Tag: ‘Energy’

Zero Emission House

17 Jun 2008

Zero Emissions House --

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has released a few details about the "Zero Emission House," a state-of-the-art green home under construction at the site of the upcoming Hokkaido Toyako G8 Summit, where environmental issues will be high on the agenda.

Incorporating the latest in sustainable building technology, the 280-square-meter (3,000 sq ft) Japanese-style home is designed to have a small carbon footprint. A 14.5-kilowatt solar array and a small 1-kilowatt wind generator provide power to the home, which is equipped with next-generation energy-saving appliances, thermal insulation glass, vacuum insulated panels and a green roof. The interior is illuminated by a system of light ducts and OLED lamps.

Zero Emissions House --

Honda's Asimo humanoid robot -- whose exact carbon footprint size is unknown -- will be on hand to serve tea to guests, who are welcome to test-drive the electric vehicles in the driveway and soak their feet in the fuel cell-powered foot bath.

Construction of the 200 million yen ($2 million) home is scheduled for completion at the end of June, at which time it will be unveiled to the foreign press. After the summit, plans are to transport the house to another location, where it will be opened to the general public.

[Source: METI]

JAXA testing space solar power system

08 Feb 2008

Space Solar Power System --
For decades, scientists have explored the possibility of using space-based solar cells to power the Earth. Some see orbiting power stations as a clean and stable energy source that promises to slow global warming, while others dismiss the idea as an expensive and impractical solution to the world's energy problems. While the discussion goes on, researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have begun to develop the hardware.

JAXA, which plans to have a Space Solar Power System (SSPS) up and running by 2030, envisions a system consisting of giant solar collectors in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth?s surface. The satellites convert sunlight into powerful microwave (or laser) beams that are aimed at receiving stations on Earth, where they are converted into electricity.

On February 20, JAXA will take a step closer to the goal when they begin testing a microwave power transmission system designed to beam the power from the satellites to Earth. In a series of experiments to be conducted at the Taiki Multi-Purpose Aerospace Park in Hokkaido, the researchers will use a 2.4-meter-diameter transmission antenna to send a microwave beam over 50 meters to a rectenna (rectifying antenna) that converts the microwave energy into electricity and powers a household heater. The researchers expect these initial tests to provide valuable engineering data that will pave the way for JAXA to build larger, more powerful systems.

Microwave Space Solar Power SystemJAXA says the orbiting solar arrays, which have the advantage of being able to collect energy around the clock regardless of the weather on the ground, will need to transmit microwaves through the earth's atmosphere at frequencies that are not affected by the weather. The researchers are now looking at using the 2.45GHz and 5.8GHz bands, which have been allocated for use with industrial, scientific and medical devices.

JAXA ultimately aims to build ground receiving stations that measure about 3 kilometers across and that can produce 1 gigawatt (1 million kilowatts) of electricity -- enough to power approximately 500,000 homes.

[Source: Hokkaido Shimbun]

Electricity from orbiting solar-powered lasers

06 Sep 2007

Space Solar Power Systems -- In a development that brings space-based power generation systems a step closer to reality, researchers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Osaka University Institute of Laser Engineering have developed groundbreaking new technology for converting sunlight into laser beams.

Relying on plates made from a special ceramic material containing chromium (which absorbs the sunlight) and neodymium (which efficiently converts sunlight to laser light), the newly developed lasers demonstrated an impressive 42% solar-to-laser energy conversion efficiency, outperforming previous technology by a factor of four.

The researchers say the new laser technology will play a key role in JAXA's "Space Solar Power Systems" (SSPS) project, which aims to put space-based power systems in orbit by the year 2030. By mounting the system on a satellite in stationary orbit 36,000 km (22,400 mi.) above the equator, sunlight would be collected and converted into a powerful laser beam, which would then be aimed at a terrestrial power station and used to generate electricity or produce hydrogen.

SOL, Satellite Orbital Laser -- Unlike earthbound solar power stations, which are subject to night-time darkness and cloudy conditions, JAXA's SSPS will be able to make use of solar energy 24 hours a day. With slight improvements in the solar-to-laser conversion efficiency and by incorporating solar collectors measuring 100 to 200 meters long, a single satellite will be able to match the output of a 1-gigawatt nuclear power plant, the researchers say. One can only hope these lasers never fall into the wrong hands.

The results of the research were announced at a meeting of the Japan Society of Applied Physics that began on September 4 in Sapporo.

