@On April 18, 2008, New Energy Division (division chairperson Mr. Kashiwagi) in Overall Investigation Committee on Resources and Energy had a meeting for hearing from experts on stationary FC, clean energy automobiles etc.. As to clean energy automobiles, Japan Automobile Industry Association explained present status and trends of EV, plug-in hybrids and FCV, and it was stated that EV and FCV were expected as next generation automobiles in medium and long term. Promotion of basic technological long-term research of advanced electrochemical cells by cooperation among academic, industrial and governmental sectors is required. Mr. Koike, the Vice-President of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. requested subsidiaries for initial market forming period considering commercialization of home use FC since 2009 fiscal year. Mr. Nakagami, the director of a research institute on planning of residential environment, insisted promotion of standardization of stationary FC for apartment houses. Explaining hydrogen strategies in Fukuoka prefecture, Mr. Aso, the Fukuoka Prefecture Governor, made proposition that the central government supports intensively advanced areas by the policy of a new system supporting specific areas. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) April 21, 2008]
2. Development and Demonstration of SOFC
(1) Nippon Oil Corp.
@On April 23, 2008, Nippon Oil Corp. announced that it is going to participate "SOFC demonstration in 2008" by NEF. Total 3 modified sets, including 2 LPG specification and 1 kerosene specification, will be tested [The Chemical Daily, April 24, 2008]
(2) New Energy Foundation (NEF)
@Continuously from 2007 fiscal year, NEF selected suppliers of SOFC demonstration systems and installing and operating participants in 2008 fiscal year. The foundation decided 3 producers and 36 sets of the systems together with .7 energy companies making installation and operation including supplying data at 36 sites. The power of the system is 700 W or 900 W, and the fuel is town gas, LPG or kerosene. The company supplying the most sets is Kyocera Corp. and supplies 30 sets of town gas specification. Nippon Oil Corp. supplied 3 sets of LPG and kerosene. TOTO supplied also 3 sets for town gas. The most sites are offered by Osaka Gas Co., Ltd. and it offered 25 sites including detached houses and apartment houses. Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd., Hokkaido Gas Co., Ltd. and Saibu Gas Co., Ltd. offered 1 or 2 sites, while Nippon Oil Corp. and TOTO did 1 or 2. Tokyo Electric Power Co., Ltd. installs 1 set in a detached house. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) May 2, 2008]
(3) NGK Spark Plug Co., Ltd.
@On May 12, 2008 the company announced that it achieved 60% power efficiency using a 1 kW scale SOFC module operating at 700oC. In the developed stack, catalyst layer for reforming town gas to hydrogen and burning layer for burning residual fuel gas by residual air are set, and the burning layers are set above and below the stack to keep uniform temperature for keeping uniform generation. By this arrangement generation efficiency of the fuel electrodes increased together with high power density, and the number of the cells decreased to 16. Furthermore, by optimization of porosity in the fuel electrode, output voltage can be kept even under high current density and over 80% fuel utilization. By high power density 1 kW output can be realized with 16 cells of 100 cm2 effective area for generation. Comparing with conventional plate cell stack (- 40 plates) and slender tube cell stack (100 - 200 tubes), the number of cells is largely reduced and variance among fuel distribution to cells is also reduced. Pressure drop due to increase in fuel flow rate and Joule heating due to resistance in current collections are reduced by using porous metal collectors of high ventilation and electrical conduction. With the first trial test equipment the efficiency at the DC output in rated generation reaches 57% using town gas at its best. Continuously the second trial one would be developed in 2008, and since 2009 confirmation of reliability and mass production would be examined aiming at demonstration at the outside of the company. At present development of power conditioner, desulfirizer and unit of exhausted heat exchanger for hot water supply are also going on. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Chemical Daily, May 13, 2008 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) May 16, 2008]
3. Elementary Technology Research of PEFC and DMFC
(1) Yokohama National University
@Prof. Ota of Yokohama National University has developed catalyst without platinum. This is a mixture of partially oxidized tantalum nitride (TaCNO) with electro-conductive carbon black etc. With this catalyst 240 mW/cm2 was achieved. Higher open circuit voltage was observed with zirconium carbide-nitride (ZrCNO). Prof. Ota has been directing his attention to positive electrode catalyst, and has looking for oxide materials of oxygen reduction activity at low pH. There is still possibility that catalytic activities would be enhanced by further modification. He mentioned about real use of the new catalyst and said "The research is going on aiming at the same performance as platinum. However by some modification to increase surface roughness real use is theoretically possible at present. Research for mass production is needed." [The Chemical Daily, April 21, 2008]
