(1) Agency of Natural Resources and Energy
On December 7, 2006 in the agency the general division of the committee for comprehensive investigation of natural resources and energy was held and completed a revised version of "Fundamental Energy Plan" for 10 year energy policies. The agency is aiming at cabinet decision in February of 2007. In the plan "a nation based on atomic energy" is anticipated including a key policy of promoting development of high-rate breeder reactors, and operation of "Monju" will be restarted in 2008 fiscal year to realize its commercial operation earlier than 2050 fiscal year. Conversion to bio-ethanol fuel and FC are also anticipated in the transportation sector. [The Yomiuri Shimbun (Dec. 8, 2006)]
(2) Energy Technology Strategy Map 07
By the end of 2006 fiscal year Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will complete a report in which medium range guide-lines are described for technology development of energy including petroleum. "The task force of petroleum utilization technologies" was organized mainly of staffs of the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy and they are studying the task. It is planned to complete "Energy Technology Strategy Map 07" by the end of March in 2007. In relation with automobile fuel, establishment of low-cost production technology of bio-ethanol, early establishment of GTL production technology for substitute fuel of diesel engines and its infrastructure, extension of FCV range etc. are examined, and directions and targets will be decided. In May 2006 METI completed "New National Energy Strategy" in which a main task is to reduce petroleum dependence ratio in transportation sector to 80% of the present ratio. It is decided to show the technology development road map to realize the above targets. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) (Dec. 1, 2006)]
(3) Fuel Initiative for the Next Generation Automobiles
In the advisory meeting of economy and finance under the prime minister, Mr. Amari, the minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, made proposition of "Fuel Initiative for the Next Generation Automobiles" in which strategy for propagation of new automobile fuels such as bio-ethanol, is a main point. It is proposed to make comprehensive frameworks for promotion of the next generation automobiles and their fuels in cooperation among automobile industry, energy industry and METI. In the beginning of 2007 meetings will be organized among the minister and tops of the industries to formulate strategy for promotion of clean diesel cars, electric cars, FCV etc together with expert level meetings to make concrete policies specified in bio-ethanol. [Thd Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile). and The Chemical Daily (Dec. 21, 2006)]
(4) Budget related with new energy
On Dec. 20, 2006 the government decided the budget, and total about 141 billion yen for new energy are allocated to Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Environment. In this budget the section for new energy of Agency of Natural Resources and Energy in METI got budget for subsidiary to introduce new energy, such as solar cells, and for promoting development of advanced technologies. Main important activities approved in this budget draft are "establishment of models of local distribution related with bio-ethanol fuel for transportation" (a new item, 800 million yen) in "active introduction of biomass fuel," "strategic technology development for real use of next generation electric energy storage systems" (4.9 billion yen) in "strategic technology development and promotion of introduction of electric energy storage systems" (7.6 billion yen), "subsidiary activity for connection of wind electric generation to grid" (2.7 billion yen), "development of advanced new energy technology by ventures" (a new item, 4.6 billion yen) in "promotion of development and field tests of new energy technologies" (15.4 billion yen), "demonstration related to next generation FC systems (SOFC)" (a new item, 800 million yen) in "technology development and introduction promotion related FC and hydrogen" (6.8 billion yen) and so on. [The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) ( Dec. 28, 2006)]
(5) Construction of hydrogen stations of 700 atmospheres
The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy will construct hydrogen stations of 700 atmospheres for FC in the capital area and Nagoya in 2007 fiscal year. American GM, Daimler-Chrysler and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. are now making demonstration of hydrogen cars of 700 atmospheres, and hydrogen stations for demonstration are already in Vancouver, Canada and Berlin, Germany. In US evaluation standards for 700 atmosphere tanks will be decided in January of 2007. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Jan. 5, 2007)]
