THE LATEST FUEL CELL NEWS IN JAPAN, January 2008
`Membrane with 1/300 Methanol Permeability`

Arranged by T. HOMMA
1.National Policies
2.Development and Business Deployment of SOFC
3.Development and Business Deployment of Elementary Technologies
4.Demonstration and Business Deployment of Home Use PEFC
5.Development of Hydrogen Formation and Purification
6.Development and Business Deployment of Micro-FC and DMFC

1.National Policies
(1) Ministry of Environment
@Since 2008 fiscal year the ministry is going to open a home page on information of technologies preventing global worming, which Japanese companies developed. By introducing solar photovoltaic cells, heat pumps etc., technology transfer to developing countries will be promoted. The opened technologies are mainly Japanese companies' energy saving technologies. Advanced technologies such as hybrid cars, FC, etc. will be shown, together with technologies which can be utilized at present, for instance heat pumps, bio-fuels, etc. The ministry will organize an expert committee for choosing promising technologies to be shown, while it will also accept application from companies' propositions of technologies to be open. Examples of oversea applications and the names of the companies are going to be shown. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Jan. 18, 2008]

(2) METI Chugoku District Office
@For promoting use of hydrogen, Chugoku district office of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) will begin investigation on usable amount of hydrogen produced as by-product in industrial complexes in Chugoku district. The investigation is going to be completed in March and it will be used in future construction of hydrogen infrastructure. The investigation covers steel factories, petroleum refineries, chemical plants etc. sited in the complexes of Shunan, Ube, Onoda, Iwakuni-Ootake, Mizushima etc. The office anticipates that when demand of hydrogen for FC in hydrogen cars, home electric generation etc. increases and it can be sold at reasonable price, companies in the above complexes would sell hydrogen which previously used in their own factories. Thus the office intends to research on hydrogen amount capable to be supplied and also on forecasted price. The office was going to establish an investigation committee in the end of January. The office said "To realize hydrogen society, construction of infrastructure is essential, so that policies to supply hydrogen is intended to be completed. [The Chugoku Shimbun Jan. 22, 2008]

(3) Utilization Law of New Energy
@Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced that hydraulic power plant of below 1,000 kW output and some geothermal plants should be included in law of new energy utilization under petroleum alternative energy law. The intention is to promote these plants by financial support from NEDO to companies. The decision was going to be made in the cabinet meeting on January 29, 2008 and to be announced on February 1. It will be effective since April 1. At the same time, 5 items such as EV and FC will be deleted in definition of new energy utilization. These will become out of object in these laws. [The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) and the Nogyo Shimbun (agriculture) Jan. 29, 2008]

(4) General Council on Science and Technology
@On January 30, 2008 the above meeting chaired by the prime minister, Mr. Fukuda decided to make "Innovative Plan for Environment and Energy Technologies" considering the G8 summit on the lake of Toya, Hokkaido, Japan. The aim of this plan is to make worldwide appeal of innovative technology development for reducing global worming gas emission, including energy saving technologies, FC etc., which Japan thinks proud of in the world. In the above meeting important tasks and budget of science and technology in 2008 fiscal year were examined, and innovative technology creation strategy was discussed as the important task. As to environment and energy, technology innovation plan will be completed. The concrete items are those for zero emission of global worming gas, such as storage of carbon dioxide and advanced second-generation nuclear plants. At the same time policies to keep superiority of technologies related with environment and energy such as energy saving will also be examined. In process of its completion, organic cooperation among ministries will be strengthened. In the above meeting heat pumps of ultra-high efficiency under development was shown to Mr. Fukuda and other participants as one of innovative energy utilization for preventing global worming. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Jan. 31, 2008]

2.Development and Business Deployment of SOFC
(1) Meidensha
@Since 2008 the company is going to start operating test of high-power type SOFC which has been developed with Siemens Power Generation (Florida, USA). FC used in the test is 125 kW type or 250 kW type. Performance will be confirmed in the case of using Japanese town gas, and it aims at real use since 2009 or 2010. The Japanese town gas might be different from that in US in composition, so that the efficiency could be decreased. Therefore, modification of the reformer might be needed for Japanese market. For this purpose the two companies began operating test using 5 kW type SOFC manufactured by Siemens. The continuous operation is over 2,000 hours, and it can be concluded that development is succeeded in quality. In November of 2005 Meidensha made contract with Siemens having SOFC technology, for cooperation in development of assembly, sales and service in Japanese market, intending establishment of a sales company by cooperative investment of the two companies. Meidensha aims at cogeneration in commercial facilities and hospitals. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Jan. 15, 2008]

