THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, August 2007
〜Aluminum Hydride Enables High-Density Hydrogen Storage 〜

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1.National Policies
2.Development and Demonstration of SOFC
3.Elementary Technology Development for PEFC and DMFC
4.FCV Forefront
5.Development and Business Deployment of Hydrogen Station
6.Technology Development of Hydrogen Formation and Purification
7.Technology Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transportation
8.Micro FC Related Technology
9.Development and Business Deployment of FC Periphery Equipments

1.National Policies
(1) JHFC project
 On July 19, 2007 JARI and ENNA announced that the two organizations would introduce the first FCV into Okinawa prefecture on Aug. 3. It is in the JHFC project subsidized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and it would be used in cooperation with an activity for educational support. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 20, 2007]

(2) NEDO activity
 NEDO decided R&D themes and their trustees in PEFC strategic technology development for real use in a project of next generation technology development. Those in evaluation and analysis technology development are 8 items, including "Evaluation of carbon alloy type FC cathode catalyst using high-intensity luminescent light by synchrotron orbital resonance" (Tokyo University) and "R&D of catalytic function of carbon base material as cathode catalyst and electronic elucidation of materials characteristics" (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology), while those in elementary technology development are 4 items, including "R&D of surface modified carbon materials for controlling degradation of electrode catalyst carriers" (Oita University). [The Chemical Daily July 17, 2007 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) July 25, 2007]

(3) Local development activities
 On August 2, 2007 Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry published R&D items for 2007 fiscal year, and they were accepted among propositions of local development activities for activating local economy by creating new industries. In automobile related fields, technology development projects of environmental problems, such as FC, hydrogen and bio-fuels, were chosen. The items are "Development of MEMS sensors of humid hydrogen" by Intelligent Cosmos Research Institute, "Development of new production technology of bio-ethanol from wood bio-mass" by Industrial Vitalization Center for Akita of hydrogen sensors with self-diagnostic function for automobile and multi-measurement" by Okayama Prefecture Industrial Promotion Foundation, and "Development of SOFC with new electrolyte membrane as automobile auxiliary power sources" by Fukuoka Industry Science and Technology Foundation. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) Aug. 4, 2007]

(4) Activity for supporting challenges by ventures
 In the activity for supporting challenges by ventures, Agency of Medium and Small Firms under Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry selected 77 items including "Development of low-cost production technology of fuel cell separators" by Ishizeki Precision, Co., Ltd. (Gumma prefecture) etc. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) August 6, 2007]
2.Development and Demonstration of SOFC
(1) PEC
 PEC, Petroleum Energy Center, started power generation test of SOFC, which was installed in JHFC Yokohama Daikoku Hydrogen Center operated by Cosmo Oil Co. Ltd. It is one of series of contracts with Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The test will be continued by January of 2008. [The Chemical Daily July 26, 2007]

(2) TOTO Ltd.
 The company is going to make field test of SOFC for general home in its Chigasaki factory since December of 2007 to July of 2008. At the cafeteria and the office building of the factory 1 set of 2 kW system will be installed each, so that total 2 sets will be operated. Town gas will be used. The systems will be connected with the power grid and operated under real use conditions. They are going to check and evaluate performance of power generating units, system operating conditions, endurance of auxiliary components and energy efficiency. They are anticipating real use of the power system of below 500,000 yen/kW aiming at 2011 - 2012 fiscal year.
 The company adopted wet method developed for their ceramic technology of pottery sanitary wares by themselves, and they are making development of low-cost ceramic cell stacks and power generating units applying their technology of ceramic slurry and high-temperature sintering etc. The company is now supplying cell stacks and generating units to 5 - 6 domestic companies and also to 2 oversea companies. They have achieved 53% electric efficiency (LHV) and 5,000 hour continuous operation for 1 kW power generating unit, while high endurance under plus-minus 50% load change was confirmed. The cell structure is cylindrical and it is consisting of 4 layers of electrolyte and electrodes. On the outside of air electrode made by extruding, membranes of inter-connecter, electrolyte and air electrode are formed by slurry coating. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave), The Nikkan Kensetsu Kogyo Shimbun (construction), The Chemical Daily July 30, 2007, The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) July 31, 2007 and The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun (construction) Aug. 10, 2007]
3.Elementary Technology Development for PEFC and DMFC
(1) Yamanashi University
 Prof. Watanabe and his co-workers in Yamanashi University have succeeded in development of technology for easily observing oxygen amount existing in the periphery of PEFC electrodes. Setting special reagent coated plates, luminescence from the reagent by laser irradiation is observed to know the oxygen amount. The oxygen amount in FC is a measure for observing the reaction. It is expected that the technology is useful in development of high-performance cells. Changing internal structure and operating conditions, we can observe change of the oxygen amount to learn whether the process proceeds as expected. Prof. Watanabe and his group made reagent working under high humidity and also developed technology to disperse the reagent uniformly. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 26, 2007]

