`Microbe FC for Biomass Utilization`

Arranged by T. Homma
1. National Policies
2. PAFC Business
3. Development of SOFC Related Technologies
4. Elementary Technologies Development for PEFC and DMFC
5. Home use FC Business
6. FCV Forefront
7. Hydrogen Station Business
8. Development of Hydrogen Production and Purification Technologies
9. Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transport Technologies
10. Metrological Technologies Related with FC and Hydrogen
11. Development of Microbe FC Systems
12. New Business Plans Related with FC and Hydrogen

1. National Policies
@On July 31, 2008 NEDO decided to accept 15 applications for research by 20 organizations among 27 applications. The objective is PEFC next generation technologies for future real propagation of FCV around 2020 - 2030. In addition to Tokyo University and Kyoto University, "Examination technology of carriers in thermal and materials transport phenomena in porous materials of PEFC" by Yokohama National University and Nissan Motors Corp., "Examination technology of thermal and materials transport phenomena in PEFC" by Waseda University and Nissan Motors Corp. and substitute materials for noble catalysts by Tsukuba University are included. The duration is 2 years and the fund will be about 20 million yen per one item. [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) Aug. 1, 2008 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Aug. 7, 2008]
@For substitution of platinum NEDO selected Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo University and Hokkaido University and will provide then with funds on "Advanced research of performance evaluation of carbon alloy catalyst." This catalyst was discovered by Prof. Jun-ichi Ozaki of Gumma University. The carbon alloy catalyst is cathode catalyst having oxygen reduction characteristics and it is nano-shell carbon doped nitrogen and boron. It can be made from various materials and the output power density of 60% compared with platinum catalyst was already achieved. In addition to application to FC, it is investigated as substitute catalyst in chemical synthesis. The research is also promoted, for instance by US DOE. [The Chemical Daily Aug. 11, 2008]

2. PAFC Business
@On Aug. 1, 2008 Japan Electric Association gave a certificate to Fuji Electric Advanced Technology Co., Ltd. as the first certificate receiver of FC facility on fire law. In 2006 PAFC was certified as an emergency power source. For real installation FC should be in accordance with standards of the association as an organization for certification under Fire Agency. The company applied in April of 2008 and after various tests it was approved. If town gas is stopped to supply, for instance in disaster, this facility could supply electricity continuously by using stored LP gas. The rated output is 100 kW and the generation efficiency at the output is 42%. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Aug. 4, 2008]

3. Development of SOFC Related Technologies
(1) NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories
@The institute developed SOFC of 1 kW output (50 cells), and its electric efficiency was 54%, while achieved duration at present is 1,000 hours. Stable generation over 3,000 hours was achieved with stacks of 30 cells at 54% efficiency. Oxide of lanthanum, iron and nickel was used as the electrolyte, and cells of 12 cm diameter could be operated stably. Channels were made in the cells to collect un-reacted gas and to control the gas supply. By introducing this channel the efficiency could be improved. But at present only 67% of supplied gas is reacted, so that if it could be improved to 80%, .the efficiency could be increased from the present 54% to over 60%, they said. Making the above improvements and realizing over several ten thousands hour stable generation they will use it in a facility of the company and they are aiming at real use 2 - 6 years after. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 22, 2008]

(2) Maruemu Work
@The company in Daito city of Osaka prefecture developed screws of low price and high temperature resistance for SOFC. They made the screws by their own cold press process, so that the cost is reduced to 1/3 compared with conventional ones. Their target is high share in the screws specified for SOFC at low cost. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shinbun (business and technology) July 25, 2008]

(3) Osaka Gas Co., Ltd.
@Possibility increases that SOFC life could become over 40,000 hours in continuous generation by improvement of the cells. This is accomplishment by cooperative development with Kyocera Corp., the maker of generating units. Number of pores in air electrodes was adjusted to increase oxygen permeability keeping strength. Furthermore, current collectors between cells were coated to increase endurance. The conventional endurance was 20,000 hours, and for the above new cells 4,000 hour test was made in the company. Based on this result aging for about 40,000 hours was forecasted. The forecast indicated that the initial output per cell was 0.8 V and it is decreased to 0.7 V after 40,000 hour operation. Moreover, the exhausted heat recovery efficiency increased to 40% by improvement of the heat exchanger. Water necessary for steam reforming could be fully supplied by water obtained above heat exchange. Thus water supply from outside becomes unnecessary, so that production cost would also be reduced. The company intends to sell this system early to general homes, through demonstration by NEF. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Aug. 7, 2008]

