DENSO partners with Euglena Corp. on micro algae R&D

Within a comprehensive alliance for business development of microalgae, both companies will cover 1. Development of biofuels business (“Green Oil Japan”), 2. R&D of micro algae culture technology, 3. Use of algae for foods and cosmetics, and 4. Production of...

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7-1 NEDO initiates program for using hydrogen in steelmaking

The steel industry emits as much as 40% of Japan’s industrial sector’s CO2 during the manufacturing process. The blast furnace method, which is currently used in steel mills in Japan, uses mainly coke (coal) to reduce iron ore to produce steel, leading to CO2 emissions.

NEDO has been working on a hydrogen reduction process technology in steelmaking, and a test blast furnace using natural gas has already been constructed that can reduce CO2 emissions by 30% (12m3 in volume, about 1/400th the size of an actual blast furnace). Since natural gas is also a fossil fuel, CO2 emissions are unavoidable. If hydrogen could be used to reduce iron ore instead of natural gas, CO2 emissions could be reduced, but this has not yet been put to practical use.

The present project aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels in the entire steelmaking process by establishing a technology for hydrogen reduction in the blast furnace process and a technology for direct reduction of low-grade iron ore with hydrogen.

R&D Item 1 includes (1) Development of hydrogen reduction technology using in-situ hydrogen at a 5000 m3 scale, and (2) development of low-carbon technology using external hydrogen and CO2 contained in blast furnace exhaust gas

R&D Item 2 is (1) on the direct hydrogen reduction method using low-grade iron ore, and (2) on impurity removal technology for electric furnaces using direct reduced iron (0.015% or less phosphorus and 40 ppm or less nitrogen in molten steel.

Contractors are Nippon Steel, JFE Steel, Kobe Steel and the Japan R&D Center for Metals and Alloys.

The project period is FY2021 – FY2030 and the planned budget is 193.5 billion Jp¥/1935億円 (1,5 billion €).

NEDO news release, January 7, 2022

7-1 Japan’s NEDO initiates program on fuel ammonia supply chain

As ammonia, like hydrogen, does not emit CO2 when burned, it is expected to be used as a decarbonized fuel for power generation and ships to achieve carbon neutrality. In particular, ammonia is expected to replace conventional fossil fuels in power generation, thereby promoting the decarbonization of thermal power generation. Ammonia can also be used as a hydrogen carrier because it contains hydrogen, which can be produced and transported at low cost using existing infrastructure.

In this project, NEDO will establish technology to reduce the supply cost of ammonia, aiming to the upper 10 yen level/Nm3 (hydrogen equivalent in calorific value) by 2030. The project also aims to establish technologies for co-firing of ammonia for power generation and for exclusive use of ammonia for power generation, and to achieve an expected domestic installation volume of 30 million tons per year in 2050.

R&D topics are (1) Development and demonstration of a new catalyst for ammonia production, and (2) Green ammonia electrosynthesis with water and nitrogen as raw materials.

Main contractors are Chiyoda, TEPCO and JERO Corporation, with support from various universities and startup-companies.

The project period is from FY2021 – FY2030, and the planned budget is 59.8 billion Jp¥ (460 million €).

NEDO news release, January 7, 2022

© NEDO Japan

16-12 Mitsui Chemicals begins manufacturing bio-polypropylene (bio-PP) from biomass naphtha

The biomass naphtha prepared from vegetable oil waste and residual oil is supplied from Finland’s Neste. Mitsui Chemicals studies since many years a bio-based process for the production of isopropanol from biomass, using recombinant E. coli as a catalyst. Isopropanol is then further processed to bio-PP. The process is currently run at 1500 L scale at Mitsui Chemicals „Bio-Engine Bench“ in its Mobara plant in Chiba Prefecture. Since 2019, a cooperation has been initiated with the startup Green Earth Institute GEI (related to the Research Institute of Innovative Technologies for the Earth RITE in Kyoto) and with Kyowa Hakko, and the „Bio-Engine Bench“ is considered a „bio foundry“ in search for „smart cells“ as catalysts, supported by METI’s project house NEDO. Within this program, GEI will scale up the pilot to 3000L  and develop commercial processes for the production of more than 16 products in 6 years, bringing them to commercialization. The scale of this project is 1.5 billion yen in 2021, and the total investment up to 2026 is expected to become 5.4 billion yen (42 million €).

Mitsui Chemicals has acquired an ISCC PLUS certification for sustainable products.