(2) Hitachi, Ltd. etc.
 Hitachi, Ltd., Hitachi Plant Technology, Ltd. and Ikegami Mold Engineering Co., Ltd. (Saitama prefecture) developed a new mold, by which nano-scale microstructure can be transferred on resins used in FC as electrolyte. The mold is a belt on which nickel plated semi-spheres are adhered, and it is the feature that the microstructure can be continuously transferred at 10 times faster rate. They intend to develop the technology for speedy production of the electrolyte membrane, expecting real use at 2008 fiscal year. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 30, 2007]
4.FCV Forefront
(1) Toyota Motors Corp.
 Toyota Motors Corp. announced that it provides The 11th LAAF Athletic Championship Meet (Osaka) with 220 automobiles as official vehicles including 134 hybrid cars "Prius." Beside Prius FC buses "FCHV Buses" are also provided. [The Fuji Sankei Business Eye July 14, 2007 and The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) July 17, 2007]

(2) Tokai University and Elna
 An associate professor of Tokai University, Prof. Yoshiyuki Show, developed a technology of an electric double layer capacitor and decreased the internal resistance down to 1/4 by adding carbon nano-tubes into the electrodes. Based on this technology Elna corporate completed trial products of winding type capacitor. They got insight to assemble large-capacity ones of over 100F, and they anticipate real use of them as power sources for acceleration of FCV. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 23 and 25, 2007]

(3) Nissan Motors Co., Ltd.
 Nissan Motors Co., Ltd. provided "Karuizawa August Festival" to be held on August 20 through 26 with 4 "X-TRAIL FCV" for ushering music players and for environmental education. For this purpose a hydrogen station will be installed on site in collaboration with Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp. [The Chemical Daily July 27, 2007 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun July 30, 2007]
5.Development and Business Deployment of Hydrogen Station
 On July 10, 2007 Japan Energy Corp. announced that it started operation of a mobile hydrogen station, "JHFC Funabashi Hydrogen Station" at Funabashi storage yard of the company in collaboration with Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corp. and Bubcock Hitachi. Equipments installed before in Ome city of Tokyo prefecture was moved to this place. The purity of supplied hydrogen is 99.99% and the continuous charging capacity is 2 passenger cars. [The Chemical Daily July 12, 2007, The Fuji Sankei Business Eye July 16, 2007 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 17, 2007]
6.Technology Development of Hydrogen Formation and Purification
(1) Kobe University
 An associate professor of graduate course of Kobe University, Prof. Ichihashi and his group have succeeded in increase of hydrogen production by loading metal on titanium oxide photo-catalyst. By devising loading method they could get 100 times increase in the formation efficiency compared with no loading cases. Methane is used as reducing reagent, so that hydrogen is formed by gaseous reaction. When silver was loaded on titanium oxide, 0.1 - 1 wt% hydrogen was formed from water without any additives, and when methane was added the production became 3 times. When titanium oxide showing activity in visible light as well as in ultraviolet light was used with metal other than silver, 100 times amount of hydrogen could be got. In the reaction of methane and water CO2 is also formed, but global worming effect of CO2 is much lower than that of methane (1/21). Methanol or formic acid is also used as the reducing reagent, but since methanol is synthesized from methane, synthetic process is not necessary, and furthermore, the reaction of methane proceeds in gas phase. These are advantages. Considering utilization of sunlight, the hydrogen formation changes with time, so that the rate of formation can be leveled by using thermal catalyst. Thus dispersed systems of efficient hydrogen production and FC can be built. [The Chemical Daily July 11, 2007]