(4) Kyoto University
@Prof. Kageyama, an associate professor of Kyoto University and a group in Japan Synchrotron Resonance Radiation Institute succeeded in synthesis of iron oxide compound of ladder like structure. It can also be made in flat plate form. It is anticipated that this material could be used in high-temperature superconductors and FC. They made this material by heating iron and strontium in oxygen to 1,100oCand then by keeping it at 300oCto release oxygen. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Aug. 11, 2008]

4. Elementary Technologies Development for PEFC and DMFC
(1) Ritsumeikan University
@A group in the above university developed technology of coating nm size metal particles with carbon. Metal and carbon are evaporated at high temperature and quickly cooled it to form solid metal particles coated with carbon. Pores are made on carbon rod of several mm diameter and about 5 cm length, and metal wires are filled in the pores. The carbon rod and metal wires are heated to over 3,000oC at the same time by arc discharge in a high-temperature resistant pressure vessel. The vapors are cooled with argon in the vessel to form solid carbon of high melting point and metal is taken into the carbon and then metal is solidified to particles of several tens nm size.. Thus metallic particles are coated with carbon of 10 nm thickness. By changing the gas and the pressure, metal particle diameter can be controlled at 10 - 100 nm. The group succeeded in making carbon coated metals, such as silver, aluminum, nickel, iron etc. Metallic catalysts tend to be degraded by oxidation, coagulation etc., but it is expected that carbon coating prevents metallic catalysts from degradation. If it could be applied to FC, life improvement would be anticipated. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 28, 2008]

(2) Kyushu University
@Prof. Ogo and his group in Center for Future Chemistry of Kyushu University announced that they succeeded in development of nickel based catalyst accepting electrons from hydrogen in water at the room temperature. They studied mechanism of natural hydrogenase which accepts 2 electrons from a hydrogen molecule having 4 electrons, and they succeeded in artificially making the same process. By this technology cost down of PEFC would be possible, and some automobile makers made contact. The professor said "Since now we intend to investigate the similar inexpensive catalysts for oxygen in water at the room temperature and at ambient pressure." [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Nishinihon Shimbun Aug. 9, 2008, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Aug. 12, 2008 and The Fuji Sankei Business Eye Aug. 13, 2008]

5. Home Use FC Business
(1) Nippon Oil Corp.
@The company is going to start mass-production of home use FC. The company practically takeover home use FC business of Sanyo Electric Co., Ltd. and established ENEOS Celltec at a factory in Ooizumimachi of Gumma prefecture in April. At this factory the mass-production lines will be installed. The capacity is planning annual production of 10,000 sets at the end of 2009 fiscal year and 40,000 sets in 2015 fiscal year. The total investment is 10 billion yen. They will be sold by its own brand, while some will also be supplied to Cosmo Oil Corp., Japan Energy etc. by OEM. The accumulated production by 2015 fiscal year will be 150,000 sets. By mass-production effect etc. the price would be reduced to about 500,000 yen. Domestic gasoline sales of this company in 2007 fiscal year decreased by 2.5% compared with the previous year and it was 9.06 million kL. The decreasing tendency continued for 3 hears. Ordinary profit of the company (except petrochemicals) was minus 36.6 billion yen in March period of 2008 without deficit by oil price increase. The company intends to grow FC business to one of profitable business to compensate depression of oil products. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Aug. 2, 2008]

(2) Secom
@This company of guaardservice intends to start rental business of home use FC of 1 kW output by spring of 2009. If supply of electric power and town gas stopped for instance by earthquake, power would be supplied in the homes by FC. The company is now negotiating the specification of the FC with a maker supplying FC by OEM. The FC would be installed in general detached houses. The rental will be 20,000 yen per month. Making full use of its business network, it will exploit rich people who are conscious of disaster preparation. In 2009 fiscal year 600 contracts are the targets. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Aug. 15, 2008]

(3) Sekisui House and PanaHome
@The former begins sales of residential house with solar panels since September. In suburban area it will also sell those with PEFC. By combining FC and solar panels expense for gas and electric power reduced to 1/4 comparing houses built in 1980's, which are now being rebuilt. The latter also begins sales of houses with FC in Kanto, Chubu and Kyushu area in 2009 fiscal year. Combining with energy saving houses in small site, it intends to sell unique ones. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Aug. 15, 2008]