(2) Tokyo Institute of Technology
@Prof. Yamaguhi of Tokyo Institute of Technology (Chemical Research Institute for Resources) has succeeded in reduction of methanol cross-over down to 1/300 for porous filling membrane. This membrane is polyimide membrane of 100 micron m thickness with electrolyte polymer in its 100 nm pores. "Polymer electrolyte can be made by either polymerizing monomer in the pores or filling polymerized electrolyte, and structure control is very important" said Prof. Yamaguhi. By formation of higher order structure in the pores, water can be kept in the state of bound water. As a result, permeation of methanol is almost perfectly reduced while many channels for proton permeation are made; thus idealistic state can be realized. Prof. Yamaguchi said "Based on the technology, it becomes insight that fuel methanol permeation is reduced to below 1/500. To increase heat resistance polymer base membrane was changed to aromatic polymer. Thus the membrane can be used for on-board FC and stationary FC." [The Chemical Daily May 12, 2008]
(3) Kyushu University
@A research group in prof. Konomi of Kyushu University developed technology by which output power of PEFC can be increased to 1.5 times at its maximum. By increasing oxygen supply efficiency, current density increased to increase the power. Oxygen is supplied to the cathode through channels on the separator. Usually oxygen flowing through one channel is provided to the cathode through oxygen diffusion layer. Modifying this structure for oxygen flow by making double channels (one for oxygen intake and the other for oxygen outlet), oxygen flowing on the cathode is increased. They made PEFC of 2.2 cm square, and diffusion layer was tightly contacted with the separator to keep uniform air pressure. Thus the current density increases from 1.5 A/cm2 to 2.3 A/cm2. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) May 23, 2008]
4. Business and Demonsration of Home Use PEFC
(1) Japan Gas Association
@The Chairperson of the above association, Mr. Nomura (Chairman of Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.) announced reduction program of gas exhaustion at the goal of 2030 in the regular press meeting on April 17, 2008. In this announcement it is said that reduction of about 48 million ton (crude oil equivalent to about 12 million kL) COQ gas exhaustion will be possible in customers side, for instance by introduction of about 3 million sets of home use FC. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) and The Nishinihon Shimbun April 18, 2008].
@NEF (new Energy Foundation) decided companies receiving subsidiaries in 2008 large-scale demonstration of stationary PEFC. Subsidiaries less than 2.2 million yen is given to each set of total 1,120 sets installed by 16 energy supplying companies. The most PEFC will be set by Nippon Oil Corp. (497 sets), and the second most (276 sets) will be installed by Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. The systems will be supplied by 5 companies including Ebara Corp., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., ENEOS Celltec (venture company of Nippon Oil Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd.). The fuels are town gas, LPG and kerosene. The total systems installed in this program since 2005 fiscal year are 3,307 sets. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) May 7, 2008 and the Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) May 19, 2008]
(3) Toho Gas Co., Ltd.
@On May 5, 2008 the company set forth that total 34 sets would be introduced from 3 manufacturers i.e., Toyota Motor Corp., Ebara Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. in 2008 fiscal year. The total sets will be 124. In addition to test of performance (energy saving etc.) and reliability of the latest systems, endurance and low-cost installation becomes important points to evaluate for commercialization. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) May 12, 2008 and The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) April 13, 2008]
(4) Toyota Motor Corp.
@The company announced that it would supply PEFC cogeneration systems of 1 kW output class to Toho Gas Co., Ltd. participating the large-scale stationary PEFC demonstration. The system has been developed together with Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd. In 2008 fiscal year it will provide with improved systems to reduce primary energy consumption and COQ exhaustion by increasing exhausted heat recovery efficiency by 20%. Total 24 sets will be provided and Toho Gas Co., Ltd. will install them at general homes in 3 Tokai prefectures to gather utilization data etc. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobiles) May 12, 2008 and The Chemical Daily May 13]
(5) Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.