Fuji Electric Advanced Technologies Co., Ltd. installed 4 sets of 100 kW PAFC in the north sewage disposal center of Kumamoto Prefecture. Methane is obtained from digestive gas evolved in sewage disposal and it is used for power generation. The electric efficiency and the overall efficiency are respectively 38% and 54%. Hitherto it is aimed at reducing present introduction cost of 900,000 yen/kW to 300,000 - 400,000 yen/kW and propagation to various usages is tried. American UTC has introduced total 270 sets and 100 kW, 200 kW and 400 kW sets are investigated as standards. Fuji Electric Advanced Technologies Co., Ltd. chose 100 kW as the standard. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Dec. 8, 2006) and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) (Dec. 11, 2006)]
3.R&D of SOFC
(1) CRIEPI and AIST
The Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) and Research Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) announced on Dec. 4, 2006 that they have developed technology for scale up of SOFC operated around 650oC. They developed a new technology by which nano-scale silver particles can be uniformly dispersed on the ceramic electrode surface. Thus they succeeded in the output increase of the cells from 0.25 W/cm2 to 0.45 W/cm2. Catalytic activity of the silver particles is high and their electric resistance is low, so that the electric conductivity of the SOFC cells can be increased.In this treatment mixed solution of silver nitrate, citric acid and ethylene glycol is used. Citric acid is added into the aqueous solution of silver nitrate to form silver complex, and the complex can be dispersed into porous ceramics. Ethylene glycol keeps nano-scale dispersion of silver. In this treatment any special equipment is not needed, and the object is not limited, so that wide application can be anticipated. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Chemical Daily (Dec. 5, 2006) and The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) (Dec. 8, 2006)]
(2) Siemens Power Generation
A German company, Seemens Power Generation, achieved 2,800 hour continuous operation of 5 kW scale SOFC prototype cells by DOE technology at a factory in the suburb of Pittsburgh, US. This is a result in phase 1 of SECA project. Hereafter increase in the output is aimed at.
In cooperation with a German large electric power company, EnBW, the company published a construction plan of 1,000 kW high-performance power generation plant by combining SOFC and a gas turbine. In this plan the fundamental preparation would be completed in 2008 and operation of this plant would be started in 2012. The above R&D will be carried out in accordance with a contract with DOE, and the results would be applied in this plant. The target to be aimed at is electric efficiency of 70%. [The Denki Shimbun (Dec. 6, 2006)]
(3) J Power
J Power, Electric Power Development Co., Ltd., will start test operation of a large scale SOFC system in Chigasaki Laboratory since January, 2007. The output under ambient pressure is 150 kW (6 sets of 25 kW module), in which 2,500 tubes (3 cm diameter and 150 cm length) developed by cooperative development with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. are assembled. Reliability is improved by the structure in which the fuel inlet is in a line with the outlet. The test operation including long-term operation and partial load operation will be carried out until March of 2008. Target of the total power generation time is over 10,000 hours. One of the main purposes is establishment of easy controllability. [Fuji Sankei Business Eye (Dec. 18, 2006)]
(4) Yokohama National University
A research group in the university developed new ceramics, which has ability of self-healing of cracks by heating at high temperature. They aim at application as ceramic components in SOFC within 2 - 3 years. Cylindrical silicon carbide (1 micron m diameter and 100 micron m length) and spherical silicon carbide (0.2 micron m diameter) are mixed with mullite powder, and they are sintered at 1,700oC to form the material. When cracks form on the surface, cylindrical silicon carbide prevent them from growth. The silicon carbides particles recover cracks as an adhesives by heating. The silicone carbides have another role to decrease size of mullite crystallites and thus increase the ceramic strength. Comparing with conventional mullite, the strength increases by 2.6 times. Cracks of 1 mm depth on the surface vanished by heating at 1,300oC in air for 1 hour. The strength recovered by heating and the strength after heating is the same as that without cracks. [The Nikei Sangyo Shimbun (industry and technology) (Jan. 1, 2007)]
4.Development of PEFC Elementary Technologies
National Institute for Materials Science, Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), and Japan Atomic Energy Agency signed a contract for research cooperation of advanced R&D on quantum beam technology.One of the research items carried out by 3 bodies is "development of key materials for FC systems." The purpose of this research is to develop electrolyte membrane and materials for electrode - membrane assembly for reducing platinum consumption and increasing the output under working temperature of 100 - 500oC. [The Chemical Daily (Dec. 25, 2006) and The Genshiryoku Sangyo Shimbun (nuclear power industry) (Jan. 5, 2007)]
5.Demonstration of Home-Use PEFC Cogeneration Systems
(1) Saibu Gas Co., Ltd.
