Japan and India to enter technology partnership  

October 25, 2018

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce the plans, which will see the two nations share their respective technological talents and expertise, during Modi’s visit to Japan set to begin on Sunday 28 October 2018.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016

Japan is well known for being one of the most technologically-advanced countries in the world. As competition from other countries intensifies, however, the country is seeking new ways to retain its superior status. One of these is to attract the most talented minds from elsewhere. Its most recent move in this direction will see Japan sign a technology agreement with India to promote the development of emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. “The partnership will include joint research, promotion of startups and development of human resources in both countries,” the newspaper said. The two countries have different strengths, with Japanese corporations excelling in areas such as infrastructure, consumer electronics, and automotive engineering, while Indian companies are renowned for expertise in software technology.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Tokyo this weekend. The agreement will be announced during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

According to the report, research and development in digital technology will be a focus of the partnership. “The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan’s largest state-sponsored research institute, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, are planning joint studies, initially in image recognition. The research may later expand into 5G mobile communications and robotics,” the Nikkei Asian Review stated.

Students from the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, have also attended a briefing by The Japan External Trade Organization along with a number of Japanese companies, to emphasise Japanese companies‘ desire to recruit Indian talent. Interviews will start in December for students expected to graduate in June of 2019, at the companies’ Indian offices and at headquarters in Japan.

The two countries also hope to expand into one another’s markets, and recently opened a joint office Japan in Bangalore, home of India’s tech industry, in order to help facilitate this. At this office, India’s government will provide support to Japanese companies looking to expand in India, and help Japanese companies find local partners and talent. Japan, meanwhile, will invite Indian businesses with competitive technologies and ideas to Japan, and help them collaborate with large Japanese companies.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


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Japan and China to collaborate on Thai smart city as first of 50 joint projects

October 25, 2018

The smart city will be built in Chonburi, Thailand

As part of their growing economic cooperation, Japan and China will announce their commitment to collaborate on around 50 private-sector, third-country infrastructure projects when they meet in Beijing on Friday, 26 October 2018, the Nikkei Asian Review reported. The first will see them set out plans to work together to build a smart city in Thailand, with construction to begin as early as this year.

Japanese urban development and green technology company Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance (YUSA) will work with low-cost Chinese construction company JSCC and Thailand’s largest builder and operator of industrial parks Amata, to upgrade an industrial park in the province of Chonburi, Thailand.

China hopes the partnership will be a boon for its controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – expected to be the world’s largest infrastructure project – while Japan believes it will benefit Japanese companies who often struggle to win bids against low-cost Chinese counterparts.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also attend a forum on infrastructure investment attended by 1,400 company representatives from both nations during his visit to the Chinese capital.

The Chonburi smart-city is one of many such projects planned across for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of plans to transform the regions infrastructure as it experiences rapid urbanisation and dramatic population growth.

According to the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), “a smart and sustainable city is an innovative city that uses ICTs and other means to improve the quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social and environmental aspects”.

The trend for smart cities across the ASEAN region has created business opportunities for Japanese companies in a range of fields, including environmental technology, housing, automotives and public transportation, the Nikkei Asian Review said.

The Japan-China joint projects will also include more than 10 deals in finance. The automotive industry will also be involved, creating technologies for next generation vehicles while members of the oil and energy sector will collaborate to build hydrogen filling stations for fuel cell vehicles.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review


 

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Ground-breaking Japanese space rover sends video of sun seen from asteroid’s surface

September 28, 2018

The Japanese space agency JAXA made history last week by becoming the first to land a rover on an asteroid. It has now released a video taken from the asteroid’s surface showing the sun moving across the sky.

 

The rovers were in good condition as they landed and began transmitting images and data.  “The good news made me so happy. From the surface of Ryugu, MINERVA-II1 sent a radio signal to the Earth via Hayabusa2 S/C. The image taken by MINERVA-II1 during a hop allowed me to relax as a dream of many years came true. I felt awed by what we had achieved in Japan. This is just a real charm of deep space exploration,” Takashi Kubota, Spokesperson for the Hayabusa2 Project said of the successful rover landingHayabusa2, launched in December 2014, will attempt next month to collect samples from the asteroid and carry them back to Earth for scientists to study. It is believed studying the composition of asteroids can provide information about the formation of the solar system billions of years ago.

Discovered in 1999, Ryugu is a 1-km wide, diamond-shaped asteroid situated 186 million miles from Earth. According to JAXA, it was chosen as the subject of the Hayabusa2 mission because it is “rich in water and organic materials,” which allows scientists to “clarify interactions between the building blocks of Earth and the evolution of its oceans and life, thereby developing solar system science.”