Nikkei Biotech news release, Dec. 16, 2021

© Mitsui Chemical’s “Bio-Engine Bench” at Mobara, Nikkan Kogyo Shinbun

18-11 Green Earth Institute uses Corynebacterium resting cells to prepare green chemicals from formaldehyde

In an artificial metabolic system, the formaldehyde is added via aldolase, to appropriate cosubstrates forming 2,4-dihydroxybutyric acid (DHB), homoserine (hSer), and 1,3-propanediol (PDO). As an aldolase, hpal from Escherichia coli was used. It accepts also other aldehydes. The study is considered a proof of principle that high-cell density cultures of resting cells of C. glutamicum can be used to form valuable compounds from toxic precursors such as formaldehyde or phenol (as shown in earlier work on catechol). Metabolic engineering was not rigorously done, yields were not optimised, and by-products occurred.

Keisuke Yamamoto, 73rd Annual Meeting of the Society for Biotechnology, Japan

Nikkei Biotech, November 18, 2021

18-11 Japan reports progress on transgenic pollen-free cedars

The Forest Research Institute’s Forest Biotechnology Research Center (Hitachi City, Ibaraki Prefecture) reports progress on the development of a pollen-less cedar by genome editing of “seminal trees” which grow fast and straight. In the transgenic plant, a single nucleotide has been deleted by CRISPR/Cas9 in the gene responsible for the outer wall of the pollen, inhibiting the production of mature pollen in male flowers. The genome-edited cedars are crossed with wild-type individuals to remove the foreign genes encoding Cas9 and guide RNA, and the resulting seeds contain no foreign genes. Pollen-free cedars could reduce the frequent pollen allergies in Japan by gradually substituting present cedar trees. The institute plans for regulatory submission in 2026. 

Nikkei Biotech news release, November 18, 2021

© NARO Japan

9-11 NeuroSky and Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma will develop wearable electroencephalographs

The medical device will be used for the prevention and diagnosis of neuropsychiatric diseases such as sleep disorders, depression, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and dementia at an early stage. At the same time, a version for healthcare use by the general public will be developed which is based on the successful product „Nekomimi“ (a manga cat character) which has been sold by NeuroSky over 100.000 times. The headset-type device measures alpha and beta brain waves with an semiconductor sensor placed on the forehead. Noise filtering technology enables stable measurement even in noisy environments. The company has developed an algorithm to infer the level of concentration and relaxation from the quantified brain waves. „Nekomimi“ sells at Amazon Japan for 14,850 Jp¥ (113 €) and can be shipped abroad.

Nikkei Biotech news release, Sept. 9, 2021

© NeuroSky

5-11 NEDO launches R&D program for hydrogen aircrafts

The project aims to increase the ratio of participation in international joint development of airframes and engines (currently about 20-30%) by maximizing the strengths of Japan’s elemental technologies, such as hydrogen and materials. The project will also contribute to the decarbonization of the aviation sector.

Implementation period: FY2021 – FY2030 

Budget: 21.08 billion yen (scale of NEDO support)(~160 million €)

Themes Development of core technologies for hydrogen aircraft (Kawasaki Heavy Industry) 

1.1  Development of engine combustor and system technologies for hydrogen aircraft, 

1.2 Development of liquefied hydrogen fuel storage tanks

1.3 Study of hydrogen aircraft structure for a cruising range of 2,000 to 3,000 km. We aim to achieve a weight reduction of about 30% from existing metal components (about 10% compared to existing composite materials) in key structural components such as main wings, aiming to install them in aircraft to be launched in 2035 or later.

NEDO news release, November 5, 2021


1-11 Genome-edited tiger puffer fish accepted as food in Japan

Regional Fish Co., Kyoto, has received acceptance from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for sales of genome-edited tiger puffer fish. In the genome-edited fish strain, a leptin receptor reducing appetite was removed, leading to growth at double speed and improved feed utilization efficiency. The high-growth tiger puffer is 1.9 times larger on average and 2.4 times larger than wild-type tiger puffer bred for the same period. It is said that it will be in a state of constantly overfeeding, but it will not become obese, and an edible part with the same composition as the wild type individual is obtained.

This is the second product of Regional Fish Co., following edible red sea bream.

Nikkei Biotech news, November 1, 2021

Tiger puffer fish, top: fed for same period after genome-editing. ©Regional Fish Co., Kyoto

26-10 Japan’s „Green Innovation Fund“ launches construction of „zero-emission“ ships and a supply chain for hydrogen and ammonia fuels

NEDO, the project house of METI, will launch a 32 billion JP¥ (242 million €) program on „next generation ships“, which includes the development of engines fueled by hydrogen and ammonia. In the future, „zero-emission ships“ will emit virtually no greenhouse gases in their operation. According to NEDO, international shipping accounts for about 2.1% of global CO2 emissions. Hydrogen- and ammonia-fueled ship engines have not yet been developed worldwide due to technical issues such as improving combustion control technology. Hydrogen and ammonia, which are gaseous at normal temperatures and pressures, larger storage volumes than conventional fuels and the issue of a „methane slip“ in LNG-powered ships. 