[Source: Asahi]

Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator

22 Jun 2007

Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator --

This spoof advertisement from the mid-1980s shows an imaginary home power system called the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Generator. Here is a loose translation.


A gentle source of unlimited energy for the home

Reduce your monthly electric bill by 80% and enjoy a constant, stable supply of energy free from the fluctuations in supply that affect the oil market.

A single, user-friendly activation switch makes the Chernobyl Household Nuclear Power Generator simple to operate, even for children and the elderly. One small nuclear fuel rod (about 15 cm long) generates enough electricity to support the average household for six months. To dispose of a spent fuel rod, simply insert it into its special shielded case and discard it along with ordinary non-combustible household waste.

Main unit: 1.31 million yen [$5,450*] (plus tax)

Set of 3 fuel rods: 137,000 yen [$570*] (plus tax)
[* Dollar figures based on early '80s exchange rate of 240 yen/dollar.]

When using the power generator with direct current, people near the device may on rare occasions experience dizziness or a tingling sensation in the hands or feet. If you experience such conditions, temporarily discontinue use and consult a physician.

(Coming soon:
Nuclear batteries (Types AA, C and D)
500x longer lifespan than conventional alkali batteries!)

Safe, efficient nuclear power is now readily available for use in your home.

Chernobyl Household Nuclear Power Generator - Type 1
Nichigen Co., Ltd.
Nihon Shogata Genshiryoku Hatsuden, K.K.
("Japan Compact Nuclear Generators, Inc.")


Seaweed as biofuel

23 Mar 2007

Sargasso seaweed as biofuel --- On March 22, a group of Japanese scientists released details of an ambitious proposal calling for the large-scale production of bioethanol made from cultivated seaweed.

Researchers from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Mitsubishi Research Institute, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and several other private-sector firms envision a 10,000 square kilometer (3,860 square mile) seaweed farm at Yamatotai, a shallow fishing area in the middle of the Sea of Japan. They claim a farm of this scale could produce about 20 million kiloliters (5.3 billion gallons) of bioethanol per year, which is equivalent to one-third the 60 million kiloliters (16 billion gallons) of gasoline that Japan consumes each year.

Seaweed has long been discussed as a potential source of bioethanol, which is typically made from crops such as sugar cane and corn, but the idea has never been brought to fruition. According to the proposal, giant nets used in nori and wakame seaweed cultivation would be laid out to cultivate sargasso seaweed (hondawara), which grows rapidly. Floating bioreactors -- special facilities that use enzymes to break the seaweed down into sugars -- would prepare the seaweed for conversion into ethanol, which would also be done at sea. Tankers would then transport the ethanol to land.

The main components of seaweed are fucoidan and alginic acid. While an enzyme for breaking down fucoidan has already been discovered, the scientists are looking for an enzyme that breaks down alginic acid. They are also looking at the possibility of using genetic modification technology.

The group is also conducting research on how to develop the production plants and attract investment. Other participants in the project include NEC Toshiba Space Systems, Mitsubishi Electric, IHI, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Shimizu Corporation, Toa Corporation, Kanto Natural Gas Development Co., Ltd., and the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

The researchers claim that in addition to serving as a source of fuel, the seaweed would help clean up the Sea of Japan. According to Professor Masahiro Notoya from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, the seaweed would work to remove some of the excess nutrient salts that flow into the sea from the surrounding land masses.

Professor Notoya will formally present the proposal at the International Seaweed Symposium, which is set to begin on March 26 in Kobe, Japan.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

Bio hydrofined diesel to fuel Tokyo buses

07 Feb 2007

Bio hydrofined diesel to fuel Tokyo buses --- On February 6, Nippon Oil (ENEOS), Toyota Motors, Hino Motors and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced the launch of a joint project aimed at putting bio hydrofined diesel (also known as BHD, or second-generation biodiesel) into practical use. In 2007, the city will begin trial operation of city buses that run on a 10% BHD-diesel blend.

Produced through a process of hydrogenating vegetable oil and animal fats, BHD is more resistant to oxidation than conventional biodiesel known as fatty acid methyl ester (also known as FAME, or first-generation biodiesel), allowing for higher concentrations in diesel blends. While FAME concentrations in diesel blends are limited to 5%, BHD concentrations can reach 10%. The new fuel complies with Tokyo's latest emission control regulations.

Furthermore, the BHD production process allows for the raw materials -- vegetable oil, animal fat and used cooking oil -- to be processed together. In FAME production, each type of raw material must be processed separately.

