THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, APRIL 2007
〜Low-Temperature SOFC of Lump Sugar Size 〜

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1.National Policies
2.Policy by Local Government
3.Trend in SOFC Development
4.Development of Elementary Technologies for PEFC and DMFC
5.Demonstration of Home-use and Business-use PEFC
6.FCV Forefront
7.DCFC Research
8.Technology Development of Reforming, Hydrogen Formation and Purification
9.Technology Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transport
10.Development and Business of Metrology Related with Hydrogen and FC
11.Technology Development and Business Related with Hydrogen and FC
12.Business Activities
13.FC Market Forecast

1.National Policies
(1) Fundamental Energy Program
 On March 9, 2007 the cabinet decided revision of "Fundamental Energy Program" and promotion of biomass fuels introduction to automobile is added. To expand utilization of biomass fuel, secure stable supply, cost reduction, supply facilities construction, institutions etc. were described. GTL, batteries for electric cars and FCV technology development are added as other automobile fuels. Furthermore, nuclear power generation is considered to be the most basic power source and early establishment of nuclear fuel cycle shall be promoted. They declared another policy that by making full use of ODA strategic and comprehensive relation should be connected with countries producing resources. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile), The Tokyo Shimbun, The Chunichi Shimbun March 10, 2007, and The Nikkan Kensetsu Kogyo Shimbun (construction) March 12, 2007].

(2) Development of new batteries
 In 2007 fiscal year NEDO will start R&D of new electrochemical cells to be installed in new generation automobiles, such as EV, HEV, FCV etc. In addition to high-performance lithium ion batteries, elementary technology of component materials for new batteries will be dealt with, and increases in energy density and power density, cost reduction per used electric power, and downsizing are aimed at. The budget for the first fiscal year, 2007, is 1.7 billion yen. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 15, 2007]

(3) Meeting for next generation automobile fuels
 Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry begins examination of concrete policy for next generation automobiles by organizing an experts working group consisted of members from industrial sectors e.g., automobile and oil industries in the committee of next generation automobile fuels In addition to biomass fuels, the following three additional fields will be covered; clean diesel engines, electrification by next generation batteries and FC with hydrogen. The clean diesel engines will be discussed as the first theme. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 16, 2007]

(4) FC related items in 2007 fiscal year budget
 FC related items in 2007 fiscal year budget of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are as follows; (1) Strategic technology development for the next generation electric storage system (4.9 billion yen), (2) Large-scale demonstration of stationary home-use FC for FC promotion (3.42 billion yen), (3) Advanced basic research of hydrogen storage materials (0.76 billion yen), (4) Demonstration of SOFC (0.77 billion yen) and so on. [The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) March 26, 2007]

(5) Revision of RPS government ordinance
 Since April 1, 2007 Agency of Natural Resources and Energy enforces revised government ordinance in RPS law (a special law for utilization of new energy etc.). Fuel from biomass to be used in FC is added to the ordinance. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) March 27, 2007 and The Fuji Sankei Business Eye March 29, 2007]

(6) Next generation technology development of PEFC in 2007
 NEDO begins to receive applications of next generation technology development in strategic technology development for real use in 2007 fiscal year. The applications will be received from April 23 to May 29, 2007 and upper limit of the budget is about 20 million yen per one item. 10 - 20 items will be accepted. The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) April 5, 2007]
2.Policy by Local Government
 On March 27, 2007 the Shunan city regional congress on global warming consisting of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Shunan City, local firms etc. started an experiment. In the experiment hydrogen produced in an industrial complex is sent to two private houses with pipes of total 326 m, and it is used by PEFC of 700 kW output. By-product hydrogen in soda production in Tokuyama Corp. is used. This is an among model business for hydrogen town. [The Chugoku Shimbun March 28, 2007 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) April 2, 2007]
3.Trend in SOFC Development
 In cooperation, National Research Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd. developed SOFC stacks of lump sugar size. The stack is consists of fine ceramic tubes. Thus they succeeded in high performance and downsizing. The output performance is over 2 W/cm3 at 550oC. Lanthanum cobalt base ceramics is used. Structure controlling technology was established, and tubular micro-SOFC of 0.8 - 2 mm diameter is stacked in a cube of 1 cm3 volume. They invented structure, in which electric resistance can be decreased though porous materials are used. Thus it works in high performance even below 600oC. They said that they intended to establish precise manufacturing technology for joint of ceramic tubes to cope with shock and rapid operation. Application to automobile auxiliary power sources, home-use dispersed power generation etc is anticipated. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Fuji Sankei Business Eye, The Chemical Daily March 30, 2007 and The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) April 5, 2007]
4.Development of Elementary Technologies for PEFC and DMFC
(1) Tokai University
 An associate professor, Prof. Sho and his group developed new materials for separator. To increase conductivity, metal plates are coated with fluorocarbon resin made by mixing polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) with carbon nano-tubes, and the plate is highly conductive and at the same time it is anti-corrosive. PTFE is endurable against acid and alkali but it is non-conductive, so that carbon nano-tubes are mixed to make it conductive. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) March 6, 2007]

