New Proteins, Better batteries and Digital Grids

Life Sciences, environment and engineering News from the Tokyo Science and Innovation Section 5 December 2011

News Headlines

Life Sciences

Mechanism of degrading aggregates of ubiquitinated proteins
Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute have identified a part of the mechanism in which aggregates of ubiquitinated proteins are degraded. Their research result shows that phosphorylated protein p62 is involved in the removal and delivery of such aggregates for their degradation. Accumulation of abnormal protein aggregates is considered to be associated with onset and progress of neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. (21 October 2011, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)

TMDU researchers identified protein which inhibits bone formation
A research group lead by Professor Hiroshi Takayanagi of Tokyo Medical and Dental University has unravelled that a protein Sema4D suppresses osteoblastic bone formation. Bone metabolism involves osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation. However, the mechanism of how bone formation is regulated has been unknown. It is expected that the research result will lead to new potential drug targets for disease such as osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis that acts on osteoblasts and promotes bone formation. (24 October 2011, Nikkei Shimbun)


Energy and Environment

Significant performance improvements on storage battery

Toyota Motors, Tokyo Institution of Technology and High Energy Accelerator Research Organization have developed a prototype storage battery which provides same level of driving distance as gasoline engine car, while reducing the cost by simplifying the structure of the battery. Matsuda Motor and Hiroshima University also developed new Spherical carbon molecular electrode which doubles battery capacity. NEC also announced a Lithium ion storage cell for residential use with a life cycle of 20 years. These three companies aim to lead the developing storage battery market. (17 October 2011, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)

Prevailing renewable energy by constructing new electric power grid

NEC, University of Tokyo and Advanced Science and Technology will develop a new electric power system called the “Digital Grid”, which will apply the principle of internet routers to configure power generation and 5 storage cells. The system manages power supply for several hundred residences, routing power upon demand to each individual residence. The system has the capacity to be expanded to connect to the wider power grid with very low impact of transmission lines. NEC plans to commercialise the system within three years. (4 October 2011, Nikkei Shimbun)

New low temperature heat pump developed

Chubu Electric Power and Mitsubishi Electric have developed heat pump capable of functioning at temperatures as low as -25 degrees Celsius. Conventional heat pumps do not operate heating mode under -15 degrees Celsius. The new system includes an injection circuit for boosting refrigerant volume and
accelerating the movment cycle. According to provisional calculations, the system reduces energy consumption by 42%, CO2 emission by 54%, and running costs by 29% compared to conventional model. (6 October 2011, Denki Shimbun)

Generating electricity by car emission

Toyota Central R&D Labs found that a mixture of 30% oxygen and 70% carbon dioxide improves the storage capacity of lithium batteries, improving the electric power reaction by a factor of three compared to using just oxygen. Using this method, the energy density is 2360 Wh- six to seven times that of lithium batteries - and ten times the storage capacity of manganese dry-cells. (21 October 2011, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)



Rare earth free technology for petroleum refinery

JGC C&C has developed a catalyst which will drastically reduce the use of rare earth in the fluid catalytic cracking process used in petroleum refineryies. Under the current process, rare earths such as lanthanum and cerium are essential materials for FCC, but the new catalyst, which has similar chemical and physical characteristics to conventional materials, might make the need for rare earth catalysts redundant in the near future. (14 October 2011, Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun)

Long lasting organic EL

Idemitsu Kosan has developed a new organic material that will greatly enhance the lifetime of organic EL displays. The technology will allow displays to last for 2000 hours, four times longer than conventional products, while keeping sufficient brightness and achieving a 10% higher luminance efficiency. The company hopes that the long-life panels will be a great advantage in expanding the sales of organic EL panels in global markets. (28 October 2011, Nikkei Sangyo Shimbun)