On Dec. 15, 2006 the company announced that it would start the demonstration since Dec. 20, 2006 at the official residence of Fukuoka Prefecture Governor in cooperation with "Fukuoka Strategic Congress of Hydrogen Energy." It will be carried out for 2 years by December of 2008. The tested FC is 1 kW scale PEFC of town gas specification. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) (Dec. 18, 2006) and The Nishinihon Shimbun (Dec. 26, 2006)]
(2) Nippon Oil Co.rp.
On Dec. 18, 2006 the company set forth a plan of introducing kerosene-fueled home-use PEFC into Hokkaido market. Three sets will be installed in personal houses and the data gathered will be used in the improvements.
(3) Maruichi Sekiyu K. K.
The company in Kanazawa city started a demonstration at a personal house in Hakusan city, and the FC tested is home-use PEFC using special kerosene. [The Hokkoku Shimbun (Dec. 21, 2006)]
Mr. Fukui, the president of Honda Motor Co., Ltd., stated "The level of FCV will approach to mass-production level within 10 years." in an interview by Kyodo News. He suggested forecast that sales for general use would be possible in later half of 2010s at the price of the order of 10 million yen. [The Hokkaido Shimbun and The Kahoku Shimbun (Dec. 30, 2006)]
7.Construction and Examination of Hydrogen Station
Construction of a hydrogen station annexed to a usual gas station had been completed on Dec. 4, 2006 in Ichihara city of Chiba prefecture. Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. constructed it by entrust of the government, and validity and endurance of safety measures will be examined. The operation will be ended by March of 2009. The hydrogen station was constructed in order to gather data in long continuous operation, so that the produced hydrogen is partially consumed as fuel for a reformer. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) (Dec. 5, 2006)]
8.Technology Development of Hydrogen Formation and Purification
RITE (Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth) developed polymer membrane for selectively separating carbon dioxide from gas containing hydrogen. For this purpose dendrimer of polyamideamine (PAMAM) is used and it is applied to polysulfone support film to use liquid PAMAM for the separation.
The research group is using polyamideamine dendrimer with hydroxide groups. Its selectivity of carbon dioxide from oxygen is low than that from nitrogen, but its distribution coefficient is high and about 700.Because PAMAM is liquid and it is hard to use it alone, PAMAM thin film layer is formed on surface of porous polysulfone hollow fiber. To prevent liquid PAMAM from flowing into porous PSF, it is undercoated with chitosan prior to PAMAM coating. In the case of zero generation dendrimer of the least unit the highest selective permeability was found by introducing 3 hydroxide groups. Relation between absorption and selectivity was observed, and it is thought that carbon dioxide molecule in the film prevents hydrogen from permeation.
Beside PAMAM dendrimers, RITE will carry out the research and development widely, including materials like brominated caldol type polyimide hollow fiber film and systems consisting of modules. Since PAMAM dendrimer has high selectivity between carbon dioxide and hydrogen, they aim at real use through demonstration. [The Chemical Daily (Dec. 9, 2006)]
(2) Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd.