6. FCV Forefront
(1) Nissan Motors Corp.
@Nissan Motors Corp. announced on July 18, 2008 that it was going to cosponsor "The Second Karuizawa Festival" for culture and arts to be held in Karuizawa, Nagano prefecture on Aug. 16 - 24. The company would provide the festival with two 2005 models of "X-TRAIL FCV." [The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile) July 19, 2008 and The Chemical Daily July 23, 2008]
@On Aug. 6, 2008 the company set forth next generation automobile technologies. PEFC stacks of twice volume output density were developed, and trial models of EV to be sold after 10 years and rear driving HEV were set forth. In the stacks metal thin separators were used instead of carbon, and thus the stacks were down sized. By improving MEA the generating performance was improved. By these improvements the volume was reduced to 3/4 of the conventional ones (68 L). The output power was increased to 130 kW. Examining electrode catalyst structure, platinum was reduced to half and endurance was increased. Thus large cost reduction and long life were achieved. Car tests will be started in the end of the year. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology), The Nikkan Jidosha Shimbun (automobile), The Chemical Daily Aug. 7, 2008 and The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Aug. 8, 2008]

(2) Nikko City
@Nikko City is going to introduce FCV as a public car since December. On Aug. 12, 2008 it was announced in a meeting of all members of the city council. Nissan Motors Corp., one of members of hydrogen promotion association of the city, will provide the car by lease. It will be used as a symbol of environmental protection of the city. Half of the lease fee (420,000 yen) will be supported by the national government. They think the duration is 3 years, and a temporary hydrogen station will be constructed by 3 companies in the city. [The Shimotsuke Shimbun Aug. 13, 2008]

7. Hydrogen Station Business
@Tokyo Gas Co., Ltd. begins research on new technology for real use, by which exhausted CO‚Q gas in hydrogen supplying process is efficiently separated and recovered in hydrogen stations. The new small equipment could liquefy CO‚Q and separate it, combining with its own hydrogen supplying equipments. In the steam reforming equipments by the company, hydrogen separation tubes with specific alloy film containing palladium separates highly pure hydrogen and 90.% of residual gas is CO‚Q The new separation equipment pressurizes exhausted gas to over 5 MPa to form liquid, and the liquid CO‚Q is carried to underground storage facility by tank trucks. CO‚Q can be stored in high concentration, so that the recovery equipment is an about 1 m cube and CO‚Q can be recovered at about 20 kg/h. Fundamental design of the recovery equipment was completed and demonstration will start in this fall. In the future hydrogen supply business for FCV would expand, so that it would bring them new demand of town gas. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) July 30, 2008]

8. Development of Hydrogen Production and Purification Technologies
(1) Nippon Steel Corp.
@The company developed new technology to get hydrogen from wastes such as garbage, papers, plastics, woods, sewage, tiers, etc. from homes, office etc., using know-how in steel production. Three varieties of furnace are used in this process. First wastes are carbonized by smothering. Then hydrogen is recovered by heating them at 1,300oC by imperfect combustion. Tar obtained in carbonization process is also used to get hydrogen. In a steel plant of the company a trial plant of 20 ton/day was installed. Garbage is supplied by Kitakyushu city and Kitakyushu University was in cooperation with the company. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun July 28, 2008]

(2) Tokyo University
@Prof. Domen, Prof. Kubota and their group developed photo-catalyst with which hydrogen can be formed by visible light of long-wave length. "Gallium nitride" formed by reaction of sulfide and nitride is mixed with zinc oxide at high temperature. It absorbs blue light of wave length from 400 to 500 nm. By heating the surface at high temperature and by other measures, crystal lattice can be controlled to improve catalytic performance. They intend to use it in real hydrogen mass-production. [The Nihon Keizai Shimbun July 29, 2008]

9. Development of Hydrogen Storage and Transport Technologies
@Chiyoda Corp. has developed technology for storing hydrogen in organic hydride and taking it out efficiently, and life of catalyst in hydrogen extraction could be extended from about 1 month for conventional catalysts to over 1 year. Organic hydrides are liquid formed by reaction of hydrogen with toluene etc., and hydrogen can be taken out simply with catalysts like platinum. But impurities adsorb on catalyst surface to degrade performance. This was a task for long life of catalyst. The company confirmed that when catalyst particles are fine, impurities hardly adsorb on the surface and the life is extended. The company developed a catalyst made of aluminum oxide covered with platinum particles of 1 nm diameter. It was experimentally confirmed that performance of this catalyst was kept for 5,000 hours continuously and for over 1 year in usual usage. Organic hydride can be dealt with in conventional gas stations. If a reactor containing organic hydride is installed at a gas station, it could be also used as a hydrogen station. [The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Aug. 14, 2008]