@The company is receiving application of monitors of home use cogeneration systems. The objects are 70 attached houses, and cooperation in operating data gathering of heat and power for one year is required. The applications will be accepted by June 30, 2008. [The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) May 13, 2008]
5. FCV Forefront
(1) Beijing International Motor Show
@The Chinese large-scale motor exhibition, Beijing International Motor Show was started on April 20, 2008 and it was open to public since April 22 to 28. About 890 cars were exhibited from about 200 companies. Makers from Japan, Europe and US show new models, concept cars etc aiming at stimulating Chinese demand, whose market is grown up to the second largest in the world. Honda Motor Corp. exhibited FCV "FCX Clarity." [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) April 18, 2008, The Nikkei Shimbun, The Chugoku Shimbun, The Fuji Sankei Business Eye April 21, 2008 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) April 22, 2008]
(2) Kitami Institute of Technology
@A trial drive of "FC kart" developed by the above institute was held in Sapporo of Hokkaido on April 19, 2008. Prof. Sasaki in Department of Mechanical System Engineering explained mechanism of FCV. [The Hokkaido Shimbun April 19 and 20, 2008]
@According to FCCJ, companies participating this association have common policy to commercialize FCV in 2015 and they promote reliability improvement and cost down. While hybrid cars and EV are in the stage of propagation, in FCV problems of price etc are still unsolved. Because EV is not suitable for long-range driving, FCV development is required. In the background of the above policy of commercialization period, they are aiming at promoting hydrogen infrastructure, which needs much cost. According to Engineering Promotion Association, construction of a hydrogen station needs 600 - 700 million yen per each except cost of purchasing land. Without steady commercialization and propagation of FCV, construction of hydrogen infrastructure would not proceed. The above common policy was made to back up the construction. Tasks for FCV real use are endurance, cost down and infrastructure, and the former two are still unsolved. Difficulties are still remained. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) April 25, 2008]
(4) Honda Motor Corp.
@On May 13, 2008 New FCV "FCX Clarity" was open to public at Tokyo Headquarter Office in Minamiaoyama, Tokyo, and this is the first in Japan. This model was newly designed and the down-sized stacks are put in the center. This is going to be sold in US in this summer and in Japan in this fall by lease. To show that the company is developing FC to be able to install in all models and that technology is being developed by this policy, the model is sporty sedan base. Driving motors, lithium ion batteries, hydrogen fuel tanks etc are all made small and light in addition to the stacks. It is achieved that the maximum speed is 160 km/h and it can be operated at - 30oC, while the range is 620 km. [The Mainichi Shimbun, The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobiles), The Hokkaido Shimbun May 14, 2008 and The Sankei Shimbun May 15, 2008]
6. Hydrogen Station Technology
(1) Osaka Rasenkan Kogyo Co., Ltd.
@The above company developed metallic flexible tubes of high-pressure specification (70MPa). This is made of bellows, which is made by folding stainless steel thin plate. Braids of metallic wires are woven on the tube to reduced expansion due to high pressure. Thus safe and flexible tubes are made, and these can be folded easily even by women. Assuming usages in hydrogen stations, some tubes were supplied as samples. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) April 23, 2008]
@JHFC is going to develop technology by which hydrogen can be charged efficiently. At present hydrogen is charged by changing its flow rate for each FCV. By new charging method the pressure is automatically controlled with outside temperature, and thus hydrogen can be charged into all FCV of any manufacturers. This method is applied at a some hydrogen station in trial. The technology for 35 MPa will be established in 2008, and it would be established for 70 MPa in the future. Hydrogen stations installed by JHFC are now 12 in Japan, and 50 - 60 FCV and hydrogen cars are using them. At the stations hydrogen is charged into a tank on board, and by charging the temperature in the tank increases, so that the maximum flow rate is decided in each station in order that the temperature does not increase over 85oC, i.e., the safety standard. By this method the maximum flow rate must be decided for each car individually, and by this reason continuous charging is difficult, so that technology was developed in order to optimize the flow rate depending on the outside temperature and temperature in the tank. The test is now going on at Senju service station, and necessary technology would be established in 2008. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shiumbun (automobile) May 12, 2008]
7. Technology Development of Hydrogen Production and Purification
@Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. developed technology to efficiently produce hydrogen from town gas. The reactor is small and 1/3 compared with conventional ones. Hydrogen of 99.999% can be produced at the efficiency of 81.4%. By this efficiency improvement town gas consumption decreases by about 15%. Using specific alloy film, hydrogen is separated, and purification is unnecessary, so that down-sizing was succeeded. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun April 28, 2008]
8. Technology Development of Hydrogen Transport and Storage
@Kyushu Institute of Technology, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and Tsuyama College of Technology developed light high-performance composite material for hydrogen tanks.@In the structure of this material, viscous thin film is sandwiched between CFRP, and gas leakage is as little as metal. These materials are superposed and heated at 150oC under several atmospheric pressures to make the composite. Adhesives are not used. In the case that a plate of 1 mm thickness is used for 50 atmospheric pressure hydrogen tanks, hydrogen leakage is less than 0.01% annually, and it is 100 times better than conventional resin materials and comparable to metals. When it is cooled to -190oC 100 times repeatedly and stress is loaded 10,000 times, the performance to prevent gas leakage is not changed. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) May 19, 2008]
9. Hydrogen Production Potential
@It is known by investigation of Chugoku Office of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that capacity of annual hydrogen supply to outside in Chugoku industrial complexes is 940 million m3, which is equivalent to fuel for about 100,000 FCV. The office is going to decide a scheme to make full use of the hydrogen capacity for hydrogen infrastructure such as hydrogen stations. The investigation was done for 29 factories of oil refinery, chemistry, steel etc. from December of 2007 to March of 2008. [The Chugoku Shimbun April 25, 2008]
@The METI office completed "Initiative for Formation of Hydrogen Society in West Japan" which is a scheme for forming hydrogen supply infrastructure using capability in Chugoku district aiming at a special area. In this scheme 10 hydrogen stations are going to be constructed in the near future, and demonstrations of trucks, lorries and busses using hydrogen are solicited as well as hydrogen ships. Pipelines will also be constructed to supply hydrogen directly to FC in homes. [The Chugoku Shimbun May 20, 2008].
