Japanese Technology Update: carbon storage, thermoelectrics, super high vision TV and more

Current Nikkei Business tech news and highlights from the August 2008 report on japanese research and innovation from the UK Embassy in Japan.

1. Furukawa Co Ltd plans to deploy a thermoelectric device for capturing 7% of the waste heat in car exhaust within 3 years.

Furukawa used the latest material to prototype a thermoelectric conversion module measuring 50 (W) x 50 (D) x 8mm (H). The company evaluated the module under conditions where its upper surface (higher temperature side) reached 720°C, while the lower surface (lower temperature side) is 50°C. With respect to the thermoelectric conversion performance, the results of the experiment indicated that the module has a thermoelectric conversion efficiency of 7% and an output of 33W (power density of 1.3W/cm2).

The ZT value of (Yb, Ca, Al, Ga, In)0.9(Co, Fe)4Sb12, which is an n-type material, increased from 0.7 to 1.3. From a practical standpoint, the material is expected to be applied to wider areas because the ZT values of both p- and n-types exceed 1 in a wide temperature range of 350-550°C.

2. Victor Company of Japan Ltd (JVC) showcased a front-projection projector with about 35 million pixels able to display Super High Vision. (8,192 × 4,320). Shown at CEATEC JAPAN 2008.

Super High vision is 16 times higher resolution than HD television and the industry hopes to transition to it from 2015-2025.

3. MHLW to establish research centre for pandemic flu

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) will set up a research centre dedicated to develop vaccines and drugs to treat pandemic influenza. The new centre, to be established at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), will promote research into commercialisation of a ‘cell culture method’ that Japan claims is needed to mass-produce pandemic vaccines for the entire population within six months from the outbreak of a pandemic. For fiscal 2009, MHLW has requested a total of 598 billion yen (GBP284 million) in measures against pre-pandemic influenza, up more than 9 times from this year’s actual budget. It also plans to increase the stockpiles of Tamiflu and Relenza. The current stockpiles can cover 23% of the public, but MHLW aims to increase the percentage to 45%, an equivalent to the US and Europe. (27 August 2008, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)

4. Sony ramping lithium ion battery by 80% by the end of 2010

Sony has decided to invest 40 billion-yen (GBP 200 million) in lithium-ion battery research in two domestic factories over the next three years. Sony seeks to facilitate manufacturing capabilities up to 80% by the end of 2010. For this aim, Sony will establish a new factory to produce electric power tools in Fukushima, as well as to increase assembly lines of electric cells in its Tochigi factory. Sony will also try to conduct mass production of batteries for mobiles in Singapore and China. (5 August 2008, Nikkei Shimbun)

5. Nippon Oil to mass-produce residential fuel cells

Nippon Oil will embark on the mass-production of fuel cells systems for households. The company will invest 10 billion yen (GBP 50 million) in introduction of production equipment in a factory owned by their business partner Sanyo. They plan to have an annual production capacity of 10,000 units in 2009 and 40,000 by 2015. Other companies such as Panasonic and Toshiba also plan the start of mass-production, which is expected to accelerate cost reduction and expansion of the market. (2 August 2008, Nikkei Shimbun)

6. Japanese Government will conduct a major research project on CCS (carbon capture and storage)

Japanese Government will fund a large-scale experimentation on CCS which will be undertaken by industry consortium Japan CCS, aiming to be put into practical use by 2011. CO2 from a coal-fired power plant with capacity of 250,000KW at Clean Coal Power Research Institute in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, will be separated and collected for pipeline transportation to natural gas fields which can store more than 20 million tons of CO2, 70km offshore from the plant. The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO), a public funding agency for industries, will fund for 230 million yen (GBP1 million) this year. The estimated cost for the whole project would be around 500 billion yen (GBP2.5 billion), and the government will provide most of the financial support. (19 August 2008, Nikkei Shimbun)

7. MHI to design the world largest carbon capture system

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced that they received an offer form Norwegian Gassnova for the Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) of a large-scale facility to capture carbon from a power plant. The capacity of carbon capture will be the world largest 3,000t per day. The system is to be implemented at a gas turbine combined cycle power plant of 420,000kW. Gassnova has concluded the same contact with an American and a Norwegian separately. They plan the start of operation around the end of 2011. (21 August 2008, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)