10. Metrological Technologies Related with FC and Hydrogen
(1) Shizuoka University
@Prof. Kondo, an associate professor of graduate course of Shizuoka University, announced on Aug. 5, 2008 that he developed small size methanol sensors using surface acoustic wave (SAW) for DMFC. When some liquid is put on SAW device, which is used as electronic components in portable phones etc., SAW characteristics, such as amplitude and speed, are changed. By detecting this change we can identify the liquid. By using a specific electrode (FEUDT) sensors measuring methanol concentration in DMFC were developed. Measuring the change continuously it can be used, for instance, for warning power exhaustion. The price of an SAW device is less than 100 yen, so that it would bring us cost down. The sensor made in trial is 10 X 10 X 5 cm, but the device can be made on IC chips in real use. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Chemical Daily Aug. 6, 2008 and The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) Aug. 8, 2008]

(2) Osaka University
@On Aug. 14, 2008 NEDO announced that Prof. Ohara, an associate professor of Osaka University and his group had developed hydrogen gas sensors of innovative hybrid nano structure. The structure of sensors is palladium - DNA hybrid nano structure, and high response of less than 1 second at the room temperature and high sensitivity of over 5,000 ppm are realized at the same time. DNA has a property that it adsorbs metallic ion on its surface, and by using this property nano-wires of gold, platinum, copper, cobalt etc. can be made. DNA is usually a braid of double helixes, but when counter ion (anion) increases, its structure changes to folded structure. By using this transformation they succeeded to make nano-particle, nano-necklace and nano-ring. It is confirmed that the hybrid nano structure thus formed has high response, nigh sensitivity for hydrogen gas and stability. When it absorbs hydrogen gas it shows electrical response depending on volume expansion. Gases other than hydrogen does not influence, so that it has higher hydrogen gas selectivity than conventional ones. They intend to make it package devices and then demonstration of the sensors attached to hydrogen stockers and carts will be made. It is required that the price should be less than several ten thousands yen, so that cost analysis will also be done. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity) Aug. 15, 2008 and The Dempa Shimbun (radio wave) Aug. 18, 2008]

11. Development of Microbe FC System
@In cooperation with Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology Advanced Science and Technology Research Center of Tokyo University, Kajima Corp., an construction company, developed "cassette microbe FC system," in which electrode can be exchanged to prevent decrease in the performance and degradation of electrodes. In this microbe cell microbe is used as electrode catalyst, and organic products by microbes are used for electric generation, intending to use water from sewage treatment and biomass from the area as energy sources. In the system developed at present an air electrode with a boxy cassette ("cassette cathode.") is combined with an anode, and a reactor is attached to the anode.. By exchanging cathodes they intend to stabilize the performance for a long time and to make maintenance easy. In demonstration a bench-scale reactor of 20 cm high, 20 cm wide, 5 cm deep and 1 L volume was assembled. In experiment with 12 cathodes 129 W/m3 of power density was achieved. They are aiming at construction of 1,000 W/m3 within about 5 years. [The Denki Shimbun (electricity), The Nikkan Kensetsu Kogyo Shimbun (construction), The Kensetsu Tsushin Shimbun (construction), The Chemical Daily July 23, 2008, The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) Aug. 4, 2008 and The Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun (economy and industry) Aug. 11, 2008]

12. New Business Plan Related with FC and Hydrogen
(1) Nisshimbo Corp.
@The company decided to construct a new factory for separators in Chiba prefecture aiming at kick off in 2009. In the new factory present production facilities in Miai factory in Okazaki city producing separators now will be moved and concentrated there. Capacity of the new factory will be 8 million sheets and it is double of the present capacity. Full production will be in summer of 2010, and it will finally be decided in this fall. The total investment is estimated to be about 3 billion yen. [The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (business and technology) July 18, 2008]

(2) Yamanashi University
@Yamanashi University was soliciting applies of design of Yamanashi University FC Nano-materials Research Center and recently decided Azusa designers office as trustee. The fee is 24 million yen, the estimated fee being 24.66 million yen. By funds from NEDO the university constructs the above research center for R&D of next generation FC. It is anticipated that construction will be started since November and completed in the end of June in 2009. [The Nikkan kensetsu Shimbun (construction) July 22, 2008]

------------ This edition is made up as of August 18, 2008. ---------------