(1) Rare metal securing
The government decided on June 11 the stability securing to position a rare metal, which is indispensable to manufacture the gas-and-electric car and FCV, as one of the pillars in the diplomacy on resources that rank with oil and the uranium. Supply and demand is stringent worldwide along with industrialization of China etc. The government will back up the protection of interests of private companies by making good use of a diplomatic means like ODA etc. For instance, the platinum price that rose to twice in four years is shaking their feet of high-performing car companies.
(Nihon Keizai Shimbun June 21 Asahi Shimbun June 12, '07)
(2) The safety standard of the crew protection in HV and EV.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport provides the safety standard concerning the crew protection of the hybrid-power car and the electric vehicle. The standard to protect the crew from the electric shock etc. when colliding will be provided, and a part of Road Transportation Vehicle Law will be revised.
(Daily car newspaper June 12, '07)
(3) NEDO Activity for New Energy Technology Innovation by Ventures
NEDO began to receive applications to entrusted research contract in the above activity started in 2007 fiscal year. The fields are 4; (1) solar light, (2) biomass, (3) FC plus batteries, and (4) wind generation plus other unused energy. The purpose is full use of potential technology possessed by ventures etc. to find new technological options and to make them open for leading them to continuous introduction and propagation since 2010 fiscal year. Two phases are set up as steps to real use. Duration and budget (total expense will be subsidized.) of the phase 1 (feasibility study) are less than 1 year and 10 million yen, and those of the phase 2 (technology development) are less than 2 years (as a rule) and 50 million yen, respectively. The total budget for 2007 fiscal year is 300 million yen, and it is expected that 20 - 30 items will be accepted. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) June 11, 2007, The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) June 19, 2007 and The Nishinihon Shimbun June 26, 2007]
(4) Trustees in Advanced Research for Hydrogen Storage Materials
NEDO selected trustees in the above research program, which started in 2007 fiscal year as a 5 year program. The trustees are National Research Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute, National Institute for Materials Science, High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, Sophia University, Hiroshima University, Hokkaido University, Hyogo Prefectural University, Kobe University, Osaka University, Gifu University and Tohoku University (5 agencies and 8 universities). The estimated budget for 2007 fiscal year is 760 million yen. They are organized as a virtual organization without a central stronghold, and Spring-8 (a huge synchrotron orbital resonance facility) and J-PARC (Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex) will be used. [The Chemical Daily June 18, 2007 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) June 20, 2007]
(5) Development of Next Generation PEFC Technology etc.
NEDO decided 12 research themes and their trustees in fields of control of electrodes degradation, anti CO poisoning electrode catalysts etc. for 2007 fiscal year. Fundamental R&D will be made in evaluation and analysis technology, elementary technologies and new concepts. High-resolution visualizing technology for inside of FC will be trusted to Japan Atomic Energy Agency, while Tsukuba University is in charge of the anti CO poisoning and anti corrosive electrode catalysts and the theme of Hokkaido University is multifunctional anode catalysts coping with high CO concentration. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 4, 2007 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 9, 2007]
2.Policies by Local Governments
(1) Aomori Prefecture
Aomori Prefecture will organize a new research groups in July on plug-in hybrid vehicles, which is rechargeable by plug-in using outer power sources (PHEV), and local energy supply systems using new energies. In addition to PHEV the prefecture intends to improve prefectural energy self-sufficiency and environment by combining wind generation, hydrogen FC and bio-fuel like ethanol. Besides power supply with nuclear generation, the prefecture is considering hydrogen purification using exhaust heat from nuclear plants. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) June 12, 2007]
In relation with the above article, the association for nuclear industry recently published WG 2 report of investigation committee on future development of high-temperature gas reactors. The report is entitled "Scenario and Road Map for Introduction of High-Temperature Gas Reactors." In the scenario considerations were given to 3 items; (1) Hydrogen supply to FCV, (2) self power generation and water vapor supply for industrial complexes, (3) framework of hydrogen, electricity and heat supply to hydrogen town. [The Genshiryoku Sangyo Shimbun (nuclear industry) June 21, 2007]
(2) Toyama Prefecture
