to Release 1-seater Electric Robot


Feb 25, 2010 14:53 Tsunenori Tomioka, Nikkei Monozukuri

ZMP Inc will release the “RoboCar G,” a one-seater electric vehicle (EV), expecting that it will be used for the researches of next-generation vehicles.

The RoboCar G is based on a one-seater EV developed by the Next-gen EV Study Group at Gunma University. And ZMP added its technologies and know-how accumulated from the development of the Robocar, a platform for research and development assistance in the field of robotics (See related article), to it.

“We developed the RoboCar G for research and development using a car that is large enough for practical use,” ZMP said.

Sensors that can be mounted on the vehicle include a laser range finder, a stereo camera, a GPS (global positioning system), an IMU (inertial measurement unit), a milliwave radar and a sonar sensor. Sensors will be mounted in accordance with user needs and connected with one another via a network. And the RoboCar G will be shipped as a computer-controlled robot vehicle.

It will be built to order, and its price will be determined based on the types and the number of mounted sensors. Shipment will begin in or after November 2010.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 3rd March 2010




After getting official over a year ago, missing its original production plan and eventually hitting a wall with respect to production, Tata‘s long-awaited Nano vehicle is all set to take to the streets this July. According to a fresh report over at Reuters, the world’s cheapest car (100,000 rupee, or $1,980) is expected to be the hottest thing around when it ships in India in a matter of months. In fact, there are so many orders waiting to be filled, initial owners will be “randomly selected from bookings made between April 9 and 25.” We’re also told that a European variant will be launched by 2011, and while a US model is still a possibility, no firm launch date has been given there. Good luck getting your rear into one, and be sure and shoot us a few hands-on shots if you do.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 29th Sept 2009


“Create the Future” Sustainable

Technologies Category Winner

The 2008 NASA Tech Briefs “Create the Future Design Contest,” presented by SolidWorks, recognized innovation in product design in six categories: Consumer Products, Machinery & Equipment, Medical, Safety & Security, Sustainable Technologies, and Transportation. Here is the winner of the Sustainable Technologies category, along with the two honorable mentions.

Efficient Air Conditioner

Lindsay Meek
Perth, Australia


altThis design improves the energy efficiency of a residential air conditioner by replacing the traditional reciprocating compressor (bore and stroke) with a higher efficiency permanent magnet motor coupled to a scroll compressor. Recent advances in permanent magnet motors used in modern hybrid car electric drives and wind turbine generation have seen the incorporation of strong NdFeB magnets into the rotor, which greatly improves the motor efficiency. The compressor motor is then driven by a compact IGBT inverter stage with a motor controller, so motor current consumption can be optimized at the different operating speeds.

The other improvement that can be made is to replace the traditional refrigerant expansion valve with a similar scroll expander turbine coupled to a second permanent magnet generator. The decompression of the refrigerant gas through the turbine on its way to the condenser allows some of the work used to compress the gas to be recovered and converted back into electrical energy. The generator is connected to a second compact IGBT inverter stage with a motor controller, and can be controlled in conjunction with the compressor motor controller to regulate the pressure and flow rate of the gas through the system.

The two inverters are connected together via a common, high-voltage DC bus, so the electrical energy recovered from the decompression state can be reused by the compression stage, improving the overall efficiency of the refrigeration cycle. Finally, an AC-DC rectifier power supply is needed to provide the main work energy for the DC bus to keep the cycle operating. The above improvements should lower the power consumption by at least 30%.

For more information, contact the inventor at

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009


Coupled Water Tower/Wind Turbine Controller
Andras Tanczos
Helsinki, Finland


altA jointed water tower/wind turbine controller stores wind energy in the water towers of the drinking water network. At strong winds, the extra electrical energy generated by the wind turbine can be used to pump water into the water tower. When there is no wind, this energy can be released with a hydro-turbine, and the water goes back to the wells. The pump of the water tower and the hydro-turbine are used to control the water level in the reservoir. The electricity from the wind turbine is used for pumping the water or for supplying the electrical grid. The controller can also be installed on existing water towers and water tanks placed on top of buildings.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 8th Sept 2009


Plastic Solar Cells For Electronic Devices

Currently silicon-based solar cells are flooding the market. Industry pundits can foresee a hopeful future for low-cost, flexible solar cells. If we can make solar devices other than silicon based materials then they can be used for all sorts of applications beyond just the traditional solar panels on house rooftops. It will be great if we can have solar cells for portable electronic devices too.

Luping Yu, Professor in Chemistry, and Yongye Liang, a Ph.D. student, both at the University of Chicago, and five co-authors are working to develop a new semiconducting material called PTB1, which converts sunlight into electricity. The University accredited the patent rights to the technology to Solarmer last September. The license covers numerous polymers under development in Yu’s laboratory, confirmed by Matthew Martin. He is a project manager at University of ChicagoTech, the University’s Office of Technology and Intellectual Property. A patent is pending.