(2) Tokyo University of Science
 A lecturer, Dr. Hayase and his group have succeeded in development of "ultra-thin cells" of 250 micron m thickness by making full use of MEMS technology and electroplating technology developed originally by the university. When silicon wafer is immersed into hydrogen fluoride, innumerable pores are formed by oxidation. Then electroplating is done in aqueous solution of platinum to form catalyst for FC cells. Fuel channels are made by plasma etching. Thus FC electrode can be made in unified form. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 7, 2007 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) March 9, 2007]

(3) Nippon Kodoshi Corp.
 This company in Kochi city developed electrolyte membrane made from polyvinylalcohol (PVA) and inorganic oxides. As the oxides tungstates are mainly used. This is a new material. It is a compound made from inorganic oxides with organic compound, and it is a thin membrane. This new material is chemically and thermally stable and endurable at high temperature about 150oC. Because PVA is good as a gas barrier and PVA is bonded with the oxides to form dense structure, the permeability of fuel (methanol) and oxygen is also low. Evaluation of its endurance is a future task, but they stated that it can be produced at lower cost than hydrocarbon base membranes. The company aims at deployment for DMFC. [The Chemical Daily March 8, 2007]

(4) Asahi Glass Co., Ltd.
 Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. developed new fluorocarbon polyelectrolyte-catalyst layer, chemical endurance of which is improved to cope with high temperature and low humidity. By endurance test of MEA it was made sure that after 5,000 hour test at 120oC and 50% humidity the voltage decrease was 2 - 3 micro V due to aging of the membrane. The platinum catalyst was decreased 0.6 mg/cm2 to 0.2 mg./cm2, and the membrane thickness was also decreased from 40 micron m to 25 micron m. Great reduction in the cost is anticipated. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) March 28, 2007]

(5) The University of Tokyo etc.
 On March 19, 2007 the University of Tokyo and Toyota Motor Corp. announced that they succeeded in real-time analysis of PEFC catalyst in cooperation with Toyota Central R&D Labs., Inc., SPring 8, Photon Factory (PF), and Tottori University. By using Spring-8 and PF they observed oxidation and reduction behavior of platinum nano-particle catalyst in the cathode. By this observation they could elucidate the reaction mechanism on the surface of the cathode, which causes the voltage change under working condition. As a result, they discovered time lag among electron migration on the cathode surface, charge of the platinum nano-particles, and structure change. Existence of four elementary processes in each of oxidation and reduction reaction were also found. Furthermore they found that when the cell voltage increases over the open cell voltage, oxygen migrates into platinum catalyst to cause dissolution of platinum catalyst. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Chemical Daily March 20, 2007]
5.Demonstration of Home-use and Business-use PEFC
(1) Nippon Oil Corp.
 Nippon Oil Corp. announced that it installed LPG-fueled home-use PEFC system "ENEOS LP-1" in Hotta Branch of Mizuho Fire Station in Nagoya city. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 5, 2007, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Chemical Daily March 6, 2007 and The Chunichi Shimbun March 7, 2007]

(2) New Energy Foundation
 On March 9, 2007 New Energy Foundation published demonstration results of 175 sets of 1 kW class PEFC (for town gas 95 sets and for LPG 80 sets) at a meeting for reporting the first term large-scale demonstration. According to this report, the average primary energy reduction ratio of all sets is 15.3% for operation from October of 2005 to September of 2006, while the average CO2 reduction ratio is 28% compared with the thermal power station, and the average CO2 reduction for all sets is 846 kg. It was also reported that the cost per one set decreased from 7.7 million yen in 2005 fiscal year to 6.0 million yen in 2006 fiscal year. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 12, 2007]

(3) Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.
 On March 23, 2007 the company set forth the present status of home-use PEFC development. The endurance is confirmed to be over 20,000 hours, and the future cost anticipated in 2008 would be 1.2 million yen assuming more or less large-scale production, while they intend to decrease it to 0.5 million yen. Domestic product of fluorocarbon electrolyte membrane is adopted for the separator, and this material would be used in the future in the development, but when the cost reduction comes to the limit, non-fluorocarbon membrane would be a candidate. Metallic separators are also under research. In addition to these a hybrid power system for note type personal computers is under R&D. [The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) and the Chemical Daily March 26, 2007]