The program will include 4 projects:

  • Development of marine hydrogen engines and marine hydrogen fuel tanks
  • Development of ships equipped with domestic ammonia-fueled engines
  • Integrated project of ammonia-fueled ship development and social implementation
  • Development of technology to reduce methane slip from LNG-fueled ships by improving catalysts and engines

The project consortium will comprise

Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Yanmar Power Technology, Japan Engine Corporation, Japan Shipyard Corporation, IHI,  ITOCHU Corporation Mitsui E&S Machinery, NS United Shipping Corporation, Hitachi Zosen Corporation

NEDO press release, October 26, 2021

© NEDO.From left: liquid hydrogen carrier, oil tanker and bulk carrier ship based on hydrogen engines

15-10 NEDO adds projects on use of CO2 as raw material

The project house NEDO of the Japanese Ministry of Economy and Trade METI is funding further topics on the use of CO2 as a raw material with a total of about €100 million over 5 years: 1. Synthesis of lower olefins (IHI) and methanol from CO2 (JFE Steel, RITE), 2. Methane from CO2 via large-scale methanation (INPEX), 3. Fixation of CO2 in concrete, cement, carbonates using steel mill slag (JFE Steel, Kobe Steel, Kobelco Eco-Solutions) and in high-value carbon nanomaterials (Mitsubishi Materials).

NEDO news release, October 15, 2021

© Scheme for project 3, © NEDO

18-9 Japan permits marketing of genome-edited fish

In the red sea bream, 14 bases of the myostatin gene suppressing muscle hyperplasia were deleted, using CRISPR/Cas technology. The average amount of the edible portion was increased about 1.2 times, and the ratio of weight gain to ingested feed improved by 14%. Since the bone volume is reduced by about 31%, it is thought that the energy to make bones goes to the muscles. Pertinent research was done at Kinki University and Kyoto University, and commercialization is by Regional Fish, started by crowd-funding. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries confirmed that the fish is not subject to the Cartagena Law, and the the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed that the fish conform to the Food Sanitation Law. Within a crowdfunding campaign, three types of red sea bream food are presently offered, with prices ranging from 10,000 yen to 15,000 yen for single items and 30,000 yen (77 – 230 €) for a three-item assortment. In addition to red sea bream, Regional Fish Co. plans to develop and market new varieties of marine products such as fish and crustaceans improved by genome editing.

This is the second report of genome-edited foods in Japan, following tomatoes with increased GABA content after deleting a decarboxylase gene, developed and marketed by Sanatech Seed, a startup from the University of Tsukuba.

Nikkei Biotech news release, September 21, 2021

© Regional Fish Co.

7-9 Ministry of Agriculture inks major programs on biotech

Within its biotech-related 74 billion Yen (about 570 million €) budget for FY2022, the ministry aims to strengthen production capacity and improve sustainability of the domestic agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries. Topics include:

  • low-temperature storage systems for tea leaves and late-season tea varieties
  • technologies for early egg collection, artificial seedling cultivation and aquaculture of eel and bluefin tuna,
  • technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. Development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production, including breeding methods to produce low-methane cattle
  • powerful red tide response technology for fish and shellfish farming including red tide-resistant cultured fish
  • technology to cope with damage caused by invasive alien species, including technology using environmental DNA,
  • technology for carbon sink measures in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, e. g., technology for production and utilization of wood lignin-derived plastics
  • green biotechnology industry using silkworm technology 
  • projects to realize food and dietary habits to extend healthy life expectancy
  • crop varieties using genome editing technology

Nikkei Biotech news release, September 7, 2021

27-8 Secure storage of genome analysis data by quantum cryptography

Toshiba and others explore a system to store personal genetic data from projects of the Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization (ToMMo) using a combination of quantum cryptography communication technology and secret distribution technology. The consortium has successfully conducted a demonstration experiment to distribute large-scale human genome analysis data to multiple locations for safe backup storage.

Nikkei Biotech news release, August 27, 2021

27-8 Grillus, a startup on edible crickets for human nutrition

Grillus is a startup from the University of Tokushima that produces edible crickets and sells cricket-derived as „circular food“. Basic technology consists of mass production of a highly uniform albino strain of the Dipterocarpus cricket, which has been maintained at the University of Tokushima for generations. The crickets are then dried and grinded providing a highly nutritious powder of about 70% protein and 20% fat. Flavor comes from the aroma produced during the drying process. Presently, the company offers 3 products:

  1. “cricket ramen” made from crickets at a ramen restaurant in Tokyo
  2. “cricket miso ramen” made from crickets and miso at a ramen restaurant in Tokushima Prefecture, and 
  3. “cricket rice crackers” with a shrimp-like flavor produced by MUJI Co.

The company is also considering to develop genome-edited crickets with improved taste, reduced allergens, strains that can be bred at high density, strains with a regulated metabolic system for functional components, and strains with higher nutritional value, e.g., increased content of specific amino acids.

Nikkei Biotech news release, August 27, 2021

© Nikkei Biotech