Solarmer Energy Inc. is spreading its wings in this direction. They are willing to incorporate technology invented at the University of Chicago. The commercial-grade prototype will be completed at the end of this year. It will be eight square inches with a lifetime of three years. This plastic solar device will have the efficiency of eight percent. This eight percent efficiency will give an edge to the Solarmer Energy Inc. over its competitors. Dina Lozofsky, vice president of IP development and strategic alliances at Solarmer states, “Everyone in the industry is in the 5 percent to 6 percent range.”

The active layer of PTB1 is around 100 nanometers in thickness, and the width is nearly 1,000 atoms. If we want to produce a small amount of the PTB1 material it will take considerable amount of time, and the whole procedure will be multi-step process. But, still the biggest advantage of this technology lies in its simplicity. Several products are being synthesized in other laboratories in the U.S., but the competitive advantage lies in the steps of production too. Other devices need far more extensive engineering work for commercial viability. “We think that our system has potential,” Yu said. “The best system so far reported is 6.5%, but that’s not a single device. That’s two devices.”

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


Panasonic to Test

External-combustion Engine for

Recovering Waste Heat in Plant


Estir Co Ltd, a venture team of Panasonic Corp, started a verification test of the “Waste Heat Recovery Stirring Engine,” which generates electric power from waste heat in a plant, in June 2009 at Panasonic Nara Plant in Japan.

The company will test the reliability of the engine at the plant in operation in the aim of commercializing it in fiscal 2011.

estir has been engaged in the development of the stirring engine in collaboration with the National Maritime Research Institute since 2005. And it has already achieved a power generation efficiency of 15% with waste heat that was emitted from industrial furnaces such as drying, blast and heat-treating furnaces, power generating facilities, boilers and motors and has a temperature from 300 to 650°C.

This time, the company will attach the stirring engine to the chimney flue of the high-pressure air distribution equipment in Panasonic Nara Plant. It generates 500W output power by using part of waste heat having a temperature of about 300 to 500°C, which is lower than before.

If estir can verify the reliability in the test, it will develop a power generating engine with a capacity of about 5 to 10kW within fiscal 2009 in prospect of commercialization and aim to release a product in fiscal 2011 as an engine able to reduce CO2 emission at production sites.


In the industrial world, about 10% of primary energy such as petroleum and natural gas is discarded as waste heat. Therefore, energy recovery from waste heat is a major issue in reducing environmental loads.

A stirring engine is an external-combustion engine that expands and compresses the air inside the engine by using an outer heat source to obtain drive force. It can use various heat sources for power generation and is gaining attention especially in the field of energy conservation.

There has already been a stirring engine that uses heat of combustion gas with a temperature of more than 1,000°C. But it has been difficult to commercialize a stirring engine that uses waste heat having a temperature of about 300 to 500°C, such as waste heat in a plant, due to the low power generation efficiency and high costs.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


Exhibition Features LED

Fluorescent Lamps

A number of exhibitors showed off LED tube lamps that can be installed in existing fluorescent lamp sockets at the LED/OLED Lighting Technology Expo, which took place in Tokyo from April 15 to 17, 2009.

KFE Japan Co Ltd, for example, showcased Taiwan-made LED fluorescent lamps, which it started renting in March 2009. The company is currently renting 40 and 120cm long models for a minimum monthly fee of ¥135 (approx US$1.37) per lamp. And it will enhance the lineup and offer 30, 60 and 240cm long models from this fall.

Although LED fluorescent lamps are already available in the market, there was an increase in the number of such products that can be used with existing fluorescent lamp sockets. Many of the previous products need electric works to remove the existing sockets and reconnect wires for installation. However, if the existing sockets do not need to be removed, it is very easy to install LED fluorescent lamps.

For example, TriGem Japan Corp’s LED fluorescent lamps are compatible with about 200 kinds of sockets being used in Japan and Korea and can be installed without electrical work if the fluorescent lamp sockets are glow or rapid start type. They also support some inverter type sockets, the company said.

The products of Korea-based Teklux Co Ltd, which will be released by Japanese limited liability partnership Eco-Consortium LLP, can be used with the existing sockets except those for HF type fluorescent lamps.

The power consumption of the “TL120,” which corresponds to a 40W 120cm-long lamp, and the “TL60,” which is a substitute for a 20W 60cm-long lamp, are 23W and 13W, respectively. They will be priced at ¥18,000 and 10,000, respectively. Full-fledged sales of the products will now begin in Japan.

