(1) Next generation battery technology
On February 8, 2007 Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held a first meeting for investigating infrastructure necessary for propagation of the next generation battery, which is promising because of its applicability to EV, HEV and FCV. The main topics are battery standardization, propagation policies for the next generation battery installed cars and so on. Resources of rare metals are also the theme. In April or May the results will be compiled as strategy for foundation of infrastructure. For the meeting members were solicited from universities, research institutes, automobile makers, battery makers, electric power companies etc., and lithium ion battery is the object. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) Feb. 8, 2007]
(2) Demonstration of home-use FC
Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (METI) decided to extend the period of large-scale demonstration of home-use FC up to 2008 fiscal year. Furthermore, since 2009 fiscal year the activity will be shifted to subsidiary program, in which half or 2/3 expense of the FC at its shipment (about 1.2 million yen) would be subsidized. Thus full real use is expected. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 8, 2007]
(3) Hydrogen production using gases in iron making process
On February 9, 2007 the second meeting of "technological assessment group on hydrogen production using gasses in iron making process" under METI was held, and ex post facto assessment was discussed. In the technology development a process was established in which methane contained in cokes oven gas (COG) formed in the iron making process is reformed to hydrogen in large scale and high efficiency. If this new process is applied to total 44 cokes ovens in Japan, hydrogen produced would amount to 4.0 billion m3. Hydrogen demand by FCV in 2020 is assumed 3.75 billion m3, so that discussion was concentrated in this point of hydrogen usage. In the draft of the report it was stated as hydrogen usage that R&D combined with hydrogen turbines and hydrogen engines should be supported irrespective of FC. Comments, for example, "By foundation of hydrogen specific area, propositions should be presented to make them pioneers in the hydrogen society." (The chairperson, Prof. Yoshida) was also stated. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 15, 2007]
2.Related Policy by Local Government
On February 26, 2007 general assembly was held for establishment of "Aomori Strategic Congress for Hydrogen Energy Creation," which aims at business of hydrogen energy and FC in collaboration among academic, governmental and industrial sectors. About 50 are enlisted including universities, think tanks and companies, such as Tohoku Electric Power Co., Ltd., J Power, Nippon Oil Co., Ltd, Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., Toshiba Corp. and Obayashi Corp.. [The Kahoku Shimpo Feb. 27, 2007 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 1, 2007]
3.Development of SOFC
A research group organized by NEDO including National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Toho Gas Co., Ltd., Kyocera Corp. and Denso Corp. announced on Feb. 16, 2007 that they developed cylindrical SOFC reactors, the diameter of which is from 1 mm to several mm. Assembling several tens of these micro-tubes, a trial micro-SOFC of a cube of about 3 cm was made and 14.2 W power generation was surely observed. The operating temperature is 650oC, and the power density is over 0.5 W/cm2. Because of the high power density and the low temperature operation, this technology would lead to reduction in the manufacturing cost. Hereafter development of over 100 W is aimed at and they are considering its application to auxiliary power sources and cogeneration. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Chemical Daily Feb. 19, 2007 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Feb. 20, 2007]
4.Development of Elementary Technologies for PEFC and DMFC
(1) Areuse Co., Ltd.