(4) Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
 On April 4, 2007 this company announced that a 5 kW scale LPG-fueled PEFC system developed together with Ishikawajima-Harima Industries achieved 80% overall efficiency in its demonstration. The demonstration was started at a sanatorium in Ichihara city of Chiba prefecture and will be continued by February of 2008. The scale of the sanatorium is about 2,290 m2 in its area and about 20 persons are staying. In about one month continuous operation the maximum 34.3% (LHV) electric efficiency was recorded. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Fuji Sankei Business Eye and The Chemical Daily April 5, 2007]
6.FCV Forefront
(1) Honda Motor Co., Ltd.
 Honda Motor Co., Ltd. announced on March 8, 2007 that a FCV "FCX Concept," the company developed, took a role of the official leading car in Los Angels marathon held on March 4, 2007 in the US. Moreover, "FCX" was delivered to an American actress, Q'Orianka Kilcher, and it was leased to her at the rate of 500 US dollars per month. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Chunichi Shimbun, The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile), The Fuji Sankei Business Eye, The Kahoku Shimpo March 9, 2997, The Asahi Shimbun March 14, 2007, and The Nikkei Ryutsu Shimbun (distribution) March 16, 2007]

(2) Daimler-Chrysler Japan (DCJ)
 On March 12, 2007 at a 2006 fiscal year seminar held by JHFC, DCJ revealed present state of running demonstration test of "F-Cell." According to the report, the total running distance was 3,838 km and the operating ratio was 87.0%, while any trouble was not found. [The Chemical Daily March 13, 2007]

(3) Toyota Motor Corp.
 At the 4th Mie Prefecture Hydrogen-FC Symposium in Tokyo" Mr. Hirose, the chief of FC development section of the development division of the company, described endurance of FC stacks. The chemical degradation of the third generation MEA was decreased compared with the second generation MEA, and the life of 15 years and 200,000 km level could be achieved. The degradation in the output is also improved, so that "the endurance has been steadily improved," he said. The company will be carrying further R&D in reduction of the platinum catalyst, high output density by high pressure and control of long-term degradation. He talked following items; increase in the maximum temperature from present 80oC to 95oC and then to 110oC for downsizing of the radiator, and the cost reduction to 1/100 assuming 1/10 reduction by innovation of production technology plus mass production effect. [The Chemical Daily March 19, 2007]

(4) Ballard
 Ballard Power Systems Corp. extended a contract of FC bus demonstration with Daimler-Chrysler to 2008. At present 9 buses are running in Hamburg and 3 in Amsterdam. This extension is the second extension. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) April 6, 2007]
7.DCFC Research
 Prof. Ihara, an associate professor of Tokyo Institute of Technology, and his group have succeeded in output increase of carbon soot fueled DCFC. To increase conductivity oxides of scandium and zirconium are used. Solid carbon soot is deposited on the electrode by thermal decomposition of propane gas. The maximum output density by supplying propane gas for 5 minutes is 251 mW/cm2 and increases by 5 times more than conventional ones. They stated that power generation at 150 - 220 mW output for 115 min. can be done, and they aim at real use in notebook type personal computers. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) March 26, 2007]
8.Technology Development of Reforming, Hydrogen Formation and Purification
(1) Toshiba Corp.
 The company has succeeded in development of a water vapor reforming equipment forming hydrogen from DME at low temperature using heat from a light-water reactor, and they could extract over 90% hydrogen containing in DME. The equipment is 3 m in length and 2.4 m3/h reaction rate size. In this equipment a mixture of solid acid, copper and zinc in its optimum ratio is filled. DME and water vapor at 285oC from the light-water reactor are introduced into the equipment and hydrogen is extracted. Since now safety in connection with nuclear power plants will be examined by field test, and real use is aimed at. The company also succeeded in continuous cyclic operation of water decomposition by chemical reaction of iodine and sulfuric acid. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) March 16, 2007] The company also developed technology for forming highly pure hydrogen from ethanol. A new method, in which CO2 absorption using "lithium complex oxide" developed independently by the company is combined with catalytic reaction, was developed, and the company succeeded in formation of over 99.5% purity hydrogen from ethanol. Content of CO is 0.1%. The company has a plan of demonstration using bio-ethanol within this year. Development of the equipment from present capacity of 250 mL/min. to large scale within 2 - 3 years is also expected. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun March 16, 2007]