It was named Ryugu after Ryūgū (Dragon Palace), a magical underwater palace in a Japanese folktale. The story tells of a fisherman who travels to the palace on the back of a turtle and returns carrying a mysterious box.

Source: JAXA


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Robotic insect powered by laser beam takes flight

May 17, 2018

Engineers at the University of Washington have created an insect-sized robot powered by laser beam. According to the team who created it, RoboFly and miniature drones like it, could help with time-consuming tasks like surveying crop growth on farms and detecting gas leaks.

RoboFly in an engineer's hand

RoboFly is slightly heavier than a toothpick. Photo: University of Washington

Cheaper to make and small enough to slip into tighter spots than drones, robotic insects have hundreds of useful applications if only engineers knew how to give them wings. Too small for propellers, and too light for the electronics required to power their wings, robotic insects have remained thoroughly grounded…at least until now.

Slightly heavier than a toothpick, RoboFly is the first robo-insect ever to take flight thanks to technology developed by a team of mechanical engineers at the University of Washington.  Their solution to the power problem is to use laser technology. To power RoboFly, a laser beam is pointed at a photovoltaic cell, attached above the device, which converts the laser energy into enough electricity to operate its wings via a tiny onboard circuit.

“It was the most efficient way to quickly transmit a lot of power to RoboFly without adding much weight,” said co-author Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor in the UW’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.

By adding a microcontroller to the circuit, the engineers also gave RoboFly a brain, allowing it take its first independent flaps. According the university’s report, the controller sends voltage in waves to mimic the fluttering of a real insect’s wings.

“The microcontroller acts like a real fly’s brain telling wing muscles when to fire,” said co-author Vikram Iyer, a doctoral student in the UW Department of Electrical Engineering. “On RoboFly, it tells the wings things like ‘flap hard now’ or ‘don’t flap.’”

For now, RoboFly can only take off and land. Once its photovoltaic cell is out of the direct line of sight of the laser, the robot runs out of power and lands. However the team hopes to soon be able to steer the laser so that RoboFly can hover and fly around, the report said.

Future RoboFlies can also look forward to more advanced brains and sensor systems that help the robots navigate and complete tasks on their own, Fuller said.

“I’d really like to make one that finds methane leaks,” he said. “You could buy a suitcase full of them, open it up, and they would fly around your building looking for plumes of gas coming out of leaky pipes. If these robots can make it easy to find leaks, they will be much more likely to be patched up, which will reduce greenhouse emissions. This is inspired by real flies, which are really good at flying around looking for smelly things. So we think this is a good application for our RoboFly.”

“Before now, the concept of wireless insect-sized flying robots was science fiction. Would we ever be able to make them work without needing a wire,” co-author of the project and assistant professor in the UW Department of Mechanical Engineering, Sawyer Fuller, said. “Our new wireless RoboFly shows they’re much closer to real life.”

The team will present its findings on 23 May 2018 at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Brisbane, Australia.

Source: University of Washington


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Sake grown on trees?

May 5, 2018

Scientists at the Japanese Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute have developed a method to produce “wood alcohol”, which they hope will become a popular beverage in the country.

Cherry wood is one of the types that has been used so far to create “wood sake”

You may have heard of “Kuchikamizake”, a special kind of sake in which human saliva functions as a fermentation starter (after the rice has been chewed and spat out), but how about sake made from trees? Scientists at Japan’s Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute recently announced they have managed to create just this. By fermenting wood through a process similar to that used to make the traditional Japanese rice wine, the researchers have created an alcohol suitable for drinking, which retains the aroma of the wood, the Japan Times reported. The resulting “wood alcohol” tastes similar to alcohol aged in wood barrels, like whisky, and could be on shelves within three years.

Until now, methods used for the alcoholic fermentation of wood (for instance, in the production of biofuels) required the wood to be processed with sulphuric acid and heated to a high temperature to dissolve the cellulose or plant fibres, rendering the resulting product unsafe for drinking.

In the newly-invented method, the wood is crushed into microscopic chips which are mixed with yeast and an enzyme to start the fermentation process. Because no heat or harmful chemicals are used in the process, the alcohol created retains the aroma of the specific type of wood, and is suitable for drinking.

Using this process, the scientists produced 3.8 litres of liquid with an alcohol content of around 15% – similar to that of sake – from four kilograms of cedar wood. The researchers have produced alcohol from birch and cherry wood.

According to reports, the institute, which has a partial mandate from the Japanese government, plans to commercialise the venture with a private-sector partner, and begin selling wood sake within three years. It says it hopes the product will push demand for domestically grown wood in the future.