(2) Nippon Oil Corp.
@In 2007 fiscal year program of SOFC demonstration by NEF, the above company started demonstration of two type SOFC systems of 700 W output by LPG specification and kerosene specification on Jan. 16, 2008. The company manufactured the systems as a system supplier, and as an installation and operational testing body it installed the systems at the residential area for the janitor in a company own facility. The operating data will be gathered for more than 6 months since now in real environment, so that the company will get level of latest technology and technological problems to extract future development tasks. To these systems the company own reformer technology for highly efficient hydrogen production and system control technology were applied. The electric power efficiency of the systems is 45% (LHV) and exhausted heat recovery efficiency is 40% (LHV). [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Chemical Daily Jan. 17, 2008, and The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Jan. 29, 2008]

3.Development and Business Deployment of FC Elementary Technologies
(1) Nisshinbo Corp.
@The company is going to automate a carbon mold separator production line for PEFC and to complete a mass production system in 2008 fiscal year. By automation of press process and promotion of maintaining good quality and saving labor, production capacity of a factory in Okazaki city will increase from 2 million sheets at the present to 4 millions. The processes to be automated are flowing thermosetting resin into the molds, heating-and-pressing, taking out the separators and testing. At present the line from flowing the resin to its heating has been automated. The automated pressing machine is 10 million yen per one line, and the automated line is consisted of 2 robots and one press for this specific process. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Jan. 9, 2008]

(2) Tokai University etc.
@Together with Ohashi Kasuga Trading Co., Ltd., an associate professor of Engineering Faculty of Tokai University, Prof. Y. Sho developed anti-corrosion coating film for PEFC separators. In comparison with surface modification by chemical vapor deposition (CVD) the cost became below 1/100. Carbon nanotubes (CNT) are added to anti-acidic polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) to add electro-conductivity. Because CNT tends to coagulate by intermolecular attractive force, it is hard to disperse. Prof. Sho et al. first disperse CNT into water solution containing cellulosic dispersing agent developed for this particular purpose and then it was mixed with solution suspending PTFE. Thus these materials are stably dispersed. This is painted and sintered for about 10 minutes at 350oC to form film. An electric furnace for making the film is about 1 million yen. In anti-acidic corrosion test, coated titanium was immersed into sulfuric acid and it was confirmed that the film was not dissolved. This film is applicable to heavy metal detecting sensors and coating of semiconductor devices for preventing electrification. The above company completed mass production system of 3 tons per month, and it began sample shipping to other firms. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Jan. 10, 2008]

(3) Daicel Chemical Industries Co., Ltd.
@The company developed ultra-thin porous film of polyethersulfone (PES). It is superior to conventional polyimideamide (PIA) etc. in anti-acidity. The company is aiming at sales for PEFC electrolyte film. Full sample shipping is going to be started since February and the company will search responses in the market. Accepting the order, mass production will be planned. The developed PES film is as follows. The pore size is 0.5 micron m with good gas permeation, and the porosity, the tensile strength and the glass transition temperature are respectively 75%, 4 MPa and 220oC. The above company succeeded in establishment of new technology for producing reliably ultra-thin film of controlled pore size from 0.1 to 10 micron m and controlled porosity from 70 to 80%. Till now 2 types of film, i.e., PAI and polyetherimide (PEI) were succeeded and samples have been shipped. The micro-fine pores have good effect on adsorption and adherence of printing ink, and furthermore, they have been highly evaluated because of high functionality, such as high glass transition temperature of 200 - 300oC and tensile elongation of 7 - 14%. Thus real production is just started for electronics circuit formation. Some firms are just examining the above film as one of promising candidates for PEFC electrolyte material, so that PES film was developed to fulfill the conditions. [The Chemical Daily Jan. 18, 2008]

4.Demonstration and Business Deployment of Home Use PEFC
@Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. will put 2 type new models of home use PEFC systems "Lifuel" into market and it is going to modify them to increase perfection aiming at start of sales since 2009 fiscal year. These were developed in collaboration with system makers, Matsushita Electric Industries Co., Ltd. and Ebara-Ballard Corp. Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. considered that the electric power efficiency and endurance are almost achieved. The fundamental performances are improved, and then maintenance and install will be improved. Thus further improved models will be commercialized. When propagation begins in earlier half of 2010s, the cost will be reduced to 500,000 to 700,000 yen, the company is aiming at. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Jan. 22, 2008]

5.Development of Hydrogen Formation and Purification
(1) Alcadia
@The above company in Sendai city developed solvent with which high-purity hydrogen can be produced without formation of carbon dioxide by reaction with aluminum. Using 1 g of aluminum 1.24 L hydrogen formed and alumina gel precipitates after the reaction. This solvent is made by special treatment of water at low cost and it can be sold at 60 - 100 yen per L. Hydrogen forms by controllable mild reaction, and the solvent can be stored for long time. [The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) Jan. 1, 2008]