The company (Asaka city, Saitama prefecture) set forth new technology, by which separators can be made from graphite carbon in short time and at high precision. Using a ultrasonic rotary machine made in Germany, the carbon is shaved with a tool moving repeatedly at frequency of 20,000 times per second, and the high frequency enables shaving hard and brittle materials, and shaving to 0.5 mm in the width can be made. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 6, 2007]
(2) GSI Creos
This company will start development of technology applicable to catalyst carriers in MEA, making use of characteristics of highly crystalline cup-stacking carbon nano-tube (CSCNT). They stated that because reaction efficiency can be much higher than conventional carbon black, platinum can be decreased to large extent. CSCNT "Carbale" has a shape of a cup with open bottom. The diameter and/or the length can be adjusted, and its surface treatment can also be done. Since it is promising in its characteristics such as electro-conductivity, they concluded that the reaction efficiency could be increased. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 7, 2007]
(3) Tokyo Institute of Technology
Prof. Kakimoto et al. of Tokyo Institute of Technology developed hydrocarbon base electrolyte membrane, the strength of which is about 10 times higher than fluorocarbon membrane. In its basic concept, it is hydrocarbon base aromatic polymer with sulfonic acid groups at aromatic branch ends, and aromatic polymer of high strength is attached at the branch by graft polymerization to form new and strong polyelectrolyte. The hydrogen ion conductivity is almost the same as that of fluorocarbon base membrane. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 7, 2007]
(4) Tokai University
Prof. Sho and his group developed a metallic separator covered with amorphous carbon film. By this technology anti-corrosiveness of the separator is improved and contact resistance between the separator and MEA is reduced. In this research they used a separator of titanium, the oxide surface of which can be easily removed, and CVD was adopted for amorphous carbon thin film formation. It was reported that the covered film of 13 micron m restrains decrease in the output voltage, and the power was observed by experiment to increase by 38% compared with a separator without the covered film. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 9, 2007]
(5) Kyushu University
Prof. Kitagawa, an assistant, Yamada and their group in Postgraduate School of Science in Kyushu University synthesized neutral (non-acidic) solid electrolyte membrane. Because conventional polyelectrolyte membranes like nafion are super-acidic, they tend to degrade metals by corrosion, so that only particles of platinum and its alloy can be used as electrode catalysts. Coordination polymers Yamada used are organic compounds polymerized with coordination bonding. Since they are not acidic, gold, platinum and other expensive noble rare metal are not needed as the electrode materials. In this material various coordination structures, such as plane and octahedron, can be made by changing metallic ions, so that various space of different volumes and shapes can be made. The proton conductivity of material using iron is very low in the humidity range from 40 to 50%, but it increases gradually by increase in the humidity, and finally at 100% humidity it is 10-3S/cm. This is by 1 order lower than nafion, but the conductivity can be increased by changing the metallic ions. Moreover, hydrogen can be absorbed at over 100oC and it is stable up to 150oC. The group intends to elucidate proton migration mechanism and also to promote the research aiming at real use. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 14, 2007]
(6) FJ Composite Materials Co., Ltd.
The company will make development of carbon base separators for PEFC in cooperation with Seikoh Giken Co., Ltd. and Konishiyasu Co., Ltd. The separators will be made in a new process of high productivity, in which phenol resin is coated on graphite surface and cured by heating in an oven after compression molding. Beside high productivity, the following characteristics are promising; over 50 MPa bending strength, below 10 micro-ohm/cm2 volume resistivity, and 10-7 /cm3s gas permeability. The maximum area is 4 m2 and the thickness of 0.2 - 2 micron m can be made. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 16, 2007]
(7) Nisshin Engineering Co., Ltd.
By high frequency thermal plasma method (dry method), the company succeeded in production of platinum nano-particles and it established mass production technology, which is 10 - 20 times larger than the laser method. Platinum powder is the material and fine particles of average 10 nano-meter diameter are obtained, so that it is expected as high-performance reforming catalyst for PEFC. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 19, 2007]
(8) Dainippon Printing Co., ltd.
This company developed a separator, which is made by coating electro-deposited resin on aluminum plates. Endurance is obtained by electro-deposition, and it was confirmed by 2,000 hour continuous running test. Internal analysis and evaluation have been now underway. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 19, 2007]
The company also intensified business of catalyst transferring film for making MEA. It started the sample supply to DMFC makers in addition to PEFC makers. The company pointed out FC field as one of the next generation emerging business and aimed at new business of various components by making full use of printing technologies. Beside the above technologies, selective hydrogen permeation membrane and reformer are under research, while development of SOFC is also going on. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 23, 2007]
(9) Nippon Paint Co., Ltd.
The company developed a new technology for loading platinum catalyst on carbon. By the technology nano-particles are directly loaded on catalyst carriers like carbon, and the production process became simple, because treatment after high-temperature sintering etc. is unnecessary. Furthermore loading on low-endurance materials can be made. In the new process called "liquid reduction method" metallic ions in liquid phase are reduced to grow nano-particles. Thus platinum nano-particles can be directly loaded on base materials, such as carbon and silicon, and this new method has advantage that it widens range of materials selection. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 19, 2007 and The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) Feb. 20, 2007]
(10) Yokohama National University
A research staff, Ishihara et al. in the above university developed air electrode catalyst in which platinum is not used. Firstly powder mixture of tantalum oxide and carbon is sintered at 1600oC to get tantalum oxide nitride. This is heated at 1000oC in the atmosphere of nitrogen containing low concentration of oxygen to oxidize the material to form tantalum compound particles of several tens to several hundreds nanometer diameter, which is used as electrode catalyst. Its electrode reaction rate is less than that of platinum, but large contribution is expected, if this is really used. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 23, 2007]
(11) Tokyo Science University
Prof. Kuwano, an assistant, Saito and their group developed air electrode catalyst without using platinum. They use lead oxide and ruthenium oxide as main materials, and it was confirmed by experiments that the catalyst has the same performance as platinum. Adding manganese in the above two oxides, it was then mixed enough in a mortar and sintered at 650oC for 2 hours. Then it was sintered further at 800oC for 30 hours. Oxide of several micron m size was formed. This oxide was grinded into particles of several nano m size and the particles were used as electrode catalyst. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) March 1, 2007]
5.Demonstration of PEFC Systems for Home and Business
(1) Saibu Gas Co., Ltd.