8. Optimal control of lighting and air-conditioning at offices to halve power consumption

An industrial consortium will start a demonstration project to halve power consumption at an office in Tokyo in October. The group of 40 companies, including Hitachi, Mitsui and Matsushita, will co-operate with Doshisha University. They plan to develop a system in three years to control lighting and air-conditioning not uniformly but depending on individual workers’ needs, making the best use of information and communication technologies. (25 August 2008, Nikkei Shimbun)

9. Catalyst for low-cost production of bioethanol from non-foods

A research group has developed a low-cost technique that can produce bioethanol from non-food materials such as rice straw and waste wood. The technology uses a solid acid catalyst that converts raw materials into sugar in boiling water. The catalyst can be produced from cheap carbon-base materials. The developed process is 30% cheaper than conventional ones and bioethanol produced will be economically competitive against those derived from edible materials such as corn. The leader of the team is Professor Michikazu Hara of the Tokyo Institute of Technology. (25 August 2008, Nikkei Shimbun)

10. Mass-production of petrochemical products from carbon dioxide

Mitsui Chemical announced that they would build a facility in Osaka to demonstrate mass-production of methanol from carbon dioxide contained in flue gas from factories. Based on achievement in a joint project with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), they plan to capture carbon dioxide from flue gas and concentrate it for reaction with hydrogen to synthesise methanol,
which is a raw material for synthetic resins and fibres. Currently, costs and required power are not predictable and the company will study commercial feasibility of the technology through the project. (26 August 2008, Nikkei Shimbun

11. Nippon Piston Ring developing next-generation piston ring to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions

Nippon Piston Ring, a major Japanese engine parts company, is developing next-generation position rings aimed at improving fuel efficiency and reducing gas emissions. It will begin commercializing these by 2015. To improve fuel efficiency, Nippon Piston Ring will reexamine employed materials such as rare metals and steel products to trim weight. The company will also conduct a drastic revision of its
surface finishing methods to save consumption of oil in the engine room. (15 August 2008, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)

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Whether it is Taiwan, Japan, Philippines "outside" of China's influence or just Japan and Philippines it is the same. Taiwan is only 8% of that equation in terms of population and economy.

Plus I do not think Philippines and Japan are outside the influence of China and they will be less and less as china rises more


A good question: Why would Taiwan be better off under the DPP?

The bottom line: Hsieh would not sign a Hong Kong deal on the sly. It's more than possible that the KMT would do this, as long as they were the favored governors under the new system.

Such a deal would have huge geopolitical effects, isolating Japan and the Phillipines in China's sphere of influence. It would probably prompt Japan to produce their own nuclear weapons.


The nanowire battery development has got to be a technology to watch. 2008? I really hope so. I'm going to invest ASAP in whomever they team with...


http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=947&Itemid=31" REL="nofollow">Asia sentinal view of the Taiwan election

Ma has a substantial lead in opinion polls.

both Ma and the DPP candidate are talking about relaxing economic constraints between China and Taiwan. Ma's measures go farther than the DPP. The DPP is in now and Chen could have but has not loosed economic restraints.

these measures are too little, too late for the thousands of Taiwan firms that have long called for the lifting of all limits on business with China. According to mainland figures, Taiwan firms have invested US$45 billion in 74,000 ventures in China. Unofficial estimates put the figure at US$100 billion, with money routed via Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands, making Taiwan the mainland’s largest foreign investor.

Unable to raise money in Taiwan and remain below the 40 percent ceiling, they turn to other markets, as did Uni-President China Holdings, the mainland arm of Taiwan’s largest food and beverage conglomerate, which raised US$477 million in an IPO in Hong Kong on Monday. It will use the money to expand production of juices and instant noodles in China

http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2007/06taiwan_fell.aspx" REL="nofollow">Brooking's institute analysis of Taiwan politics

http://www.chinapost.com.tw/news/2007/12/23/136102/Taiwan's-political.htm" REL="nofollow">China post article

Several surveys show the governing Democratic Progressive Party may be losing out to the main opposition Nationalist Party because of widespread voter complaints about the sluggish economy under Chen's 8-year rule.



