technology) (Nov. 9, 2006)]
(2) Kyushu University etc.
A collaborative project among academic sector and industry has started, and in this project large scale windmills are constructed on the sea and sea water is electrolyzed by electric power from windmills to form hydrogen. In this project researchers from 8 universities, such as Kyushu University, Kyoto University and Miyazaki University joined together with 6 companies like carbon fiber maker. On the sea windmills are constructed on hexagonal bases (600 m in diameter) set like honeycomb. "Wind lens of windmills" (100 m in diameter) thus constructed efficiently collect wind energy, and by this energy water is electrolyzed to produce hydrogen, which is conveyed to land by a ship. Then hydrogen is used for power generation with FC etc. As materials of the windmills carbon fiber reinforced plastics are used. It is anticipated that the endurance life is 100 years and the power generation cost is less than half of atomic power generation. [The Nishinihon Shimbun (Nov. 4, 2006), The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Tokyo Shimbun (Nov. 27, 2006) The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) (Nov. 28, 2006) and the Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun (construction) (Dec. 1, 2006)]
9.Development of Portable Micro Cells
(1) Casio Computer Co., Ltd.
The company made a trial product of PEFC (methanol reforming type and 2 - 4W output) for a personal computer. They concluded that it is superior to DMFC in electric power and it would be commercialized earlier than DMFC. The flow channel base plate of this micro FC is 150 mm long and 80 mm wide, and on this base plate are multi-layered channels for methanol fuel, hydrogen and oxygen for electric generation, exhausted carbon dioxide and water. The auxiliary components for control including sensors, valves and pumps are developed in cooperation with Alps Electric Co., Ltd.,, Omron Corp., Mitsumi ElectricCo., Ltd. and the reliability research institute of a German company, Fraunhofer Microelectronics Co. One of main components, the methanol reformer is miniaturized and it is 27.2 mm long, 46 mm wide and 2.8 mm thick. The output of hydrogen from the reformer is equal to output power of 49 W of heat value, so that 20 W electric power can be obtained, when high power density FC is installed. The company will supply trial products to personal computer makers in 2007 fiscal year, when carrying FC into aircrafts is allowed by regulation relaxation. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industries and technology) (Nov. 14, 2006)]
On Nov. 29, 2006 the above company announced that it succeeded in development of a micro pump, which can suck up methanol and inject it in high pressure. Electro-osmotic pressure is utilized with electro-osmotic material developed by Nanofusion Corp. Ion is formed by electric current and methanol is injected by force occurring on the ion. This technology largely contributes to high efficiency and low cost of FC. The pump is 11 mm long, 11 mm wide and 4 mm high and the volume is 0.5 cc. Methanol can be injected at the rate of 90 micron L/min and the pressure of 100 kPa. The sample shipment would be done in 2007 fiscal year. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industries and technology), The Nikkan Daily (Nov. 30, 2006)]
(2) Nanofusion Corp.
The company (Tokyo prefecture) developed a micro pump for micro FC and it can flow methanol etc. Electro-osmosis is utilized, and liquid flows through porous silica material. Silica particles are electrified minus and the fluid is electrified plus. By applying voltage on them, the fluid flows without mechanical tools. The thus developed pump is a disk of 0.44 g, and it is 8 mm in outer diameter and 4mm thick. The applied voltage is 12 - 24 V. Performance of no vibration and no mechanical noise was realized. By the applied voltage of 12 V the rate of 40 micron L/min at 0.7 atmosphere was achieved, and by 24 V 100 micron L/min at 1.5 atmosphere. Endurance test for 2,000h was cleared. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Nov. 27, 2006)]
10.R&D of DCFC
An assistant professor, Prof. Ihara, of Tokyo Institute of Technology developed Direct Carbon Fuel Cells (DCFC). By thermal decomposition of fuel, such as propane, solid carbon is deposited on the anode, and air is supplied to the cathode. It was confirmed that 83 min power generation can be done by 5 min thermal decomposition. Deposition can be repeated 6 times at the maximum. The maximum power density is 52 mW/cm2, and it is the same as or hugher than that of DMFC for portable electronics equipments. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industries and technology) (Nov. 16, 2006)]
------------ This edition is made up as of December 1, 2006. ---------------