Koha Co Ltd will also launch a 20W-equivalent glow start type product and a 40W-equivalent rapid start type product for ¥17,000 and 10,000, respectively. Also, Toshin Electric Co Ltd released a 40W product that supports both glow and rapid start sockets (inverter type sockets are not supported).

However, some people are raising concerns about those products.

“Their power-saving effect is lessened as a result of the power consumed by the sockets, and their safety has not been verified yet,” according to an LED lamp manufacturer. Some manufacturers are recommending that customers remove the existing sockets for such reasons.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


China to Push Green Cars

India to Focus on Electric Vehicles

A number of lectures on the policies and current states of electric vehicle (EV) development in China and India were delivered at the 24th International Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition (EVS24), which took place in Norway from May 13 to 16, 2009.

China is planning to allot half the total transportation energy consumption to EVs and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) that primarily use energy other than petroleum by 2020. In India, on the other hand, the diffusion of EVs has become an important issue due to its environmental problems and transportation conditions.

Gasoline cars, EVs to co-exist for some time in China

Automotive sales are growing extremely fast in China. They reached about 9.3 million units in 2008 and are likely to surpass 10 million units, the largest sales volume in the world, in 2010. The number of vehicles owned in China is currently 40 million and is forecast to reach 150 million in 2020.

C. C. Chan, president of the Electric Vehicle Association of Asia Pacific China, and Duan Ruichun, executive president of Chinese Electro-technical Society China, reported data on automotive development including EVs in China.

China is planning to reduce gasoline cars and hybrids, which are powered primarily by oil, and allot half the total energy consumption in the transportation segment to EVs and FCVs, which are powered by energies other than oil, Chan said.

As half of the existing cars will remain, China will (1) maintain the infrastructure for gasoline and other liquid fuels, (2) make its mileage regulation for gasoline cars etc, meet international standards and (3) give priority to high-efficiency direct-injection engine cars and hybrids until 2020.

Ruichun said China is conducting 863 projects concerning EV and FCV development to meet this goal. As a result of those projects, EVs and hybrids are currently running in 13 cities in China. And the Chinese government is planning to increase the number of those vehicles to more than 1,000 units within three years.

At first, EVs and FCVs will be diffused as means of public transportation. To accomplish this goal, the government will increase the subsidies for purchasers of electric buses, etc. For example, for the purchase of a hybrid, electric or fuel-cell bus with a total length of 10m or more, a subsidy of up to Rmb420,000 (about ¥5.88 million or US$61,600), 500,000 (¥7 million) or 600,000 (¥8.4 million) will be paid, respectively.

As for the purchase of a general EV, a subsidy of up to Rmb50,000 (¥700,000), 60,000 (840,000) and 250,000 (3.5 million) will be granted to the purchaser of a hybrid, EV and FCV, respectively.

Aided by those stimulative policies, China is already at a state where it can start producing core technologies for EVs and automotive platforms, Ruichun said.

“We have already achieved 2,000W/kg output density of a Li-ion secondary battery with a current capacity of 6 to 100Ah and mounted a 1,300W/kg output motor with more than 93% efficiency on a car,” he said, emphasizing the fact that EV development is making smooth progress in China.

EVs are suited for India

Meanwhile, Indian population will outnumber the world’s largest Chinese population, exceeding 1.4 billion in about 2030. The Indian automotive market has been growing at an annual rate of more than 15% as well. The market will maintain the same scale as in the preceding year even during the global recession of 2008 to 2009.

The diffusion of EVs seems to have become a pressing challenge in India.

“Considering environmental issues, we will face a serious trouble if we do not start spreading more EVs in priority to gasoline cars,” said Chetan Maini, deputy chairman and CTO of Reva Electric Company of India.

“In large cities, the degree of atmospheric pollution due to auto emission is by far worse than our safety standards,” said Shanta Chatterji, chairman and managing director of Chattelec Vehicles India Ltd of India. “And the number of deaths caused by diseases from air pollution has already outpaced that of deaths in traffic accidents.”

EVs are suited not only for environmental reasons but also for transportation conditions in India. Behind this is the fact that “long-distance driving is difficult in India because of heavy traffic congestion in urban areas,” Maini said. He revealed that 95% or more of automobiles in India are estimated to travel 80km or less per trip, with 80% traveling 25km or less.

“An EV equipped with a Li-ion secondary battery can travel about 120km per charge,” Maini said. “In other words, more than 95% of cars in India can be covered. Even when traveling 240km, the EV can travel the distance with a quick charge for about 1.5 hours. So, there will be no problem if more than 99% of cars in India are EVs.”

Moreover, there is little chance that traffic congestions will improve in India, where urban population is expected to increase about 50% in 20 years.

Nevertheless, the current hottest car in India is the low-priced gasoline car, “Nano,” which Tata Motors Ltd of India is planning to release. Reportedly, nearly 200,000 units of the Nano have already been ordered.

