Japanese Kobe Steel has developed a lightweight kind of aluminium which is as hard as regular steel but can be easily moulded into unconventional shapes.
The idea is to use porous aluminium in automobiles. Because it is so comparably light the researchers believe it could drastically reduce the carbon footprint of new cars. It costs less than aluminium sheeting or composite carbon fiber and could begin production as soon as April, reports Nikkei (subscription).
Despite all the fancy green tech gizmos a vehicle packs, when it comes down to it weight is a serious sticking point for how well a car can curb its emissions. Foam resin is placed between two 0.15mm aluminium sheets and then heated at over 200 Celsius – the result is a material as hard as steel but only 3mm thick. It is highly malleable and can be rolled and curved but its material strength means it’s tough to bend out of shape.
Kobe Steel says porous aluminium is up to 80 percent lighter than steel and 60 percent lighter than regular aluminium. The problem is the material can’t be welded together, it has to be riveted – Kobe hopes to flog it to manufacturers to roll out on vehicle interiors.
At least for this purpose Kobe may cut competition out of the market: In Japan, the average selling price for regular aluminium per square metre is over 2,000 yen or roughly $25. Kobe will sell its porous aluminium at 1,500 yen or $18 per square metre – vastly cheaper than the useful but expensive composite carbon fiber.
Yesterday evening saw Silicon Valley’s arrival in that beautiful city of academia, cycling, student binge drinking and no speed cameras Oxford. Entrepreneurs took to the stage at Said Business School on each side of the argument: “Silicon Valley is dead; Long live Green Valley” at the Oxford Union.
LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman and commentator Mike Malone took the side of Silicon Valley, defending the “enduring and resilient phenomenon”. And it is still thriving because of its attitudes towards profitability, compared with the “utopian visions and government dreams” of green tech. “Most of these companies will never be profitable,” Malone said.
The argument heated as panelists went head to head. Oxford Professor Malcolm McCulloch, who is behind four clean technology companies, said that there can’t be a localised form of innovation: “It has to be global – it has to be for everybody, in every place.” Responding to Reid Hoffman, who lauded Silicon Valley for opportunities given to young hackers, McCulloch said: “Would you want a 17 year old hacker in charge of your light, or your food chain? Green needs PhDs; I would like to see a world where the best minds are not trying to invent the best games.”
Google was there too. And they’ll all be attending another event today, from 1pm onwards at the Said business school in Oxford, as the home of the Ashmolean and one of the world’s most prestigious universities “welcomes” Silicon Valley. We will be there.
Sanyo has finished its Kasai Green Energy Park in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, which will open official on the 22nd of October this year. The idea is that it will be a base for Sanyo’s green technology developments to be showcased to potential customers.
It is chock full of Sanyo kit, including a PV installation which uses HIT solar cells at a 1MW output, what it says is the largest scale 1.5MWh lithium-ion battery system for power storage, an energy management system which keeps an eye on the goings on in the park and a smart energy system which makes sure it’s running efficiently.
Sanyo’s R&D team is in Japan – fiercely loyal thanks to corporate culture in the company, a spokesperson tells us – so it’ll be good for Sanyo to have what is essentially a gigantic, working showroom demonstrate how its technology can work in tangible terms.
Sanyo is aggressively pushing its photovoltaic systems globally, particularly targeting the high end residential market which can afford its kit – its latest line of cells are designed for high efficiency and rate of return on a relatively small surface area.