Before deciding whether or not to put BHD into practical use, the group will study the overall effectiveness of the fuel as a means of fighting global warming, as well as the feasibility of establishing a fuel production and supply system. The proposed move toward BHD is the first stage in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's project to cut carbon emissions to 25% of 2000 levels by 2020.

[Sources: Nikkei BP, Corism]

Wood-based bioethanol plant opens in Osaka

15 Jan 2007

Bioethanol -- Bio Ethanol Japan Kansai, a company established by Taisei, Daiei Inter Nature System, Marubeni, Sapporo Beer and Tokyo Board Industries, is set to begin commercial production of bioethanol made from wood waste. Opening ceremonies for the Osaka plant, which the company claims is the world's first of its kind, are scheduled for January 16.

With efforts to reduce fossil fuel consumption and growing concern over global warming, worldwide interest in ethanol made from biomass is on the rise. Using wood waste from construction, agriculture, forestry and other sources, Bio Ethanol Japan aims to produce 1,400 kiloliters (370,000 gallons) of ethanol fuel in its initial year, and eventually plans to boost annual production capacity to 4,000 kiloliters (1.06 million gallons). The bioethanol will be mixed with gasoline at a concentration of 3%, helping to reduce fossil fuel consumption and lessen the impact on global warming.

The Ministry of Environment, which provided assistance in establishing the plant, has officially recognized the enterprise as a business model contributing to the reduction of global warming. Environment Minister Masatoshi Wakabayashi is scheduled to attend the opening ceremony.

The use of ethanol as an automotive fuel figures prominently into the Japanese government's Biomass Nippon Strategy, which is designed to promote the production and use of biomass fuel. In addition to reducing CO2 emissions, the widespread use of ethanol fuel encourages the recycling of construction-derived wood waste and furthers efforts to create a more recycling-oriented society.

Now, if Bio Ethanol Japan Kansai could figure out a way to make fuel from the 63 million pairs of disposable chopsticks thrown out every day in Japan...

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

JR tests fuel cell hybrid train

19 Oct 2006

NE Train -- On October 19, East Japan Railway Company (JR East) made a test run of its NE Train (New Energy Train) -- the world's first fuel cell hybrid train -- in Yokohama's Kanazawa ward.

With two 65-kilowatt fuel cells and six hydrogen tanks under the floor and a secondary battery on the roof, the clean train emits only water and runs without receiving juice from power lines. The train can travel at a maximum speed of 100 kph (60 mph) for 50 to 100 km (30 to 60 miles) without a hydrogen refill.

Thirty passengers boarded the train for the test run, which consisted of a series of back-and-forth jaunts along a 300-meter test track. The train smoothly accelerated to a maximum speed of 50 kph (30 mph), providing a ride quality no different from an ordinary train.

A separate fuel cell train is under development by the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), but the NE Train differs in that it is a hybrid relying on a secondary battery that stores electricity generated during braking. The secondary battery provides auxiliary power during acceleration or when fuel cell power is insufficient.

JR East hopes to see hybrid commuter trains in widespread use in 10 to 20 years. Lowering the cost and improving the mileage of fuel cells is a serious challenge, but the effort is not without reward. In addition to environmental benefits, eliminating the need for unsightly power lines means lower infrastructure costs and a prettier landscape to look at from the train window.

Testing of the train on public tracks will begin next April.

[Source: Chunichi Shimbun]

Bento-flavored biodiesel

08 Sep 2006


Plenus Co., Ltd., which operates Japan's nationwide take-out bento chain Hokka Hokka Tei (a.k.a. Hokka Hokka Bento, or Hokka-ben) and Yayoiken restaurants, has unveiled plans to begin recycling the used cooking oil from its 2,400 branches into fuel for its delivery vehicles. According to the plan slated for launch in January 2007, the company will establish 6 refining facilities in 3 years with the capability of producing 3.3 million liters (870,000 gallons) of fuel from 3.7 million liters (975,000 gallons) of used cooking oil -- enough to fuel its entire fleet of delivery vehicles, Plenus claims.

Discarded cooking oil makes for a viable alternative to diesel once it is mixed with methanol and refined into biodiesel. After the refining process, the fuel will be supplied to the company's 300 diesel delivery trucks through a network of independent filling stations.

Plenus will establish the initial refinery base in Fukuoka in January 2007 with 130 million yen (US$1.1 million) in capital. Subsequent refineries will be established in Saitama, Yamanashi and Miyagi prefectures, and in Hokkaido and Osaka. The company hopes to establish an efficient fuel supply system and cut overall fuel costs.

[Source: Nikkei Net]