According to The Nikkei Asia, automotive suppliers Asahi Kasei and JFE Steel have jumped onto the decarbonization bandwagon by developing processes that save energy and reduce the industry's carbon footprint.
Asahi Kasei, a chemical producer, is creating coating material for automotive steel sheets that can be applied at lower temperatures while maintaining conventional performance. The product could erase 300,000 tons of carbon output annually if adopted by the entire Japanese auto industry.
Coating is the most carbon-intensive auto production process due to the amount of heat involved. Automotive coating is normally baked on in drying furnaces set at 140 degrees Celsius. Asahi Kasei's new coats would lower the temperature to 80 C and decrease the number of baking sessions.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japanese auto parts supplier Denso Corp. is working on a technology to recover carbon dioxide (CO2) from production processes as a renewable energy source that is expected to play a key role in realizing a carbon-free manufacturing industry.
Denso, one of Japan’s largest car component businesses, with an eye on commercializing the technology by 2030, plans to make its use common and contribute to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
Yukihiro Shinohara, a senior executive officer at Denso, said during an online event in May that the company "will be heading toward a carbon-neutral factory system with the CO2 circulation technique.”
Denso, which was established in 1949 by spinning off the electric equipment department from what is now Toyota Motor Corp., installed the CO2 circulation plant in July last year on the grounds of its Anjo facilities in Anjo, Aichi Prefecture.
The plant retrieves CO2 generated by gas-based machines, so the collected CO2 and hydrogen are combined to produce methane for fuel. It was jointly created by Denso and Toyota Central R&D Labs Inc., another Toyota group firm in the prefecture’ s Nagakute.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review, the airline will start a passenger transportation service connecting airports and tourist destinations in Mie Prefecture, among other areas. It plans to develop the business into one that can carry people around various locations as a taxi does.
The move comes amid growing competition to put flying cars to practical use in markets around the world. Putting in place the necessary safety regulations will be key for the industry to take off in Japan.
JAL will use the aircraft of Volocopter, a German startup in which it invested in 2020. It is a two-seater drone-type aircraft called eVTOL, or electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, with a cruising range of 35 km. It can fly at up to 110 km per hour.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, the motorized wheel is designed to replace the existing counterparts on ordinary wheelbarrows. Almost all models of handcarts available in the market in Japan are compatible with it.
As the aspiring robot designer slogged away loading mikan fruit into wheelbarrows, it occurred to him that surely there had to be a less exhausting way to do it.
Mikan farmers in Wakayama and Ehime prefectures and other clients across Japan are embracing the E-Cat Kit, which can be used to modify various types of carts, to move loads more easily.
The E-Cat's system is comprised of a motor-mounted wheel and a controller to operate it.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, Shimadzu Corp. applied research pioneered by a Nobel laureate to develop a non-invasive system to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with just a few droplets of blood.
“This is the world’s first system to measure a biomarker for Alzheimer’s disease in blood,” said Koichi Tanaka, now an executive research fellow at the Kyoto-based precision instrument maker.
“As only part of the whole mechanism of dementia is understood, we will continue to improve the system in the hope of contributing to figuring it out.”
In 2002, Tanaka, 61, shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two others for developing a new method for mass spectrometric analyses of biological macromolecules.
According to The Nikkei Asia, Japanese energy company Eneos and plant engineer Chiyoda will build a facility that manufactures hydrogen without carbon dioxide emissions at one-third the current cost, a breakthrough in the nation's push toward decarbonization.
The plant will use a proprietary electrolysis technology to significantly lower necessary investment, with the aim of bringing down the price of hydrogen to 330 yen, or roughly $3, per kilogram. Eneos and Chiyoda are looking at Australia and other locations as candidates to build the plant in 2030.
Hydrogen, which can power automobiles or power plants without generating CO2, is seen by some as vital to decarbonization efforts, but production costs have remained high. Hydrogen costs roughly 1,100 yen per kilogram in the Japanese market, and the government seeks to bring down the figure to 330 yen by 2030 and eventually to 220 yen.
The method developed by Eneos and Chiyoda electrolyzes both water and toluene at the same, instead of through separate processes, to create methylcyclohexane, or MCH. This simplification of the process slashes facility investment by half.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, a Tokyo-based IT company developed a 3-D mapping system to reproduce data on flooding in stricken areas in almost real time based on images posted on social media.
The technology is aimed at helping rescue services and residents quickly grasp the extent of inundation in local areas.
“It (the map system) will lead to faster development of disaster management plans by municipalities and companies,” said a representative of Spectee Inc., which used artificial intelligence (AI) to develop the system.
Based on image analysis using AI, the firm automatically judged road surface conditions and detected and predicted river flooding.
According to The Nikkei Asia, a biomass power plant operator in Japan is in the process of purchasing coal-fired plants from a major power company and other parties that it plans to refit so that they burn its cleaner fuel, Nikkei has learned.
eRex has entered into talks with companies that own coal-fired plants in Japan's Kanto, Hokuriku and Shikoku regions. The biomass plant operator is looking to acquire about four coal-fired plants of about 150,000kW to 500,000kW each, for tens of billions of yen.
The independent power supplier would install storage facilities and crushers needed for biomass fuel, then start operations in 2022 or later. Coal would initially be mixed with biomass, which would account for about 30% of the fuel. The plants would run solely on biomass by around 2025.
According to The Nikkei Asia, one of Japan's biggest civil engineering groups has developed a navigation system for construction vehicles that does not rely on GPS or other satellite positioning data, allowing them to guide themselves in remote places.
Tokyo-based Taisei's technology, which uses laser sensors to make three-dimensional maps of a vehicle's surroundings, is thought to be the first of its kind developed in Japan. Its industry peers at home have made their own forays into autonomous-driving technology, but they rely on signals in the sky to guide their vehicles.
Taisei now looks to adapt the system to real-world projects in tunnels and other areas where GPS signals are difficult or impossible to reach, helping cope with a construction labor shortages by automating more machinery.
The 3D-map locates obstacles in the vehicle's way and allows it to chart detours around them. The technology was recently tried on a tracked dump truck, which drove 5 kph through a tunnel. Once the sensor-equipped vehicle travels through such a simple environment once with an operator on board, it is able to collect enough take to drive itself on later trips.
According to The Nikkei Asia, the Japanese government will lead a public-private effort to develop technology recycling carbon dioxide into burnable fuel to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury.
Working with 19 private-sector businesses, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will set up a council tasked with addressing the national goal as soon as this month. The body will form part of Japan's growth strategy to be completed later in June.
Members will share relevant technology for turning captured carbon dioxide into methane, a main component of heating gas. The council will also deliberate on rules governing carbon dioxide trading.
Participants of the carbon-recycling committee will include corporate heavyweights Tokyo Gas, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, Nippon Steel and JFE Steel. Trading conglomerate Mitsubishi Corp., auto parts supplier Denso, marine shipper Nippon Yusen and the state-backed Development Bank of Japan will partake as well.
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