On July 2, 2007 Toyama Prefecture New Industry Organization and Toyama Prefecture adopted 12 items and their trustees of investigation tasks for creation of new goods and new business for 2007 fiscal year " FC system development using aluminum waste of packaging" promoted by Tonami Transportation Co., Ltd. etc. was adopted. [The Toyama Shimbun July 3, 2007]
3.PAFC Commercialization Plan
On July 3, 2007 an US company, Hydrogen Corp., in Ohio State announced that it would shortly complete technology development of 400 kW class PAFC. At a factory in Ohio State the company began preparation of constructing 400 kW class PAFC. It is for demonstration and commercialization, and hydrogen produced at the factory will be used as fuel, while electricity, exhausted heat and water produced with the PAFC will be consumed at the factory. PAFC commercial plants other company constructed are those produced and injected in the market by Fuji Electric Advanced Technology Co., Ltd. since 1998, and 23 sets were installed. It was also reported that companies deploying PAFC business are now only these two companies in the world. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) July 5, 2007]
4.Technology Development of SOFC and Related Technology
(1) J Power
J-Power (Electric Power Development Co., Ltd.) starts demonstration to establish technology for CO2 separation and recovery from high-efficiency power generation using a coal gasification. The demonstration is made at Wakamatsu Laboratory since 2007 fiscal year. Coal gasification is done at the rate of 150 ton per day and the gas is used for combined electric generation, while CO2 is being recovered. The purpose is to establish the CO2 recovery technology for CCS system Till now CCS technology has been demonstrated at Matsushima thermal power generation plant and another plant in Australia, which was made by collaboration with IHI (Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Ltd.) and a local company, and accumulated combined cycle generation technology with oxygen injection coal gasification is also utilized in the demonstration. In the demonstration plant the 45% efficiency at the output will be realized with 1500oC class gas turbine, and, furthermore, the 55% efficiency would be realized, if triple combined cycle is made by SOFC. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) June 21, 2007]
New Energy Foundation (NEF) entrusts SOFC demonstration to Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. and Kyocera Corp. in the scale of total 30 - 40 sets. Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. set up the most of them, stacks of which are efficient (over 40% at the output) and made by Kyocera Corp. Furthermore 1 - 2 groups will participate the demonstration. The data of operation, accidents, efficiency etc. under real load circumstances will be gathered to elucidate technology development tasks for real use of SOFC systems. See the next article. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) June 26, 2007 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) June 29, 2007]
5.Demonstration of Home-Use SOFC
New Energy Foundation, NEF, announced "demonstration of home-use SOFC" in 2007 fiscal year. In this research 3 companies (Kyocera Corp., Nippon Oil Corp. and TOTO Ltd.) supply systems and 6 companies including Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., Osaka Gas Co. Ltd. etc. are in charge of installation and operation in general homes. The systems are total 29 sets. NEF subsidizes 16 million yen per one set of 1 kW class to the suppliers and 4 million yen to the participant installing, operating and testing the systems, respectively at its maximum. The demonstration will be made until 2010 fiscal year. [The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Sankei Shimbun, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Tokyo Shimbun, The Kyoto Shimbun, The Chugoku Shimbun, The Chemical Daily July 10, 2007 and The Fujii Sankei Business Eye July 16, 2007]
(2) Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.
Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. announced its participation in the above "SOFC demonstration" on July 9, 2007. The home-use SOFC cogeneration systems will be installed in employees' detached houses; 1 set each to 20 houses selected by lottery. The data of operation will be gathered. [The Sankei Shimbun and The Denki Shimbun July 10, 2007]
(3) Nippon Oil Corp.
On July 9, 2007 the company set forth beginning of SOFC demonstration. Two types of SOFC are tested; one is kerosene type and the other is LPG type. The test period is over 6 months. The output of the systems is 700W, and the target of efficiency is 45% (LHV). [The Asahi Shimbun and The Chemical Daily July 10, 2007]
On July 11, 2007 Sodegaura Laboratory of Petroleum Energy Center, PEC, published that it achieved the electric efficiency of 52% (at the output of FC, LHV) in SOFC R&D project (3 year since 2005). Because kerosene contains more carbon than town gas etc., it is more difficult to reform kerosene than town gas. However generation with a stack of 1 kW SOFC became possible by applying reforming technology developed till now. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Chemical Daily July 12, 2007]
(5) Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd.