(2) Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc.
 Considering real use of a high-temperature thermal reactor, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. completed a report describing the usages and possibilities of future deployment. As scenarios of the introduction, hydrogen supply for FCV, they considered alternative of independent power station in an industrial complex and energy supply for hydrogen town. It is anticipated that full introduction of high-temperature gas reactors would begin in 2030s. By the high-temperature gas reactor, heat at maximum 950oC can be used, and it has potential possibility as heat sources for hydrogen production and formation of high-temperature vapor and water beside power generation, but the process to real use is not so clear as FBR. Showing the long-range perspective, the association intends to promote the R&D by positive support by the government and industry. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) July 12, 2007]

(3) Tohoku University
 A research group of the director Prof. Saito et al in Institute of Multi-disciplinary Research for Advanced Materials of Tohoku University has succeeded in a new process for hydrogen production. In the process cellulose of wood chips etc. is mixed with trace of metal hydride, and then mechano-chemical treatment is applied as a new cellulose decomposition process. High-purity hydrogen is obtained by heating. In mechano-chemical treatment crystalline structure changes and electronic state in valence bond is also changed. Using physico-chemical changes and activation by the above changes, various chemical reactions occur. In this process by-products, such as CO and methane, are little and high-purity hydrogen is produced at high efficiency. These are characteristic points of this process. The research group used a planet mill for the treatment of cellulose and trace of metal hydride to weaken the cellulose bonds, and hydrogen was selectively dissociated by heating and gasification in an electric oven of argon atmosphere. Prof. Saito thought "metal hydride takes a some role in promoting a reaction," and said "if conventional process for making boards of crashed infanticide woods can be used and heat source about 400oC is easily available, hydrogen could be obtained and real use would be feasible." [The Chemical Daily August 6, 2007]
7.Technology Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transportation
 The Japan Steel Works, Ltd. and Institute for Materials Research of Tohoku University announced on July 20, 2007 that they established synthetic technology of aluminum hydride for high-density hydrogen storage. The storage density is 3 - 5 times higher than that of general hydrogen storage alloys and it is observed 10 wt%. Because hydrogen is released at low temperature about 80oC, this hydride can be used for highly efficient hydrogen storage of lightweight. They will supply 100 kg sample to domestic users making development of FCV and small size FC. They also promote development of recycling technology of the aluminum hydride and technology development of direct reaction of aluminum alloys and hydrogen. A research group of an associate professor and an assistant professor, Prof. Orishige and Prof. Nakamori, succeeded in synthesis of aluminum hydride of 3 typical crystalline structures in cooperation with US Hawaii University, and Muroran factory of The Japan Steel Works, Ltd. established technology for stable synthesis of the aluminum hydride. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Tekko Shimbun (iron and steel), The Chemical Daily July 23, 2007 and The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 30, 2007]
8.Micro FC Related Technology
 Nano fusion Technologies Inc. succeeded in realization of constant flow of methanol fuel by low-voltage drive for micro FC of personal computers and portable phones. They are going to supply micro-pumps without pulse and noise for micro FC in Japan, US and Asia. To do this, they started preparation of production and exploration of new usages like a kit of micro fluid diagnostics, getting investment of 273 million yen from 4 venture capitals in Japan and UK.
 The driving mechanism is electro-osmosis. Flowing fluid through porous silica material, electrification occurs; minus on silica and plus on fluid. Applying voltage fluid flows without any mechanical actions. The micro-pump is 8 mm in the outer diameter, 4 mm in the thickness and 0.44 g in the weight, and the applied voltage is less than 30 V. Constant flow can be realized under the pressure e.g., 40 kPa or 100 kPa. The endurance test is now being continued over 4000 hours, and hitherto endurance under repeated stops and starts will be demonstrated in accordance with users' needs. Introducing this pump, ALAIR Corp. (Yokohama city) made real use of micro kits of fluid diagnostics. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 20, 2007]
9.Development and Business Deployment of FC Periphery Equipments
 Sunlit Shoji Corp. (Osaka prefecture) began to sell an inverter for FC to be installed in homes and stores. The weight is light and it is about 10 kg, about half of a general inverter for FC. The size is small, and it is roughly 400 mm wide, 250 mm deep and 200 mm high. The price is 250,000 - 350,000 yen. Fluctuation in alternative power is controlled to realize smooth conversion, and the conversion efficiency from direct current to alternative current is 92%. Amorphous metal and carbon are used. It can be modified to high frequency. By modification in accordance with standards of other countries, they also aim at oversea sales. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 17, 2007]

------------ This edition is made up as of August 10, 2007. ---------------