I consider the electric and hybrid cars related to green tech and the DNA synthesis and synthetic life could lead to far more economic biofuels or make the algae process viable. I do not see something happening in 2008 that will make a major difference in regards to solar and green tech. In 2007, nanosolar is starting to sell their $1/watt to produce solar cells. However, the production of solar cells and concentrated solar power is not at high enough levels to matter. I think the climate change legislation is something to watch in the USA but I believe that will pass in 2009. The change in the economics will boost renewables and nuclear. I will try to put together a 2007 important news list and a things to watch in 2009 and 2010 list.

I think the most important green tech with the highest possible impact the soonest is thermoelectrics (can boost existing thermal power sources by 50% and boost vehicle engine efficiency), MIT's 50% power uprate for existing nuclear plants, the hyperion small nuclear reactor (nuclear battery), Fuji molten salt reactor, bussard fussion, tri-alpha energy colliding beam fusion, kitegen wind power.

Another point for Tony Pace. How is Taiwan better off if Chen DPP wins ? Does China aim its missiles elsewhere ? Does Taiwan's economy gets better ? How would things get better ?

I think if MA and the KMT win then Taiwan and China cut a trade deal and get direct flights and Taiwan's economy improves. The people of Taiwan would lose no rights and freedoms that they currently have.


Solar or Green Energy not in the top 10?


I am aware of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuomintang" REL="nofollow">KMT's past corruption. I am familiar with Taiwan and China's situation. I lived in Taiwan and then Hong Kong from 1994-1995. The missile tests in 1996 were a stupid mistake on China's part. so I was under the shadow of those missiles as well and in the USA I have been under the shadow of soviet missiles. I consider the shadow of missiles irrelevant, especially as in my analysis using them would have the opposite effect of intimidation.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/5038282.stm" REL="nofollow">However, From what I have seen Chen is more corrupt than Ma. BBC lists a series of corruption scandals

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Million_Voices_against_Corruption,_President_Chen_Must_Go" REL="nofollow">There were anti-Chen corruption demonstrations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chen_Shui-bian" REL="nofollow">Wikipedia lists the issues with Chen

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Ying-jeou#Mayoral_scandals" REL="nofollow">Ma's scandals are listed as well

I believe the incidents that Chen had just prior to each of his elections were stunts.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-19_shooting_incident" REL="nofollow">The shooting incident I believe was a stunt for sympathy votes.

However, my main point is that aside from the local politics, my prediction is that China is going to ascend to be the largest economy (on an exchange rate basis) in the world by about 2018 plus or minus three years and then will continue to become as large as the USA and the EU combined by 2030. All of the Asian countries in the region will be in China's economic orbit. Taiwan independence will be as meaningful as Quebec trying to be independent. Either place would be economically tiny and still embedded in the larger regional economy and culture. Quebec in the NAFTA trade block and dominated by the USA and Taiwan under China's economic and social influence.


Your comment on Taiwan is unbelievably ignorant. Chen Shui-bian is the cleanest leader that Taiwan has ever seen (which means that he is corrupt on a minor scale). His opponent leads the richest political party in the world - assets that were stolen when the KMT took over Taiwan. Oh yeah, and he took about $1000000 US from a slush fund and put it in his personal account when he was mayor.

Al is completely correct when he says that Chinese military pressure creates political support for legal independence. As someone who lives under the shadow of 800 short-range missiles, frankly I support full independence as well.

When you know nothing about a situation, it's wise to educate yourself before piping up.


Very nice Christmas list.

I am skeptical of #1, but if it works out it will be revolutionary.

#2 would also be revolutionary if it pans out.

#3 would be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

#4 lacks the type of software support to make it revolutionary--but perhaps in 5 or 10 years.

#5 is a cool car, but I am skeptical of crash safety on the same highway with SUVs. We need better batteries for EVs--give it 10 years.

#6 evolutionary

#7 evolutionary

#8 revolutionary if it flies

#9 revolutionary if it can be made into a household appliance with the ability to upgrade to newer technology as it develops

#10 the evolutionary development of an existing tool that will eventually have revolutionary repercussions in synthetic life and gene mod of existing species.

As for China and Taiwan, I think Taiwan has been around long enough--and China is big and strong enough--that China can ease off on the threatening military posturing toward Taiwan. It is China's posturing that creates Taiwanese politicians who push for complete open independence.

No one in their right minds wants to see happen to the Taiwanese people, what happened to those in Hong Kong.