The company succeeded in three times increase in life of catalyst for producing hydrogen from kerosene. It can be continuously used for 40,000 hours. Hydrogen production cost can be reduced, while it is said that it is also effective for downsizing of the equipment. The catalyst developed is spherical (3 mm diameter), and ruthenium metal and an additive (newly developed by the company) to activate water decomposition are added on the surface of aluminum oxide. With conventional catalyst, in which ruthenium metal is only added to aluminum oxide, water decomposition rate is low, and hydrocarbon molecules are formed when kerosene is decomposed with ruthenium, while the hydrocarbon molecules form lumps. These lumps adhere ruthenium and reduce its function as catalyst finally to shorten the life. By adding the additive, decomposed water reacts with hydrocarbon and the lump formation is prevented, while hydrogen is formed at high rate by reaction between decomposed water and hydrocarbon. The company is planning demonstration of hydrogen production in the next fiscal year using the modified catalyst. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industry and technology) (Dec. 20, 2006)]
(3) Tokyo University of Science
Prof. Kudo of Tokyo University of Science invented photo-catalyst by which water can be decomposed into hydrogen using all frequency range of visible light except ultraviolet light. The new photo-catalyst is sulfide of silver, copper and indium with ruthenium on its surface, and it is spherical (1 micron m diameter) and black. To make it hydrogen sulfide gas is flown into aqueous solution of silver, copper and indium, and formed precipitate of metal sulfides is heated at 600oC in vacuum. Then ruthenium is added on the surface. All visible lights from 400 nm to 800 nm are absorbed. By irradiating this photo-catalyst in aqueous solution of sodium sulfide and potassium nitrite, electrons and holes are formed in the photo-catalyst, and electron moves to ruthenium and reacts with hydrogen ion to form hydrogen. Positive hole react with sulfide ion and nitrite ion. In an experiment hydrogen is formed at the rate of 3.1 L/h per 1m2 of light source, when 0.3 g of the photo-catalyst is irradiated in 150 mL aqueous solution of sodium sulfide (3.6 g) and potassium nitrite (12 g). [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industry and tefchnology) (Jan. 4, 2007)]
9.Technology Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transportation
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd. promotes development of container business of liquid hydrogen transport for FCV. The company developed elementary technology for safe and efficient transport of ultra-low temperature liquid hydrogen (-253oC) from liquefaction bases to hydrogen stations and hydrogen electric power generation facilities, and it manufactured tank containers of 20 feet size as the first one in Japan.Thus the real use became in sight. The large-scale construction center carries out its commercialization. The liquid hydrogen container is a double structure and heat flow is prevented by vacuum insulation. The inner container of 15m3 is suspended with tension rods and fixed with special components. This is put in 20 feet container and transported by a trailer. To decrease vaporization in long distance transport, multi-layer insulation, such as plate for preventing waves and aluminum layer deposited by vapor deposition, is developed. The vaporization per day became less than 0.7%, and this is half of that by a present tank truck. In 2005 a 600 km running test on a public road from Amagasaki city to Ariake, Tokyo was done, and favorable results were obtained. [The Chemical Daily (Dec. 28, 2006)]
10.Metrological Instruments for FC and Hydrogen
Yazaki Corp. developed a new hydrogen detector whose response time decreases to 1/10. The mechanism of detecting hydrogen is to detect temperature difference of an alumina plate with uniformly dispersed palladium on it from those without palladium. The plates are heated with a platinum heater. The detection is done by combustion of flowing hydrogen with palladium catalytic activity. The temperature difference between the elements with palladium and without palladium is observed to measure hydrogen amount. In this newly developed detector, a fine electromechanical system (MEMS) is made on silicon circuit board, and voltage difference due to the temperature change is used to detect hydrogen leakage. By applying MEMS miniaturization can be done, and the size of the circuit is 1.6 mm long, 2.6 mm wide and 0.4 mm thick. Because the elements are thermally insulated, fine voltage change can be measured. The response time is very short and 0.53 seconds.
The company made a sensor of 27 mm X 40 mm X 12 mm with the circuit as a trial product, and detection of 4% hydrogen was confirmed. Anti-aging measures are tasks, but endurance test over 10,000 hours was performed in laboratory level. Reducing platinum and palladium and utilizing semi-conductor technologies, reduction of production cost can be anticipated. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (industry and technology) (Dec. 4, 2006)]
11.Development of DMFC and Micro-FC
(1) Kyoto Electronics Manufacturing Co., Ltd.
In collaboration with an American company, ISSYS, the above company developed a small sensor, which is assembled in DMFC to control methanol concentration. It is now examining its mass production. Its real use becomes in sight by micro-sensor technology (MEMS). Methanol can be measured in a range of the concentration from 0 - 100%, and precise control at necessary concentration can also be done. For measuring methanol concentration physical quantities, such as refractive index, velocity of ultrasonic wave and density, but density change is a stable index in all concentration range, so that it became the object. In collaboration with ISSYS, which has MEMS technology, micro-sensor chip measuring density by vibration is developed for evaluation, and it is really used by setting directly in a methanol tube. The sensor is not influenced by change of methanol temperature, presence of by-products etc. Real time measurement became possible, and it was said that FC makers used over hundred sets till now. [The Chemical Daily (Dec. 6, 2006)]
(2) Science Laboratories, Inc.