On July 11, 2007 the above company announced that efficiency of 52% was achieved in R&D of kerosene-fueled SOFC, which was underway in research for high-grade utilization of future type FC done by PEC. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy nd industry) July 12, 2007]
6.Elementary Technologies of PEFC and DMFC
(1) Kyoto University etc.
Prof. Oshima of Kyoto University and Mitsubishi Plastics Inc. developed plastic sheet with micro-fine open pores of uniform size. The material is composite sheet of polypropylene fiber and rubber. When CO2 is absorbed into rubber under supercritical state, CO2 molecules impregnate between rubber molecules as a single CO2 molecule. When the pressure is reduced and the temperature is raised, CO2 is vaporized and micro-fine pores are formed. The diameter of the pores can be controlled from 40 to 500 micro m by changing the conditions, such as CO2 amount under supercritical state, heating etc. Conventional PEFC electrolyte membrane made of polypropylene is made under uncontrolled conditions, so that it is needed to make thick sheet to avoid direct reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. In the new sheet pore size is small and uniform, so that the reaction can be suppressed and the sheet can be made thin. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) June 15, 2007]
(2) Nagaoka University of Technology
Prof. Umeda and his group have established technology to form PEFC electrode catalyst by electrostatic spray method. By the method catalyst formed is superior in adhesiveness, and activity in electrode reaction is improved. The electrostatic spray method is a technique in which catalyst solution is sprayed in outer electric field and particles are piled up on the counter electrode. When water droplets are on dried and low conductive electrolyte membrane and catalyst solution is sprayed, catalyst of platinum and carbon is piled up on the water droplets. Testing nafion as a sample, it is observed that catalyst is formed only on the droplets uniformly. Thus catalyst layer was efficiently formed. Pattern formation of catalyst layer on a sheet of electrolyte membrane is easily made. This technique seems useful in stacking up of units and in miniaturization of cells. Looking for an FC maker as a partner in collaborative research, they are aiming at real use. [The Chemical Daily June 27, 2007]
(3) Daido Institute of Technology
Prof. Hori and his research group in the above university developed a technology by which PEFC can be operated for long time without humidification. By modification of electrodes structure, the electrodes hold water vapor and shed water drops. Carbon fiber for electrodes is rugged on its surface to hold water vapor formed during power generation and to keep vapor pressure in an appropriate range. Then by modification of carbon fiber arrangement water is shed from the fibers. By these modifications, water droplets formed during generation by surplus over saturated vapor pressure go out through the electrodes. Thus humidity in the whole cell is kept in an appropriate range, and cell endurance is improved by avoiding electrolyte degradation. As a result of these modifications humidification is still needed at 100oC, but it is not needed in the operating temperature range from 20oC to 90oC. Hereafter endurance test will be made aiming at 5,000 hour endurance for early real use. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 3, 2007]
On July 5, 2007 NEDO announced that they succeeded in visualization of oxygen distribution in FC. It was succeeded by Prof. Watanabe in Yamanashi University as the project leader and the research group of Waseda University, Shimadzu Corp., Fuji Electric Advanced Technology Co., Ltd., and Hitachi Ltd. Until now it was thought hard to visualize processes in MEA and cell of PEFC, and it was one of barriers to high performance and long endurance. They use a chemical reagent, which absorbs light and emits light of a specific wavelength depending on oxygen partial pressure. This reagent was painted on a glass plate and set on gas flow channel of a plus electrode. Thus the visualization was succeeded. Hereafter it is aimed at to make high-performance visualization apparatus, while it is also aimed at to develop simultaneous visualization of water, temperature etc. Early commercialization of the system is also their policy. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Chemical Daily July 5, 2007, and The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun (construction) July 9, 2007]
Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. published that they increase MEA efficiency of PEFC by 20% in the ratio to 1.3 V theoretical voltage. The MEA by this company is 5 layer structure in which resin covering electrodes with platinum and gas diffusion layer are on both sides of fluorocarbon exchange membrane. The membrane materials are different between stationary FC and FC for FCV. The demonstration was started in 2004, and very little degradation was observed even after 6,000 hour operation at 120oC and 50% humidity, while the thickness has been decreased from 40 mm to 25 mm. Furthermore, the company has foresight to get several ten thousand hour endurance at 70 - 80oC and 100% humidification. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) July 2, 2007 and The Chemical Daily July 5, 2007]
Aiming at expanded sample supply of MEA, the company began feasibility study to introduce new facilities in a candidate, Chiba factory. As a result of the policy that the development theme was addressed to FCV and effort was concentrated to it, requests of sample supply has been increased for various tests and examination. The new facilities are thought to operate since 2008 at latest. [The Chemical Daily July 5, 2007]
8.Technology Development of Reforming, Hydrogen Formation and Purification
(1) Osaka University
Prof. Nishikawa, Associate Prof. Tanaka and their group developed technology to make hydrogen in large scale by efficient utilization of wooden waste. The unique point is to make use of water vapor plasma (ionized gas). By this technology metals, glass etc. mixed in the waste can be made harmless, while formation of dioxin is suppressed. In a vessel fulfilled with argon gas, high frequency discharge is formed and water vapor heated at 170oC is introduced into it to form plasma of oxide ion and hydrogen ion. Reacting them with carbon contained in the waste, hydrogen gas and CO are formed. When 60 g of char was used in an experiment, hydrogen gas was formed at 3300 ppm concentration. Carbon is almost changed to CO by water vapor plasma. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) June 15, 2007]
(2) Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology
Prof. Koshida et al. in graduate course of the above university developed an electron source workable in liquid. The counter electrode and reference electrode are unnecessary. High-energy electrons are emitted and by direct reduction of hydrogen ion, only hydrogen can be produced directly. Material based on nano-silicon is used. Devise operation is simple, and integration and small array are possible, so that wide range applications are expected, for instance for hydrogen production equipment, control of oxidation-reduction potential, bio- and medical fields etc. This research group found that nano-crystalline silicon layer was made without using wet process of anode oxidation, and then electrons were emitted efficiently at several electron volt order. It was also made sure that control of hydrogen formation was possible in pure water and normal saline solution. Relation between electron emission efficiency and hydrogen formation is being quantitatively analyzed. [The Chemical Daily June 15, 2007]
(3) JFCC etc.
Noritake Co., Ltd. and Japan Fine Ceramics Center (JFCC) set forth their development of a ceramic hydrogen-separating membrane module on July 2, 2007 together with Prof. Nakao of graduate course of Tokyo University. With this equipment hydrogen can selectively be taken from natural gas and town gas. Amorphous ceramic silica membrane used in the equipment can be formed by the following processes. Special gas is flown into fine porous tubes (diameter 6 mm, length 40 cm) and then they are heated. In the tubes thus modified numerous fine pores of 0.3 nm diameter are formed, and only hydrogen (diameter 0.28 nm) can flow through the pores. In the equipment these 6 fine tubes are bundled, and with this equipment hydrogen can be obtained at the rate of 660 L/h, which can operate 1 set of home-use PEFC. In comparison with other hydrogen producing equipments using palladium etc., hydrogen can be produced inexpensively. Compared with conventional ones, it can work at lower temperature of 500oC, and even at the room temperature selectivity is not so decreased, while endurance is also good. They are aiming at real use in 2010. [The Fuji Sankei Business Eye and The Chunichi Shimbun July3, 2007]
Professor Tanioka, Associated Professor Matsumoto and their co-workers have developed new material leading to miniaturization of PEFC by changing electrolyte form from films to hollow fibers. Adjusting fiber diameter in a range of 0.4 - 2 micro m, hollow holes of 0.2 - 1 micro m diameter in central part can be obtained. Flowing hydrogen inside of the fiber and air outside, power generation becomes possible. If electrolyte of hollow fiber can be made, power per unit volume is largely increased. Thus FC would be miniaturized. Moreover, clothes type FC could be made. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun June 18, 2007]
------------ This edition is made up as of July 12, 2007. ---------------