(2) Toshiba Corp.
@The company succeeded in development of technology for efficiently producing hydrogen from DME. Water and DME vaporize by exhausted heat and then they react also by exhausted heat. Unutilized exhausted heat at about 300oC from power plants and incinerators will be used. A small plant was constructed at Toshiba Keihin Power Plant in Keihin Works and hydrogen was produced at the rate of 1000 L per hour. It intends to construct a demonstration plant of 100 m3 /h hydrogen production capacity as an annex to an incinerator in Aomori prefecture around 2010. At present DME is expense, so that the cost is by about 5 times higher than conventional hydrogen production. However because mass production facilities are under construction in China etc., it is expected that hydrogen will be produced at the same or less cost in 2015. The company is also examining hydrogen production plants as annexes to nuclear plants. If this is realized nuclear plants will be large strongholds of hydrogen production. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Jan. 11, 2008]

(3) Sapporo Brewery Co., Ltd.
@The company is going to start demonstration for utilizing hydrogen made from bread garbage and hydrogen will be used as fuel. A demonstration plant will be constructed in a factory of Takaki Bakery (Hiroshima city) in Andersen group, and the operation will start in March. About 200 L of hydrogen is formed from 1 kg of bread and the hydrogen will be used as fuel for FC. Bread is mixed with water without crushing, and hydrogen is formed with specific microbe. For stable formation of hydrogen, hop is added to suppress other microbes. The purpose is to improve recycling by changing food garbage to fuel at high efficiency. Size of the demonstration plant is about 5 m3, and the capacity is 200 kg per day. The installation cost is about 50 million yen and subsidiary from Ministry of Environment will be applied. After confirming stable hydrogen formation for long term, FC is going to be installed in the factory in 2008 fiscal year, and a part of electric power and exhausted heat will be used in the factory. Garbage after formation of hydrogen is further fermented to produce methane. A facility for this will also be set up. Thus 80% of bread garbage will be decomposed. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Jan. 24, 2008 and The Chugoku Shimbun Jan. 26, 2008]

(4) Yokohama National University
@In collaboration system between industry and university, Yokohama National University is going to develop real use of high-rate hydrogen production system in 2010. The university succeeded in search for bacteria producing hydrogen at high rate by medium temperature fermentation about 50oC. By batch fermentation it produces hydrogen at by 2 - 10 times higher rate than conventional one, and by temperature control the composition of metabolic product can be simplified. Because methane fermentation for waste solution is unnecessary, the amount of waste can be reduced, and hydrogen yield becomes twice compared with 2 step fermentation of hydrogen and methane. The fermentation solution is circulated between a fermentation vessel and a catalytic reaction vessel, and thus direct reaction among metabolic products in the circulation process occurs to remove them. Furthermore, several days are needed for methane fermentation, but it reduces to several hours. In continuous hydrogen production from bio-mass like garbage by bacteria fermentation, a vessel for high-rate fermentation becomes compact to several tenth compared with methane fermentation, by applying this process.
@By collaboration with Nisso Engineering Corp., a demonstration plant of 1 ton/day capacity was completed in Hiratsuka Campus of the university, and full operation of this small plant was going to start in February of 2008. At the same time economic feasibility study of a commercial plant of 100 ton/day capacity will be made. Finally total system consisting material throwing, pre-treatment, distillation etc. will be assembled, and partner companies are searched for crush technology.
@As a secondary effect, commercialization of by-products, such as ethyl acetate can be anticipated. Really, acetic acid, butyric acid, lactic acid, ethanol etc. are produced in this metabolism at several tens% at 37oC, and at 50oC acetic acid and ethanol are formed at 45% each. Between acetic acid and ethanol ester reaction proceeds in acidic solution, and ethyl acetate, which is more volatile than ethanol, is formed. Using this property they are dealing with development of an equipment for reducing waste solution of fermentation with catalyst of acidic solid. In order to apply to wide varieties resources, search for bacteria applicable to cellulosic bio-mass is now underway, and they are challenging to development of slurry treating equipment for cellulose saccharization. [The Chemical Daily Jan. 25, 2008]

6.Development and Business Deployment of Micro-FC and DMFC
@Prof. T. Yamaguchi and his co-workers in a research institute for resources chemistry in Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed new polymeric membrane for DMFC. By using this material, phenomenon that methanol fuel permeates through the membrane to leak can be reduced to 1/300. The newly developed one is hydrocarbon polymeric membrane based on polyimide thin film, in which numerous pores of 100 nm are formed, and in these pores polyethersulfone is fully filled. Using micro-fine handling technology, inner structure of the pores filled with polyethersulfone is controlled to permeate only hydrogen ions needed for power generation. They have succeeded in preventing crossover that methanol permeates through the membrane without power generation. The research group intends to collaborate with various companies in the future for real use of the developed membrane and propagation of DMFC. They will also make effort to develop polymeric membranes for FCV, home use FC etc. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Jan. 28, 2008]


------------ This edition is made up as of January 31. ---------------