“We thought it would be interesting to think that alcohol could be made from something around here like trees,” Kengo Magara, a researcher responsible for the development project, was reported as saying.

“In Japan, there are about 1,200 species of trees. I hope people will be able to enjoy alcoholic drinks made from trees peculiar to each region.”

Sources: The Japan Times; Daily Nation

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An egg-cellent source of renewable energy

February 17, 2018

Researchers from Osaka City University in Japan have discovered that using proteins taken from egg whites could help facilitate the carbon-free production of hydrogen.

Although hydrogen is considered clean fuel because it emits nothing but water when burnt, the creation of the gas itself is a less eco-friendly affair. Currently, the mass production of hydrogen involves the burning of fossil fuels, a process which releases harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Scientists have discovered that is possible to generate hydrogen for fuel cleanly using a photocatalyst like solar power by creating a fluid to store the substance. But free-moving and randomly located molecules and particles in the fluid can interfere with the process of producing hydrogen and scientists have long searched for a way to immobilise them.

A team of scientists at Osaka City University believe they have found the solution. The researchers, led by Professor Yusuke Yamada, have developed a method in which the protein contained in egg whites can be harnessed to build crystals with lots of tiny holes to trap these particles.

“We found protein was a useful tool” to generate hydrogen in a lab without using a fossil fuel, the professor told AFP.

The whites of chicken eggs, which are inexpensive and inexhaustible, consist of porous lysozyme crystals.

“Lysozyme crystals have a highly ordered nanostructure and, thus, we can manipulate the molecular components when they accumulate in the crystals,” Hiroyasu Tabe, a special appointment research associate at the Graduate School of Engineering at the university, said. The crystal structure can be easily analysed with X-ray technology.

The change brought a sense of traffic control to the molecular interactions and improved the efficiency of clean, hydrogen production, Yamada was cited as saying. The discovery was published in the February edition of the scientific journal “Applied Catalysis B”.

Hydrogen is considered by many as the ultimate clean energy. If an efficient method to generate the gas can be found, it could be used to power everything from cars to buildings.

Source: Osaka City University; AFP



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Low-cost origami 3D-printing technique could improve bone implants

November 7, 2017

Scientists at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands have created a new way to print flat structures which self-fold into complex shapes according to a pre-planned sequence. The research has many applications, including the potential to improve bone transplants, the university said.

Essentially a combination of the Japanese paper-folding art of origami and 3D printing, the technique created by Amir Zadpoor and his team of researchers is means of creating shape-shifting constructs without the high costs or manual labour usually associated with this process.

Zadpoor’s team used an Ultimaker, one of the most popular 3D printers, and PLA, the most common printing material available. “At about 17 Euro’s per kilo, it’s dirt cheap”, said Zadpoor. “Nevertheless, we created some of the most complex shape-shifting ever reported with it.” The process is also fully automated and requires no manual labour whatsoever.

Zadpoor’s team achieved this by creating a technique in which they simultaneously printed and stretched the material in certain spots. “The stretching is stored inside the material as a memory”, PhD researcher Teunis van Manen explained. “When heated up, the memory is released and the material wants to go back to its original state.”

The researchers also alternated the thickness and the alignment of the filaments in the material.

“What makes the team’s shape-shifting objects so advanced is the fact that they self-fold according to a pre-planned sequence,” TU Delft wrote about the project.

“If the goal is to create complex shapes, and it is, some parts should fold sooner than others”, Zadpoor explained. “Therefore, we needed to program time delays into the material. This is called sequential shape-shifting.”

This approach marks an important step in the development of better bone implants for two reasons, the researchers explained. Firstly, it makes it possible to create prosthetics with a porous interior which allows a patient’s own stem cells to move into the structure of the implant and attach themselves to the interior surface area, instead of just coating the exterior. This will result in a stronger, more durable implant.

Secondly, with this techniquenanopatterns that guide cell growth can be crafted on the surface of the implant, TU Delft explained.

“We call these ‘instructive surfaces’, because they apply certain forces to the stem cells, prompting them to develop into the cells we want them to be”’, said PhD researcher Shahram Janbaz. “A pillar shape, for instance, may encourage stem cells to become bone cells.”

It is impossible to create such instructive surfaces on the inside of a 3D structure. “This is why we decided we needed to start from a flat surface,” said Zadpoor.

Other applications for the research include printed electronics (“by using this technique, it may be possible to incorporate printed, 2D-electronics into a 3D shape,” Zadpoor said) and flat-pack furniture. “Shape-shifting could definitely turn many of our existing 2D worlds into 3D worlds’, he said. “We are already being contacted by people who are interested in working with it.”

Source: TU Delft 


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