Tag: ‘Energy’

JR passengers to generate electricity at train stations

01 Aug 2006

Ticket gate electric generatorThe East Japan Railway Company (JR-East), as part of research aimed at developing more environmentally friendly train stations, is testing an experimental system that produces electricity as people pass through ticket gates. JR claims that this sort of human-powered electricity generation system may provide a portion of the electricity consumed at train stations in the future.

The ticket gate electricity generation system relies on a series of piezo elements embedded in the floor under the ticket gates, which generate electricity from the pressure and vibration they receive as people step on them. When combined with high-efficiency storage systems, the ticket gate generators can serve as a clean source of supplementary power for the train stations. Busy train stations (and those with large numbers of passengers willing to bounce heavily through the gates) will be able to accumulate a relatively large amount of electricity.

JR-East, who worked with Keio University to develop the system, claims that in addition to being put to use as an independent power supply that does not require hardwiring, the system can also be used as a way of measuring the traffic flow through ticket gates.

The system is being tested at the JR-East head office in Shibuya, where it is installed at the entrance to the reception area on the 4th floor. As visitors pass through the gate, a lamp lights up, signifying that electricity has been produced. Testing of the system will continue until August 11.

[Source: Chunichi Shimbun via /.Japan]

Follow the solar brick road

11 Apr 2006

Solar LED blocks from Sunlight Sunlight Co., Ltd., a venture company based in Himeji, Japan, has unveiled a new line of self-illuminating bricks that contain solar-powered LEDs. The company expects the solar LED blocks, which are powered by sunshine collected during the day, to be used in the construction of public roads and parks.

Embedded in sidewalks, the solar LED blocks can provide lighting underfoot at night and during power outages, and can be used for decorative purposes or for emergency evacuation lighting. The block's built-in solar cells and light components are arranged so that illumination is distributed evenly across the entire surface, an improvement over Sunlight?s previous solar LED blocks that featured a segregated component arrangement.

The bricks use solar cells that efficiently store and generate electricity even on cloudy days or under poor lighting conditions, and they can emit up to 8 hours of continuous light (or 24 hours of blinking light).

"In addition to improving the scenery, these lights can play a role in accident prevention and in emergency lighting during a disaster," says Yoshikazu Arai, President of Sunlight. "And they are environmentally friendly, too." The blocks start at 12,000 yen (US$100) and come in 5 colors.

[Source: Kobe Shimbun]

Japan Railways to test world’s first fuel cell-powered train

05 Apr 2006

On April 4, the East Japan Railway Company reported progress in the development of the world's first fuel cell-powered train. With the prototype nearing completion, the company announced plans to begin trial runs in order to collect data before putting the train into commercial service.

According to officials, the test train consists of one car and is powered by two 65kW fuel cells that enable speeds of up to 100 kph (60 mph). The train is an upgraded version of JR's New Energy (NE) train -- an experimental diesel-electric hybrid developed in 2003 -- whose diesel generator has been replaced with fuel cells. The new fuel cell-powered NE train is scheduled to begin service in the summer of 2007 on the rural, non-electrified Koumi Line in Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures.

Hydrogen stored in a tank aboard the train is supplied to the fuel cells, where it reacts with oxygen to produce electricity. Unused electricity and electricity generated during braking is stored in a secondary battery, which is used as an auxiliary power source. In addition to being energy-efficient, hydrogen fuel cells emit no carbon dioxide (a contributor to global warming), only water.

[Source: Fuji Sankei]

Competition heats up between Tokyo power giants

13 Mar 2006

LIFUELTokyo Gas is beefing up efforts to popularize its "My Home Hatsuden" products, which use natural gas to generate household electricity. Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc. (TEPCO), despite intensifying its push for all-electric housing, has expressed alarm and opposition to Tokyo Gas.

Last year, Tokyo Gas released the LIFUEL household fuel cell cogeneration system, which extracts hydrogen from natural gas along with oxygen from the air to generate electricity through a reverse chemical reaction. This year, Tokyo Gas expanded its lineup with the ECOWILL system, which uses a natural gas-powered engine to generate electricity. Both of these "My Home Hatsuden" products aim to capitalize on household energy demand at the expense of electric power companies.

LIFUEL and ECOWILL use the heat exhausted during electricity generation to heat household water. While able to supply 40 to 50% of the electricity for an average family of four, they can provide sufficient quantities of hot water. High power-generation efficiency and heat efficiency mean both systems are able to cut the amount of electricity required for heating water by 20%, contributing to reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

Use of LIFUEL can save about 60,000 yen (US$520) per year in heating and lighting costs, while ECOWILL can save about 27,000 yen (US$235) per year. The higher-priced LIFUEL system rents for 100,000 yen (US$870) per year. Government subsidies are available for purchasing ECOWILL, so the cost to the consumer is 6 to 7 million yen (around $5,000 to $6,000).

Tokyo Gas was initially focused on developing household fuel cells. However, after TEPCO stepped up efforts in its push for all-electric housing, Tokyo Gas decided to counter by focusing on ECOWILL until fuel cells achieve full-scale popularization -- which they believe will occur around 2008. Tokyo Gas plans to increase the installation of ECOWILL and LIFUEL in general households from 200 units in 2005 to a cumulative total of 43,000 units in 2010. Norio Ichino, President of Tokyo Gas, expects "My Home Hatsuden" to play a key role in their business in 4 to 5 years.

[Source: Mainichi Shimbun]

Combustible ice found off Niigata coast

21 Feb 2006

Methane hydrate: combustible iceOutcrops of combustible ice, or methane hydrate (also known as methane ice or methane clathrate), which many view as a potential source of fuel in the future, have been discovered on the ocean floor near the coastal city of Joetsu in Niigata prefecture. According to a statement made by scientists on February 20, the methane hydrate appears to be the exposed tips of ice columns that extend about 100 meters (325 feet) beneath the ocean floor.

The recent discovery marks the first time that exposed methane hydrate deposits have been found in Japanese waters. Methane hydrate, which is normally found several hundred meters beneath the ocean floor, is a sherbert-like substance that burns when exposed to flame. It forms when low temperature and high pressure under the ocean floor causes methane molecules to become trapped inside frozen water molecules.

Scientists from the University of Tokyo, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) are working together to collect samples from two points located at depths of 800 to 1000 meters (2600 to 3300 feet), about 30 kilometers (19 miles) offshore. They are using unmanned submarines to collect the ice. Based on the high electrical conductivity of the ground beneath the ocean floor, the scientists suspect the existence of large underground columns of methane hydrate.

While methane hydrate is being hailed as a potential source of fuel in the future, methane is a greenhouse gas. Methane is generated when organic matter in deep layers of sedimentary rock breaks down due to heating. The methane moves into upper layers, where it accumulates and forms methane hydrate. As the temperature rises and pressure falls, methane hydrate dissociates into methane and water. The resulting methane concentration in the surrounding seawater ranges from dozens to thousands of times higher than normal.

The research group is also committed to exploring the impact that the use of methane hydrate will have on global warming.

[Source: Asahi Shimbun]