Next-Generation Fuel Cell Research Center (NEXT-FC)
Turning towards fuel cells as the nucleus for an environmentally‐friendly hydrogen energy society, and under a system that carries out research from the preparation of materials to the fabrication and evaluation of cells, we are aiming towards the realization and full‐scale adoption of next generation fuel cells that are flexibly compatible with various forms of energy and work demands. Particularly in regards to the multi‐fuel capable SOFC, with the support of NEDO, chemical degradation analysis is being collectively engaged in as can be seen with the construction of a chemical durability database, expansion of fuel flexibility, longer-term durability of cells under development by private companies, impurity tolerance, cycle durability evaluation, and high‐resolution microscopy. At our center, we can propose solutions for technological issues facing in fuel cell development. Tight industry‐academia collaboration is one of the important features of this center.
[Our Mission] The Purpose of Our Establishment
In recent years, even within the realm of clean, high‐efficiency, electricity‐producing fuel cells currently in focus, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) are the most efficient and usable. Recently, SOFC have been looked towards as an alternative solution to the current state of energy and the problem of global warming. However, the durability and reliability of SOFC and other next‐generation fuel cells must be ensured. Moreover, the construction of a research and development system that seamlessly connects industry and academia from fundamental research to real commercialization is required to quickly overcome high‐performance and related issues for the adoption of the technology. It was under these conditions that this center was established (1/1/2012) as an operations management organization with the adoption of Kyushu University's "Next Generation Fuel Cell Innovation Project" (6/30/2011) under the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and industry's innovation core location support project ("Bridging Technology Core" Innovation Project). This center acts as a core for industrial and university research into potential development and quick adoption of next generation fuel cells.
[Service] What We Actually Do
1 Establish Industrial Research Branches
At this facility, designated spaces (researcher room and laboratory) have been set aside for joint research with various companies. Cooperative research and evaluation analysis research can take place faster with various corporate research branches working together.
2 Secrecy Management
With the expectation of fuel cell evaluation analysis and other top-secret information, individual companies who join our center (mainly on floors 2 and 3) will find rooms with strict secret management options.
3 Use of Cutting-Edge Research Facilities
Specialized, state-of-the-art analysis equipment for solving the problems of various types of fuel cells is only available to participating companies and researchers at this center. We have atomic-scale and nano-scale analysis capability, and nondestructive fuel cell "visualization" methods. Our facilities are fully equipped with scanning transmission electron microscopy with atomic resolution (STEM-EDX-EELS), 3-D scanning microscopy (FIB-EDX-SEM, FESEM-EDX-WDX), low-energy ion scattering for surface analysis (LEIS), high output X-ray CT, thin layer deposition (PLD), flammable gas supply infrastructure, and more. Our support staff is also present to help with equipment use. By leaving staff on-location for training, company members may directly operate the equipment.
4 One-Stop Support
We provide one-stop solutions, from the development of new materials for next generation fuel cells, advanced analysis, and fundamental research, to improved durability and reliability, wider applications, system technology development, and troubleshooting.
5 Joint Research
The protection of secrets and the management of intellectual property are made clear in the implementation of our joint research. Participation of multiple Kyushu University researchers is possible. This center not only offers typical joint research, but the establishment of a "joint research laboratory" allows for one's company to post full-time staff (either employed by Kyushu University or by the particular company.) Such full-time staffs at Kyushu University are given access e.g. to electronic journals and a variety of other inner-university services, as research assistant, associate professor, or professor, depending on their research experiences.
6 Opportunity for the Exchange of Technology
This center provides an exchange of technology that can help participating companies overcome technological issues (through center technology council, seminars, etc.). Pubic projects in non-competitive technological fields are also offered. This center provides a place for exchange between graduate students, undergraduate students, and young researchers who will carry out technological developments for the future of private companies.
7 Cultivation of Human Resources
Researchers and technicians in participating companies are able to attend professional workshops on advances in fuel cell technologies, material evaluation methods, and more. Professors at Kyushu University will fully support individuals in their pursuit towards taking a doctoral degree.
8 International Relations Support
One can participate in fundamental research projects with researchers from abroad. We support the construction of a global network through the development of future international projects and assured professional development abroad.
9 We Reflect Corporate Needs
Executives of the main participating companies, related governmental officers, local government officers, and head of Kyushu University faculties make up this center's Board of Trustees, collecting and reflecting industrial needs for future operation of this center.
10 Support through International Special Zone System
We offer priority support for investment tax deductions in relation to various support measures and equipment investment, special depreciations, and other preferential tax systems and policy easing as put forth by the December 2011 "Green Asia International Strategic Comprehensive Special Zone" certified by the Cabinet Secretary.