10. Development of Micro FC for Mobiles
@Sharp Corp. announced on May 15, 2008 that high-efficiency micro-DMFC was developed for portable phones, notebook type personal computers etc. In comparison with lithium ion batteries, the volume and the weight are reduced respectively to 80% and about 40%, and longer continuous operation became possible. A single cell in the generating part is a rectangular plate, and 3 thin generating plates are used instead of 1 plate, so that 7 times larger surface is open to air. By this structure to take air into the cells smoothly and by other means, power density per volume is 0.3 W/cm3. Timing for real use is not known. [The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Asahi Shimbun, The Mainichi Shimbun, The Sankei Shimbun, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry), The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave), The Tokyo Shimbun, The Chunichi Shimbun, The Chugoku Shimbun, The Nishinihon Shimbun, The Fuji Sankei Business Eye, The Chemical Daily May 15, 2008 and The Asahi Shimbun May 17, 2008]
11. New FC
@Prof. Amao, an associate professor of Oita University and his group developed new FC, which generate power when light illuminates at fuel of starch without forming carbon dioxide. In this newly developed FC, solution of starch and enzymes is inserted between transparent electrodes made by painting platinum catalyst, dyestuff used in photosynthesis and photo-catalyst. When the electrode is illuminated, chlorophyll gathers photon and photo-catalyst releases electrons, which migrate to platinum catalyst, and reacts with oxygen to form water. On the other hand starch is decomposed with enzyme like amylase to release electrons to the transparent electrode. Exhausted thing is only gluconic acid. Gluconic acid is used as food additive, so that it is non-toxic and reusable. They made FC of 3 cm square and illuminated with a solar simulator. The voltage is 600 mV and the current density is 20 micro A/cm2. The power density is small, but it would be improved, they said. It will be confirmed that the cell can be applied to cellulose, which is main component of grasses and woods. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) May 21, 2008]
12. Hydrogen Town Scheme
@On May 2, 2008 Fukuoka strategic committee of hydrogen energy established Maehara office of Fukuoka hydrogen town for constructing hydrogen town in Maehara city. In this hydrogen town illumination and hot water supply will be done with home use FC using hydrogen. From companies 7 staffs will be working in this office. Since May 16, 2008 meetings will be held to explain the plan to citizens total 8 times, and opening of the office will be done by March 2009. [The Nishinihon Shimbun May 3, and May 17, 2008]
13. Deployment of FC Related Business
(1) Nisshin Spining Co., Ltd.
The company decided to construct a new factory producing separators for PEFC. It has a facility in Okazaki city, but demand of the separators is anticipated to increase by establishing home use PEFC since summer of 2009. To cope with demand increase the company decided to construct a new factory. Chiba where R&D are sited is a promising candidate for the factory. Carbon-based separators of the company have characteristics of about 2 times strength compared with conventional molded carbon-based ones and also they are as thin as metallic ones. Moreover, flexibility is also one of the features. [The Chemical Daily, May 16, 2008]
On May 23, 2008 BASF, an German chemical maker, opened "FC usage exploration center" at its research facility in Yokkaichi city of Mie prefecture. In cooperation with Japanese FC makers, the center is going to develop components and to enter into Japanese market. The staffs are 3 in research and 1 in marketing, and it will cooperate with Suzuka Technological College and Daido Institute of Technology. [The Chunichi Shimbun May 24, 2008]
------------ This edition is made up as of May 24, 2008. ---------------