“The diffusion of the Nano is likely to worsen the current transportation conditions and environmental issues,” Maini said, commenting on the Nano.

The Nano can be used as the second car in urban areas or a convenient car for people in rural areas. In India, the number of cars purchased as the second car has reportedly surpassed that of first car purchases since 2005.

EVs recently started to penetrate India. The total sales of electric motorcycles and EVs were about 10,000 units in 2007 to 2008, but the sales are expected to sharply soar to about 110,000 units in 2008 to 2009. However, electric motorcycles are making up the majority of the sales.

Although there are more than 15 manufacturers of electric motorcycles in India, only few Indian manufacturers deal with EVs or hybrids. At this moment, Reva is the only EV manufacturer and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd is the only hybrid manufacturer in India. Tata, on the other hand, is planning to market EVs in Europe as a starter.

The Indian government is currently devising policies with three pillars, “ecology,” “economy” and “social equity,” to diffuse EVs. Of these three pillars, EVs hold the key to both ecology and economy, Chatterji said.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


Mitsubishi Heavy to Test CO2

Recovery from Coal-fired Flue Gas

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (MHI) and Southern Company, a major US power company, will jointly launch a field test in 2011 to recover high-purity carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-fired flue gas.

The two companies will set up a CO2 recovery demonstration plant, which is designed to be built at a medium-scale thermal power station in Alabama, the US. Based on the results of this demonstration plant, they will aim to commercialize the recovery plant in the future.

The field test will be subsidized by the US government. The demonstration plant will be constructed in Plant Barry, a coal-fired power station owned by Southern’s subsidiary Alabama Power. Recovered CO2 will be compressed and stored in an aquifer deep underground.

The demonstration plant is composed of various facilities such as those for pre-processing, CO2 absorption/reclamation (absorption and reclamation towers) and CO2 injection. The plant will recover 500t of CO2 per day (equivalent to that produced when 25,000kW electricity is generated). The recovery rate is 90% or higher. The purity of recovered CO2 is expected to be 99.9%.

The recovery process is as follows. Coal-fired flue gas contains not only CO2 but also ‘impurities’ such as SOx, NOx, heavy metals and halogen compounds. These impurities are removed as much as possible in the pre-processing facilities, and the flue gas is cooled to near room temperature.

Flue gas with most impurities removed is taken into the absorption tower. Inside the tower, the gas is brought into contact with an absorbing solution so that only CO2 is absorbed into the solution. The solvent, “KS-1,” is an amine-based material co-developed by MHI and Kansai Electric Power Co Inc.

Next, the solution containing CO2 is sent to the reclamation tower, where CO2 and the solution are separated from each other by heating. Then, CO2 is recovered, and the solution is recycled.

MHI has already commercialized a system to recover CO2 from natural gas-fired flue gas. But, in order to apply this system to coal-fired flue gas, an additional process is required to remove heavy metals and halogen compounds because the impurities contained in natural gas-fired flue gas are only SOx and NOx.

Electric Power Development Co Ltd is also testing a CO2 recovery plant for coal-fired flue gas at its Matsushima Thermal Power Plant. However, the amount of CO2 recovered at the plant is only 10t per day. Therefore, a field test needs to be carried out using a larger scale plant for commercialization.

In addition to the field test announced this time, MHI is planning to construct a demonstration plant with a recovery capacity of 3,000t per day in the UK and intends to start trial operations in 2015.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009


NGK Develops High-efficiency

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Jun 15, 2009 17:53
Hiroshi Idegawa, Nikkei Monozukuri

NGK Insulators Ltd developed a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) that uses hydrogen gas as fuel and achieved a lower heating value (LHV) of 63%, one of the highest in the world.

The SOFC features a power output of 700W and an operating temperature of 800°C.

The company lowered the resistance value by completely coating the cell’s supporting anode with a thin film (5?m thick) of electrolyte (zirconia) and secured a sufficient power generation area by forming cathodes on both sides of the cell to achieve the large output, it said.

To evenly spread fuel gas to the entire cell, flow channels for fuel gas were formed inside the prototype cell. The thickness of the cell is 1.5mm. Also, the new fuel cell is superior in terms of size and cost because it can generate power on both the top and bottom sides and its flow channels eliminate the need for components (separators) to separate fuel gas from air, NGK Insulators said.

The company provided a stack in which tens of the cells are layered to a leading oil company in Japan, asking it to evaluate the fuel cell’s power generation performance. And it will aim to commercialize the cell for use in homes and commercial facilities such as convenience stores and shopping malls by further improving its performance. The company is planning to advance the development through technical alliances and joint developments with other companies.

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 1st July 2009