On February 1, 2007 the company started recruitment of homes monitoring home-use PEFC systems of town gas specification. About 10 homes are looked for in Kitakyushu city, Fukuoka city etc. [The Nishinihon Shimbun Feb. 2, 2007]
(2) Ekka Oil Co., Ltd.
Since February of 2007 this company in Urasoe city started operation of a home-use PEFC system using water vapor reformed LP gas at an employee's home in Yomitanson. [The Okinawa Times Feb. 20, 2007]
(3) Shizuoka Gas Co., Ltd.
The company began recruitment for home-use PEFC systems. Co-generation systems by Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. "Lifuel" will be used. [The Shizuoka Shimbun Feb. 25, 2007]
(4) Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
On February 26, 2007 the company announced that it had started demonstration of a system using exhausted heat for melting snow and floor heating, and this demonstration in Aomori city has been operated in cooperation with the comprehensive industrial research center of Aomori Prefecture. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Fuji Sankei Business Eye Feb. 27, 2007, The Chemical Daily Feb. 28, 2007 and The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) March 1, 2007]
(1) Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. and others
Five companies, i.e., Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Gas Chemicals Co., Ltd., JGC Corp. and Renaissance Energy Research Corp., developed reforming catalyst of long endurance over 3000 hours, and by using it they also developed a small DME reforming system for FCV. The output of the system is equivalent to 30 kW. The installing space is 44 L, and adding a DME tank for 500 km FCV range, it is 76 L. Comparing with high-pressure hydrogen (55 MPa), the space becomes by about 25% smaller. The developed catalyst shows high activity even at low temperature of 300oC, and the endurance is improved by decrease in reforming temperature. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 7, 2007]
(2) Tongji University in Chaina
On Dec. 13, 2006 exhibition of China-made FCV was done in a huge campus of Dosai University in the suburban area of Shanghai. The acceleration time from start to 100 km/h is 15 s, and the continuous range is 300 km. The vice-chief of the new energy automobile technology center of the University, Prof. Ma said "Chinese technology developed to the same level of advanced countries." Mr. Fu, the president of a company of science and technology in Shanghai, who was working before in Ballard Corp. and now producing FCV with the university, eagerly work to make FCV popular, and he estimated the price to be 700,000 - 800,000 yuan (11 million yen - 12 million yen) assuming Chinese FC cost to be 10,000 yuan or less (about 150,000 yen) per 1 kW and adding standard body expense. [The Asahi Shimbun Feb. 7, 2007]
(3) Kogakuin University
Prof. Saika and his research group in Engineering Faculty of Kogakuin University developed FCV in which hydrogen made from ammonia is used as fuel. This FCV is based on a commercially available compact car, and a cylinder for liquid ammonia (The capacity is 10 L.), decomposition equipment for making hydrogen from ammonia, a FC system, a battery and motors are installed, the body weight being 850 kg. By experiments, it was confirmed that with about 1 L of ammonia fuel the FCV runs for 75 min. or 37.5 km at average speed of 30 km/h. At the present level residual ammonia must be removed after making hydrogen, so that the real continuous range is limited to be about 1 L of fuel. [The Fuji Sankei Business Eye Feb. 16, 2007]
(4) Nissan Motor Co., Ltd.