(2) Hydro-Device
 Hydro-Device Co., Ltd., a venture incubated in Muroran Institute of Technology is carrying out research of technology for obtaining hydrogen and alumina by reaction of water with aluminum powder activated by fine crack formation. The activated aluminum powder is obtained by mechanically smashing, and self-growing occurs in the cracks to form area for contact with water. The activated fine powder is dried and sealed in an aluminum pack. At present 1 L hydrogen is formed from 1 g aluminum powder. Theoretically 1.3 L is thought possible. The price of the activated aluminum is estimated \ 100 per 10 g, and \ 200 per 100 g is anticipated. In summer of 2007 a device for fuel supply of cartridge type for mobile FC is expected to be sold. [The Chemical Daily April 5, 2007]
9.Technology Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transport
 Kurita Water Industries, Ltd. developed storage technology by which hydrogen can easily be carried and stored safely. Hydrogen molecules are absorbed and released without chemical reaction in material of crystalline lattice by temperature change and pressure change. Hydrogen molecules get into cavities in the material to form stable substance, though the material without hydrogen is not so stable. Thus principle of "clathrate compounds" is applied. Light and low-pressure storage are its features. Hydrogen is stored by increasing the temperature and pressure and released by decreasing the temperature and pressure. Application to FC for mobile equipments is expected, as well as FCV. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) March 14, 2007]
10.Development and Business of Metrology Related with Hydrogen and FC
(1) Alcatel-Lucent Japan Ltd..
 The vacuum machine division of this company started sales of a hydrogen leakage detector "Hydrogen Adixen." Its unique technology for microelectronics sensors of outstanding hydrogen sensitivity and selectivity is adopted and it is easy to carry because of low weight of below 5 kg. [The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) March 5, 2007]

(2) National Institute for Materials Science
 Dr. Fukushima, a chief research staff and his group are proposing usage of high-resolution characteristic x-ray analysis method as a precise analysis technique for bulk materials applied to FC research. Although it is the same as fluorescent x-ray analysis with spectroscopic crystal, high resolution is realized by using two sheets of spectroscopic crystal, and valence of chromium, sulfur etc. can easily be analyzed. They said it becomes possible to observe chemical state in oxidation-reduction reactions on the FC electrodes. [The Chemical Daily March 15, 2007]

(3) Mikuni Corp.
 In collaboration with Iwate University this company in Tokyo developed a hydrogen sensor for FC systems using composite membrane. High-sensitivity palladium is used in hydrogen sensors, but because it is expensive its reduction is required. This group developed technology for finely dispersing palladium in ceramics. Protection of palladium with ceramics improves endurance. The amount of palladium decreases to 1/5, while keeping high sensitivity, they said. [The Chemical Daily March 22, 2007]
11.Technology Development and Business Related with Hydrogen and FC
(1) Mitsubishi Materials Corp.
 On March 8, 2007 three companies (Mitsubishi Materials Corp., Mitsubishi Corp. and Furuya Metal Co., Ltd.) announced that they make cooperative development of technology, by which platinum and other noble metals are recovered from wasted petrochemical catalysts. Combining wet-smelting technology by Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and handling technology of platinum and others by Furuya Meta Co., Ltd.l, they intend to establish the technology. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Chemical Daily March 9, 2007]

(2) NOK Corp.
 The company developed cell seal technology unified with FPC (flexible print circuits board) for PEFC. The cell seal with fluorocarbon rubber resin preventing electrolyte, hydrogen etc. from leakage, is combined with polyimide FPC of 100 micron m thickness. For instance the latter can be used for monitoring temperature and voltage of each cell. Thus check of each cell can be done, and the FC reliability is much improved, because early detection of troubles can be made. Because FPC is flexible, it can be accommodated in a narrow space. By application of oil seal technology and FPC technology, circuit break is avoided. The company intended to sell it to automobile makers. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) April 4, 2007]
12.Business Activities
(1) BASF
 A German Company, BASF, will establish a stronghold to develop FC for FCV in Japan and supply materials to automobile makers. In 2006 the company bought a German FC development company and it already established strongholds in Germany and the US. Thus worldwide development system will be established. The Japanese stronghold is planned to be established in "Greater Nagoya Technical Center" (Yokkaichi city, Mie prefecture) in September. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Maarch 30, 2007]

(2) Tokai Bussan Co., Ltd.
 The company made alliance with a US company, Via Space. It sells safety systems using sensors and other FC-related Via Space technology to Japanese automobile-related makers. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) April 6, 2007]
13.FC Market Forecast
 Fuji Keizai Co., Ltd. completed a forecast that the total market of FC systems is estimated 7.3 billion yen in 2006 fiscal year and it would expand to 1,280 billion yen in 2020 fiscal year. Home-use FC, the present main market, will grow steadily, while the market size of FCV would be 900 billion yen in 2020 fiscal year, and the market of reformers, auxiliaries and evaluation-analysis systems is anticipated to reach to 500 billion yen. The market of mobile equipments would increase from 1 million yen in 2006 fiscal year to 14.5 billion yen in 2020 fiscal year. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) March 12, 2007, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Chemical Daily March 16, 2007]

------------ This edition is made up as of April 6, 2007. ---------------