The company in Matsudo city of Chiba prefecture developed fullerene derivatives for DMFC membrane.
AS to DMFC membrane, fluorocarbon membrane is superior in its endurance, but cross over of methanol easily occurs and its price is high. By this reason hydrocarbon membrane is now being developed actively, but because of degradation due to radical formation long life is hard to be achieved.
What the company developed recently are fullerene (C60) derivatives and their synthetic technology applicable to high-performance membranes. They succeeded in synthesis of fullerene directly connected with sulfonic acid group, that directly connected with phosphonic acid group and that directly connected with the both acid groups, and the synthesis was made under mild conditions. The solvent used for the synthesis is a mixture of reacting reagent and solvent, which does not directly react with fullerene itself. The synthesis becomes simple using safe reagents. These derivatives can be used easily for membrane by mixing with usual resins or engineering plastics. Long-life membrane can be made because of suppressing dissociation of proton conducting groups. For the conventional hydrocarbon membrane, reagents, which are not easily treated, are used, so that the synthetic route is complicated, and furthermore, the performance is degraded due to dissociation of sulfonic acid groups. It is also hard to introduce phosphonic acid group, but it is easy by the new method. In general the electrolyte is water soluble, so that cross-linking is necessary, but introducing phosphonic acid group cross-linking can be made by adding calcium ion or platinum ion and the membrane becomes un-soluble. In the case of fullerene connected with sulfonic acid, cross-linking can be made by introducing phosphonic acid group. [The Chemical Daily (Dec. 7, 2006)]
(3) Hitachi group
A company in Hitachi group, Hitachi Kanagawa Manufacturing Solution (Hatano city, Kanagawa prefecture) installed a mass-production line for MEA of DMFC. The capacity is equivalent to that of 2,000 - 3,000 cells for small equipment per month. The Hitachi group developed hydrocarbon membrane, which is superior in hydrogen ion conductivity and suppressing methanol cross over. They also developed technology for uniformly disperse platinum nano-particles on carbon. They achieved about 10,000 hour cell life and power density of about 100 mW/cm2. In the Aichi World Exposition held in 2005, its DMFC were installed in small information terminals. Together with KDDI, DMFC are also being developed for those installed in note-type personal computers and portable phones as power sources and chargers. The group is carrying out development for production of DMFC installed equipments after 2007. [Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Jan. 13, 2007) and The Chemical Daily (Dec. 14, 2007)]
(4) Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co., Ltd.
The company made DMFC of 300 W class as a trial product. The real demonstration will be started since 2007. They improved reaction efficiency by using their nano-technology by which platinum based catalyst is controlled in nano-size, and they achieved high power density of 130 mW/cm2 with a single cell. They also succeeded in improvement of long-term reliability by devising the electrode structure. A stack of 300 W class was assembled by stacking up 40 single cells. Thus they succeeded in down sizing and weight reducing, so that the output is 305 W by volume of 120 X 120 X 140 mm and weight of 4.1 kg. The target of the demonstration is at the moment 4,000 hours, and they will examine usage of the stack, safety of the system and so on. The commercialization is aimed at 2008. Partners are under consideration for purchasing main components and also for marketing of portable, mobile and emergency power sources and of robots and leisure. [The Chemical Daily (Dec. 25, 2006)]
12.New Application of FC
Tokai Densi K. K. (Fuji city, Shizuoka prefecture) developed an alcohol detector of dual type, which is free from error actions. In this new detector usually a semi-conductor sensor of long endurance works, but when alcohol is detected, a FC sensor of high selectivity works for confirmation. Application of alcohol detectors is now expanded coping to drinking drivers, but in the case of semi-conductor detectors there is a problem of error action due to tobacco and some substances in human bodies. The FC detectors react with ethanol only, but their endurance is short and it takes relatively long time to measure alcohol. By using the both detectors, error action can be avoided. The detector can be used for 60,000 tests, which corresponds to half year use at a station. Since March of 2007 it will be sold at the price of 264,000 yen. Sales in the transportation sector is anticipated. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Dec. 23, 2006)]
------------ This edition is made up as of January. 5, 2007. ---------------