On February 20, 2007 Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. announced that the company delivered FCV "Extrail FCV" to a taxi company, Kanagawa Toshikoutsu., Ltd. (lease). The FCV would be operated as hired cars since the beginning of March. [The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Mainichi Shimbun, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Nikkan Jidossha Shimbun (automobile) The Tokyo Shimbun, The Chunichi Shimbun, The Chugoku Shimbun, The Kanagawa Shimbun, The Hokkaido Shimbun, The Chemical Daily, The Fuji Sankei Business Eye Feb. 21, 2007, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 23, 2007 and The Sankei Shimbun Feb. 25, 2007]
7.Hydrogen Station etc
(1) Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
Since 2007 fiscal year the company will start demonstration for real use of "Mobile Station" which will supply hydrogen to FCV. Hydrogen produced in Aichi Refinery will be transported and supplied with trailers. Measures to reduce the cost will be investigated. [The Fuji Sankei Business Eye Feb. 27, 2007]
(2) Air Water Inc.
It was set forth that by making full use of next generation catalyst of 4 elements invented by Prof. Emeritus Inui of Kyoto University, the company will positively promote hydrogen business including developments of hydrogen gas producing equipments and hydrogen gas stations. The 4 element catalyst is consisting of nickel, cerium oxide, platinum and rhodium, and its most remarkable feature is that this catalyst activates both of heating and reforming, so that a heating furnace for hydrogen production is unnecessary, and it will make the equipment smaller The company developed a thermally neutral hydrogen producing equipment "VH" in 2006 and it began on-site supply of hydrogen gas using this equipment. The company accepted orders of 5 sets. [The Chemical Daily March 2, 2007]
8.Development and Business Deployment of Hydrogen Production and Purification
(1) Shibuya Kogyo Co., Ltd.
The company in Kanazawa city developed a new hydrogen gas producing equipment. The newly developed equipment is named "Epocs Generator." It forms hydrogen and oxygen by water electrolysis and it supply hydrogen following the demand at needed place on-site. The height is 1.8 m and the price of the standard one is expected to be 8 million yen. [The Hokkoku Shimbun Feb. 3, 2007]
(2) Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd and Corona Corp.
In home-use PEFC systems under development with Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd., Corona Corp. (Sanjo city) got prospect for commercialization of kerosene reformers. This company announced plan that the commercialization will be done aiming at 2012 and it will be sold to the makers. The trial reformer was designed reducing components and welded parts for future mass production. Decrease in reforming temperature and review of materials were also made for improving endurance. The reformer is a cylinder of 25 cm in maximum diameter, 63.7 cm in height, 25 L in volume and about 17 kg in weight. The reforming efficiency is 80% (HHV) and the time needed to start of generation is about 40 min. The both companies have intention to apply these technologies to town gas and LPG aiming at reformer business. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Fuji Sankei Business Eye, The Niigata Nippo Feb. 6, 2007, The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun (construction) Feb. 14, 2007 and The Tekko Shimbun (iron and steel) Feb. 15, 2007]
(3) Kaji Technology Corp.
The company in Sakai city of Osaka prefecture succeeded in development of an air-cooled non-oil compressor, which can compress hydrogen gas up to 1,100 atmospheres. [The Mainichi Shimbun Feb. 7, 2007]
(4) American Company, CTP Hydrogen
CTP Hydrogen, to which Sumitomo Shoji Corp. invested, developed a hydrogen producing equipment. In this equipment ceramic conductive membrane without noble metals is used, so that various fuel can be used. At the same time, treatment processes such as fuel desulfurization and separation of impurity using pressure are not necessary. Compared with conventional equipments, both of the cost and the size are estimated to be 1/5 - 1/10. Because of the mixed conductive membrane, the new technology is applicable to gasoline, kerosene, natural gas and LPG. The equipment fitted to FC of 200 W class output was assembled in trial. The energy transformation efficiency in hydrogen production is low and 40%. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) Feb. 8, 2007]
(5) Vantech Co., Ltd.
The company promotes soliciting proposition on FC application. The company intends to exploit field of overall demand more than 10 kW and to lead to real use of "natural energy system" by combining wind mill generators and FC unified with unique hydrogen storage and production equipments. The company will start demonstration of a system combined with solar photovoltaic generation since March in Nasushiobara city of Tochigi prefecture. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 5, 2007]
The company and other 5 companies with 1 organization held opening ceremony of a limited association named "Nasunogahara LLP." The association installed a system consisting of 20 kW output solar photovoltaic cells and hydrogen production and storage equipment to make effective use of natural energy. Hydrogen produced by solar photovoltaic generation is stored in a tank of hydrogen storage alloy and it is used for electric generation by FC. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 23, 2007 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 27, 2007]
(6) Tokyo Institute of Technology etc.
Prof. Fujii of Tokyo Institute of Technology and his group including Shinshu University and Kissei Technos Co., Ltd. developed a new catalytic technology of ruthenium oxide in supercritical water, and with this catalyst hydrogen and methane are evolved from sewage mud. Sewage mud is poured in a strong vessel made of nickel etc., and after adding water and ruthenium oxide it is heated up to 400 - 500oC at 47 MPa where water is in supercritical state. Catalyst, sewage mud and supercritical water react and evolve gas like hydrogen. By an experiment where dried mud 100 mg, ruthenium oxide 20 mg and water 3 mL were used, gas, consisting of about 40% hydrogen, about 30% methane and about 20% CO2, was formed after 2 hour heating. It was mentioned that 540,000 L of hydrogen at the room temperature and the ambient pressure could be produced from 10 t of sewage mud theoretically. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 27, 2007]
9.Technology Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transportation
A research group in research center of advanced functional materials of Hiroshima University developed new hydrogen absorbing alloy, which absorbs hydrogen at the room temperature and the ambient pressure. This is a material of magnesium with niobium oxide as an additive, and it absorbs more than 4% of hydrogen for about 10 seconds at the room temperature, so that it draws attention as a high-rate hydrogen absorbing material. In hydrogen release mode the release temperature can be greatly decreased compared with magnesium without additives. At present about 200oC is needed, but the research group aimed at the release temperature of about 150oC. By addition of niobium oxide, activity of magnesium with hydrogen molecules is increased and the reaction rate is also increased. Niobium (penta-valent) oxide is dispersed on the surface of magnesium by milling treatment, and then by reacting it with magnesium hydroxide divalent niobium oxide is formed, which has catalytic function. [The Chemical Daily Feb. 21, 2007]
10.Development of DMFC and Small FC for Cell Phones
(1) NTT DoCoMo, Inc.
On Feb. 6, 2007 the company announced that it made a compact on technology cooperation and development promotion of FC for cell phones with Aquafairy (Ibaraki city in Osaka prefecture). The companies had succeeded in cooperative development and testing of a PEFC charger to be attached with the third generation cell phones (3G) "FOMA." [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 7, 2007 and The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) Feb. 12, 2007]
(2) Kurita Water Industries, Ltd.
This company developed solid methanol fuel for DMFC by adding special compound in methanol for solidification. The characteristic point is that it can generate power without supplying water to a DMFC system. By the solidification the firing point becomes by 40oC higher and it need not to be careful of liquid leakage, so that it is effective both in safety and portability, they said. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 7, 2007]
(3) Hydro-device Co., Ltd.
A venture established from Muroran Institute of Technology and named Hydro-device made a trial equipment generating hydrogen by reaction of fine powder of aluminum compound with water for PEFC used in portable equipments. They are aiming at sale of this unique equipment since June. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 19, 2007]
(4) Tokyo University of Science
A lecturer, Hayase made trial FC cells of 250 micron m thickness by MEMS technology, and fuel channels, catalyst layers and thin electrodes are fabricated on a silicon wafer. This is to aim at miniaturization of FC for mobile equipments while large-scale production is promising, so that low price is expected. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Feb. 28, 2007]
Prof. Kaneko and his research group in Ibaraki University developed a photo-FC, which generates electricity by decomposing organic compound, such as ammonia, using light. The electrodes are made of titanium oxide and platinum, and aqueous solution of organic compounds like ammonia is supplied as fuel medium. By irradiation, the fuel aqueous solution is activated and electric current is obtained along with decomposition of the organic compounds. It was confirmed that basic systems work with bio-mass such as vegetables, fruits and sewage. Basically organic compounds, which can be used, must be those either soluble in water or able to be liquidized. The efficiency of decomposition amounts to 90 - 100%. For real use a venture named "Biophotochemonics Institute" was started. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 10, 2007]
12.Development and Business of Instruments Related with Hydrogen and FC
Yazaki Corp. developed a small high-precision flow-meter for air and hydrogen. For air the measurement can be done at error of 2% or less in a range from l L/min to 100 L/min. The sensor is made by MEMS technology and its size is 2 X 2 X 0.4 mm. Four sensors are set around a central heater, each one on right and left plus above and below. When gas flows in a tube, the temperature distribution between upper stream and down stream deviates, so that the flow rate is measured by measuring the temperature difference. Because the two sensors on the above and below of the heater measure the decreasing rate of heat at the same time, the high precision measurement in the wide range of flow rate can be made. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Feb. 5, 2007]
------------ This edition is made up as of March 2, 2007. ---------------